Traveling to reality: Australia Part 2
I took a second trip while in Australia to north-east Queensland where the tropical forest and sugar-cane fields were totally green. And I saw a part of the Great Barrier Reef that is still very much alive. This is a new blog entitled Australia Part 2.
At the other end of the spectrum I had earlier taken a trip that landed me right in the middle of a terrible drought. Didn’t see a blade of green grass for two whole days. Sadly, just a lot of dead kangaroos. This was Australia Part 1 – click HERE to see previous blog.
WHERE DID WE STAY? Cairns is on the coast of north-east Queensland and right in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s a tropical climate with two seasons: the wet and the dry. We were there in the dry. Mostly nice days with max temperatures in the mid-70s.
Palm Cove is just north of Cairns and is a vacation spot where folks come from all over the world. The shoreline is beautiful and studded with hotels like the one in the pic. My youngest brother, Neil, and his wife Lyn joined me for a week.
Palm Cove is right on the beach and the warm swimming water reminded me of Diamond Head. BUT with one difference – no stingers and no crocodiles in Hawaii! The stinger season was still a few months ahead, so we took a chance and survived. The worst stingers are jellyfish only as big as your thumb nail and can kill you in 4 minutes.
WE DROVE UP THE COAST FOR ABOUT 20 MILES. There were long stretches of golden sand (extending a mile or more) with only a few folks to be seen!
Near Ellis Beach we ended up in a cul-de-sac with just a handful of billionaire homes.
On our way back we encountered a beach covered with rock cairns.
THE WATERFALL TOUR IS A LOOP LOCATED SOUTH-WEST OF CAIRNS. The most famous is Millaa-Millaa falls.
WE VISITED A TROPICAL RAIN FOREST. The Daintree rainforest is north-west of Cairns, and we drove up to Mossman gorge which is part of Daintree National Park. It’s a World Heritage site because it’s the only place in Australia where the dense rainforest reaches the beaches of the Great Barrier Reef.
WE ALSO VISITED AN ISLAND IN THE GREAT BARRIER REEF – FITZROY ISLAND. After a 30-minute ferry ride from Cairns, the tour guides recommended a short hike to Nudey beach. We had not intended to skinny-dip, but you never know…
In fact we didn’t go skinny-dipping, and didn’t see anyone else partaking either.
Back on the main beach we ate lunch while confronting some remarkable views. Just love that turquoise water!
One highlight of the island tour was a one-hour reef tour with snorkel and flippers AND wet-suit. I hadn’t snorkeled for 20 years and wasn’t really confident. Then I had trouble clenching my teeth on the rubber doohickey, and I suspect sea water was leaking into my mouth so that I had to blow it out. I spent half the time trying to blow water out of the snorkel.
But we saw a good live part of the reef, with some beautiful fish and a huge clam that opened and closed its mouth for us. Jacquelyn, the marine biologist was a young woman from Canada, of all places, and a goldmine of information under the water.
Back on the boat, the other old guy snorkeler asked me how old I was. I replied that I was older than he. “Do you wanna bet?” he said. I nodded. When he told me his age, I said you owe me a beer, because I’m five years older than you. The others on the snorkel boat – all millennials –
laughed at that. Jacquelyn said she hoped she could do what we older guys were doing when she reached our age. A nice compliment!
POST-SCRIPT… IS THE GREAT BARRIER REEF DYING? This section is for readers more interested in this issue. I asked Jacquelyn about the reef dying, which has been in all the news. She said yes — parts of it looked like they were dying but this had happened at other times, and they had bounced back. She basically said people who claimed 25% of the reef was dying or dead were over-stating the case.
When we discussed this later, we realized that tour companies would be inclined to under-state the case, because their business, and it is a huge business for north-east Queensland, was to promote tours to the reef.
In contrast I came across a recent article dated 21 August 2018:
Joëlle Gergis, a climate scientist and writer at the University of Melbourne, said in an email that the public and the politicians in Canberra, the nation’s capital, ought to consider what they are failing to address.
Australia’s climate has now warmed by 1 degree Celsius since 1910, she said.
“This makes our climate even more extreme than it otherwise would be,” she said. “Our droughts are getting hotter, our heat waves have become more intense and our bush fire season is now extending into winter.”
The bleaching and damage to roughly half the Great Barrier Reef “is not a natural disaster,” she added. “It is one of the clearest signals that our planet is warming.”
Farmers see their own problems looming, and even those undecided about the cause of the drought are fed up with the political bickering.
“It’s another example of politicians looking after themselves and not looking after the country,” said Charles Alder, the chief executive of Rural Aid, a group that helps drought-affected farmers.
The following is from a NOAA report updated on 9 September 2019:
Climate change is the greatest global threat to coral reef ecosystems. Scientific evidence now clearly indicates that the Earth’s atmosphere and ocean are warming, and that these changes are primarily due to greenhouse gases derived from human activities.
As temperatures rise, mass coral bleaching events and infectious disease outbreaks are becoming more frequent. Additionally, carbon dioxide absorbed into the ocean from the atmosphere has already begun to reduce calcification rates in reef-building and reef-associated organisms by altering seawater chemistry through decreases in pH. This process is called ocean acidification.
Climate change will affect coral reef ecosystems, through sea level rise, changes to the frequency and intensity of tropical storms, and altered ocean circulation patterns. When combined, all of these impacts dramatically alter ecosystem function, as well as the goods and services coral reef ecosystems provide to people around the globe.
PS: I write blogs about a curious mix of topics: Science and Energy, and Inspiration and Hope, and Health and Hiking. Something for everyone!
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