Ocean Magazine : 3 September October 2005
84 | ocean DESTINATION most spectacular, stretches of the Queensland coast. Cape York Peninsula encompasses 150,000 sq km of verdant tropical rainforests, coastal wetlands, sweeping grasslands and arid open eucalypt country all the way from the Daintree to mainland Australia's northernmost tip, and from the Coral Sea to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Tiny friendly Seisia, 6 km north of Bamaga near the tip of the cape has become a popular anchorage for Torres Strait sailors who can re- provision at the kiosk and enjoy a good restaurant feed. Tours leave from here that will enable you to boast, 'I've stood on the very tip of mainland Australia'. The vibrant Seisia Island Dancers perform for visitors. Ferries run regularly to nearby Thursday Island - verdant, mountainous, friendly and the best known of the 138 mostly uninhabited islands dotting the 150 km wide Torres Strait between Cape York and southern Papua New Guinea. Most sailors anchor at Thursday Island to replenish supplies before or after the long haul across the Gulf of Carpentaria. The massive Gulf sea was once a lake called Carpentaria, which was flanked by a vast dry plain connecting northern Australia and New Guinea. History states that the last remaining land bridge was broken at Torres Strait about 6000-8000 years ago. The geographical history explains the shallowness of these waters. A unique atmospheric Gulf phenomenon is the Morning Glory, an invisible but intensely powerful air wave that arrives each Spring and entices growing numbers of glider pilots and scientists to ride with it and try to understand it. The Morning Glory can extend over 1000 km and reach up to 10,000 ft high. The Dutch were the first to the Gulf country between 1600-1800, though Macassan trepang hunters probably sailed down before them on the trade winds. Matthew Flinders was the most famous seafarer to venture into Gulf waters, arriving in Investigator in 1802 to spend more than two months charting the lonely Gulf coast. The passage straight across the gulf from Thursday Island to Arnhem Land's Gove Peninsula takes a non-stop two to three days. Smaller vessels endure an exasperating passage when seasonal winds whip the shallow waters into choppy conditions likened to the effect of a boiling cauldron or a washing machine. For those with time to spare and not fazed about adding a few hundred extra nautical miles to the voyage, a coastal port-and-island hop along the Gulf 's perimeter allows for some fascinating encounters. The route is profoundly more comfortable, though the waters are shallower, less charted and need to be tackled with care. The perimeter route takes in Weipa, port to the world's biggest bauxite deposit, and Cape York Peninsula encompasses 150,000 sq km of verdant tropical rainforests, coastal wetlands, sweeping grasslands and arid open eucalypt country all the way from the Daintree to mainland Australia's northernmost tip, and from the Coral Sea to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
4 November December 2005
2 July August 2005