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Wyndham, Ord River, Bungle Bungle, Western Australia

Sunrise found National Geographic Orion secured to the dock in Wyndham. Wyndham was established in 1886 when gold was found in Halls Creek. It is the oldest and northernmost town in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. It lies at one end of the Great Northern Highway that stretches over 2000 miles southwest to the city of Perth.

Today is our last full day in the Kimberley region and our exploration takes us further inland than any previous day.

Jul 28, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

King George River

The King George River was one of the highlights of the Kimberley voyage aboard National Geographic Orion. What a pity that explorer Philip Parker King completely overlooked this incredible river, because he missed one of the jewels of the Kimberley, a stunning gorge cut from 1.8 billion year old King Leopold sandstone that ends (in navigational terms at least) in an 80 metre (260 ft.) twin waterfall that is breathtaking to behold.

After making a brief diversion to see a very large mound of sticks, an inadequate description for the rather impressive nest of a white-bellied sea eagle (heliaeetus leucogaster), with both parents attending to the carnivorous needs of their young, our group of trusty Zodiacs had far less trouble finding the entrance to King George River than P.

Jul 27, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Jar Island and Vansittart, Kimberly

The sun rose this morning just as National Geographic Orion anchored off Jar Island. Excitement over our morning destination to see a style of rock art endemic to the Kimberly, called Gwion Gwion, or Bradshaw Art, was the talk around the breakfast tables.

Joseph Bradshaw was the first to record the art type that bears his name when he encountered these figures near the Roe River in 1891.

Jul 26, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Hunter River

It was a bright and early start for the adventurous guests onboard National Geographic Orion as the ship pulled into York Sound, with the first of a series of helicopter tours to the Mitchell Plateau for a brisk walk to see the magnificent series of Mitchell Falls. Meanwhile, another group of Zodiacs scudded across the morning waves, along the coast towards Thor's Hammer, a remarkable rocky "Hoodoo" that resembles its namesake in a most surprising manner. With a sandstone boulder teetering atop a sandstone and quartz stack, the Hammer towered above our tiny Zodiacs while black-faced wood swallows (artamus cinereus) wheeled overhead. We were also treated to the sight of not one, but two active osprey (pandion haliaetus) nests with attendant parents delivering morsels of much-needed food to demanding mouths, hidden from sight within their nests of stacked twigs balanced on rusty orange sandstone pillars. Sooty oystercatchers (haematopus fuliginosus), eastern reef egrets (ardea sacra), white-quilled rock pigeons (petrophassa albipennis) and a brief sighting of a white-faced heron (ardea novaehollandiae) completed the morning.

After lunch it was time for a Zodiac tour up the Hunter River and, within it, the appropriately-named Porosus Creek.

Jul 25, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Raft Point Bluff and Montgomery Reef, Australia

As the dawn broke, another stunning morning was experienced in The Kimberley.  After breaking of the fast, we headed to Raft Point Bluff, a place characterized by impressive geological formations of pink and orange sandstone cliffs plunging into the sea of Doubtful Bay. During our ascent to view the art, we were greeted by the icon of The Kimberley, the Boab tree (Adansonia gregorii), a relative of the Madagascan and African species known as Baobabs. Though not exceptionally high (up to 15 m), they can reach a massive girth of up to 20 meters. Standing tall and bloated along the path, some of the specimens are considered to be over a millennia in age. On the way we heard and saw a range of birds, including spangled drongo, bar-breasted honeyeaters, red-headed honeyeater, brown honeyeater, and wood-swallows. At the top of the track, we had the opportunity to admire the mysterious and intriguing Wandjina rock art. Wandjinas are spiritual figures displaying large haloed heads with no mouths.  They are painted on sandstone surfaces, usually in various colours of reds, browns, yellows, whites and black pigments. We were fortunate enough to meet some of the original custodians of the land that explained and shared their beliefs and stories about this special place and unique rock art.

After a tasty lunch savored on board, we boarded our Zodiacs for another adventure.

Jul 24, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Talbot Bay

Day two of the northbound leg of the Kimberley trip had the National Geographic Orion thread her way through the aptly named island chain called ‘the Narrows’ to enter Talbot Bay and anchor between Slug Island and the McLarty Ranges. Upon arrival the National Geographic Orion and her guests were greeted by some of the locals – two large tawny nurse sharks which swam right up to the marina deck, entertaining everyone with their beauty and natural grace.

One of the reasons to visit Talbot Bay was to view the spectacle of the Horizontal Waterfalls, locally known as the ‘Horries.

Jul 23, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Yampi Sound, the Kimberley, Australia

National Geographic Orion anchored in the scenic Yampi Sound, amid the 800+ islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago.  Three of those islands, including the rich and famous Cockatoo and Koolan have substantial iron ore mines.  Laid down as a series of sedimentary deposits over a billion years ago, the sandstone is sometimes interspersed by a layer of much softer, gray siltstone.  This entire rock formation has been bent and buckled over great spans of time, forming synclines, anticlines and Calvin Klines.  Because this area may have been along an orogenous zone between two landmasses that were smooched together, much of the rock has been turned on its side, and stands vertically.   

Our morning started leisurely, with ‘breakkie’ and a briefing.

Jul 22, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Yampi Sound, the Kimberley, Australia

National Geographic Orion anchored in Yampi Sound, amid the islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago. Two islands, Cockatoo and Koolan, have substantial iron mines, from which they extract rich ore. Evidence of the iron is readily evident when looking at the ancient sandstone, much of which has a patina of rust. Laid down as a series of sedimentary deposits, the sandstone is sometimes replaced by a layer of much softer, gray siltstone. This entire rock formation has been bent and buckled over great spans of time, forming synclines and anticlines.  Much of the rock has been turned on its side, and stands vertically.   

Our morning started early, so after a quick breakfast and coffee, it was back on the Zodiacs, as we poked into inlets and scoured the shoreline for wildlife, scenic surprises, and photo opportunities.

Jul 20, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Talbot Bay

The National Geographic Orion has now reached the Buccaneer Archipelago, a particularly stunning part of the Kimberley coastline that provides some of the best examples of the power of tectonic movement seen on the trip so far. Around 1.8 billion years ago, the Kimberley continent rammed into the land mass of Australia. An almost inexorable force collided slowly but surely with an almost immovable object, the Earth's crust crumpling and folding with the impact, heating the rock and "welding" the two landmasses together. And so did the Kimberley region become an essential part of Australia.

Our trusty group of Zodiacs departed the National Geographic Orion early in the morning to visit the famous Horizontal Waterfall in Talbot Bay.

Jul 19, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Montgomery Reef and Raft Point, Australia

As the dawn broke, another stunning morning was witnessed in The Kimberley.  The National Geographic Orion dropped anchor in the calm green waters of Collier Bay. Cameras in hand, we boarded our Zodiacs for another adventure. It was time to explore the spectacular Montgomery Reef. Navigating the main channel, we were able to experience the force of the spring tide. The importance of this unique ecosystem was evident, as it represents the largest inshore reef system in Australia. The vast area (350km2) of shallow, sheltered, sunlit, lagoon and pools of the reef platform supports a great diversity. The area is home to a vast array of marine life including dugongs, reef sharks, rays, birds and an extremely large population of Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and the critically endangered Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) One of the most fascinating creature seen was the stokes sea snake (Astrotia stokesii). This species is widely distributed in Australian and southeastern Asian waters but usually is not very abundant and it is one of the largest species of sea snakes. During our return journey to National Geographic Orion we were surprised by drinks strategically served on an exposed sandbar, adding that extra refreshing flavor to our adventures.

After a tasty lunch savored on board, we headed to Raft Point, a place characterized by impressive geological formations of pink and orange sandstone cliffs plunging into the sea of Doubtful Bay.

Jul 18, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

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Please note: All Daily Expedition Reports (DER's) are posted Monday-Friday, during normal business hours.