Heron Island.

When Jacqui was invited to speak at the 1st International Conference on Circular Proteins - to be held on Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef, it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up for my first stint as an "Accompanying Person" at a conference. So, off we went to the reef for 4 days...

Heron Is. is right on the southern tip of the 2800 km of Great Barrier Reef that stretches up the coast of Queensland, and is pretty close to the island that is owned by Uni of Sydney as a research station (One Tree Island). Heron is home to a small resort and a UQ research station (those marine biologists know what they are doing...). The resort was nice and very low key - no phones or TVs in the rooms and no locks on the room doors.

At the time we were there the black noddy terns were just starting to hit the island - there were thousands of these funny little birds flying around all the time, together with a number of other plentiful species - including buff-banded rails, who seemed to prefer walking everywhere rather than flying. There were, of course, herons as well, but the most peculiar bird characters were the shearwaters (or muttonbirds), who you never see during the daytime, but who return to their nest (holes in the ground all around the resort) in the evening and proceed to spend the whole night making noises that sounds like a a cat stuck in a box. The resort provides earplugs in each room for people who find the noise too distressing (it sounds like a baby in need of attention)...

While Jacqui sat in lectures each day, I managed to get out and about a bit (well, as much as you can on an island that's about 800x200 m... Some snorkeling was done, and the fish life was just like you would imagine - a slew of brightly coloured fish of all shapes and sizes darting in and out of coral. Fabulous. Slightly more surprising were the sharks that you routinely came across. They were reef sharks of 1-1.5 m in length and completely harmless - but you can tell yourself that as many times as you like - there is something that has been drilled into us from birth that makes you very uneasy at the sight of a shark - when you are in the water about 1 m away from it...

Lots of amazing rays as well - you could see them from the shore and you could swim right past them if you were in the water.

Given that my camera isn't waterproof and I never got around to buying one of the underwater disposable ones, you will just have to take my word that there were plenty of amazing fish - plenty of shots of birds though!

Highly recommended...

[Click on the thumbnails to get a caption and a larger image]
There it is - Heron Island. (29kb) Coming into the dock. (29kb) Someone that didn't quite make it into the dock (good snorkeling spot though). (29kb)
Buff-banded rail. (42kb) The infamous black noddy tern - looks like Larsen's interpretation of a bird! (67kb) Noddies hanging out. (108kb)
Funny tree. (93kb) Kids in silhouette. (51kb) Kids in silhouette. (32kb)
Kids in silhouette. (32kb) Noddies. (61kb) Noddy. (62kb)
Now, *those* are roots. (86kb) Driftwood. (44kb) Jacqui identifying birds (that's a heron...). (32kb)
Birds formerly known as herons (now egrets). (87kb) Some tropical fruit thing (like a breadfruit?). (78kb) Strolling on the beach. (37kb)
Egret. (81kb) Beach tree. (67kb) Beach tree. (60kb)
Egret on the wing. (48kb) Ahhhhh.... (27kb) Dum, dum, dum, dum. Reef shark. (12kb)
Not a bad spot for a nest (why have it underground though!). (73kb) Heron. (31kb) Jacqui off to the deep... (29kb)
Herons checking out Jacqui snorkelling. (50kb) Jacqui emerges from the deep. (30kb) She's *not* about to stand on that seagull... (30kb)
Creature from the deep.' (41kb) Aaarrgghh - it's nearly upon me! (33kb) Oh - it's only Jacqui... (57kb)
Transport home - cool! (71kb) He flew straighter than this most of the time... (34kb) Heron Is. (32kb)
Heron Is - you can see the channel into the dock. (29kb) Reef. (37kb) More reef. (30kb)
Another island. (25kb) Masthead Island - you can camp there! (21kb) Masthead Is. (15kb)
Wreck of the Deutschland. (53kb) Heading back. (25kb) Streaky sea. (22kb)
Gladstone. (32kb) A tenth of the world's aluminium is refined here. (15kb)