Vansittart Bay
  • Daily Expedition Reports
  • 11 Aug 2015

Vansittart Bay, 8/11/2015, National Geographic Orion

  • Aboard the National Geographic Orion
  • Pacific Islands & Australia - OLD

The National Geographic Orion sailed smoothly into Vansittart Bay this morning. After two days of spectacular scenery and wildlife, today was all about culture and history. We started early, the only way to conduct any sensible expedition! On Zodiacs, we sped towards Jar Island, named after the numerous clay jars originally found there from the days of the Macassan traders.

We were here from a glimpse even further back in history, about 45,000 years, in fact. We were here to see some excellent examples of Bradshaw, or Gwion Gwion art. The latter name is refers to the Gwion Gwion bird (or sandstone shrikethrush) that, according to Aboriginal legend, painted these beautiful figures with the blood from its beak. Looking at artwork that had adhered to these sandstone rocks for such a vast period of human history was somewhat humbling, but they have lost none of their power.

Of course, wildlife was never far away, and many of our guests encountered two fascinating reptiles: a Kimberley rock monitor and a king brown snake. The snake raced away once spotted, but the lizard entertained us by hunting down some juicy insects. Back on the ship, our expedition leader Darrin expanded on what we'd seen during the morning by discussing the Stone Age “Michelangelos” behind the Bradshaw art.

Just in case our guests thought they were in danger of going several hours without delicious food, it was Mexican Day for lunch onboard the ship. The buffet energized us for an afternoon of checking out more recent history.

The story of the C-53 that crashed on a saltpan on Vansittart Bay is a great tale of turning a navigational error into a tale of survival and ingenuity. The wreckage of the plane from February 26, 1942 was still in excellent condition, making it easy to imagine the harrowing week the survivors must have spent trying to find fresh water while maintaining some hope of rescue. Standing on the sun-blasted saltpan, we contemplated the strength of spirit required to survive.

Walking back to the beach, we took a detour to the remnants of a drainage channel in search of critters. In the damp sand, we spotted mudskippers popping up from their curious burrows. The mudskippers posed quite happily while we took numerous photographs while kneeling in the sand. The best angles were afforded those willing to get a bit muddy!

Then it was back to the ship for a series of entertaining recaps and another marvelous dinner. Finally, the starscape of the Milky Way beckoned, as our staff and guests stayed up late to look towards the heavens before a well-earned sleep.

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