The Kimberley tides ranging up to 13 meters are some of the highest in the world. As the moon revolves around the earth, it literally pulls a bulge of water with it. As these bulges encounter local continental shelf, seafloor slopes, different depths and coastline shapes, the water is pushed to different heights and speeds depending on the tides. The speed of water flow is accelerated in many parts of the Kimberley coast, creating whirlpools, eddies and current runs, giving exciting times to navigators. Reef tops and some mud flats become sources of waterfalls and cascades as their tops are exposed and the waters continue to run off. Today we had the opportunity to observe these incredible tides in action.

As the National Geographic Orion dropped anchor in Talbot Bay, we boarded our Zodiacs to explore this interesting region. Part of the Buccaneer Archipelago, the Horizontal Falls are two narrow gaps in vertical sandstone rock strata which create two spectacular waterfalls when tides reach peak flow in rising and falling situations. Dramatic water flows occur with whirlpools, boils and raging currents. During peak flow on a spring tide, 1 million liters of water pass between the sandstone walls every second! This area is also an excellent place to see how the Earth’s surface has been twisted and contorted, as the vertical strata shows how the original horizontal planes having been forced into vertical folds.

Talbot Bay is located within the King Leopold Geologic Zone and as we traveled further into Cyclone Bay, it was possible to see beautiful wave patterns in the rock from a few centimeters to hundreds of meters in length, demonstrating the turbulent but very interesting geological past of this area. The Kimberley does not have the oldest rocks on Earth but it does have the oldest landscapes modified little from their original formation. To grasp this landscape requires personal immersion and the ability to read it. The immensity of its presence over two billion years of traceable history defies the imagination.

After a thrilling day exploring the waters of Talbot Bay, a delicious barbeque was served onboard and our talented crew impressed us with a fun and entertaining show! Then it was time for our skilled captain to maneuver the National Geographic Orion and head to open waters, our highway to another exciting destination in the stunning Kimberley region.