Monday, March 3, 2014

North Stradbroke Island, Part II

February 22 – 24, 2014

By Claire Hinkley

The first time the group traveled to Straddie a few weeks ago, we were mainly in lectures,  learning about the biology and ecology of the sand island. Nat and the GED office thought we ought to have a chance to see some of the landforms we’d been hearing about, so last weekend we headed back out to Stradbroke.

It’s been really hot and humid in Brisbane this past week, and the news had been forecasting rain for the weekend. My host dad told us not to listen to anything the newspeople say, because they don’t know what they’re talking about. Unfortunately, the reporters were right this time. Though our evening on the island on Friday was lovely, sunny and warm, with beautiful views of the Milky Way from the beach at night, Saturday was chilly and drizzly all day. Good thing we’re used to Portland weather! Disregarding the storm clouds boiling along the horizon and the gale-force winds whipping down the beach, almost everyone jumped in the water at some point during the day.
Braving the Storm

Saturday’s activities centered around seeing some of the major ecological attractions on Straddie. We drove all around the northern island, stopping first at 18-Mile Swamp and a beach on the exposed side of the island. Then we drove to an old dune that had been burned in a very destructive bushfire in January. The fire burned 60% of the foliage on Straddie and turned the once-lush hill we were climbing into an otherworldly moonscape of white sand and gray ash. Yet new shoots of green were already starting to spring up from the blackened stumps of the Xanthorrhea plants.  The hike up the dune was brutal, each step an effort with little payback from the sinking sand beneath our feet. However, the way down made up for it. A few of the group were more cautious, but I practically flew all the way down, leaping meters at a time. The next stop was Brown Lake, called so for the tannins that leach into the water from the surrounding trees, turning the lake the color of over-steeped tea. The acidity of the water supposedly has energizing effects, making the skin appear more youthful. Brown Lake might be a good destination for our parents. (Ha, ha, Mom).
Burned Vegetation on the Dune

Speaking of parents, we spent Friday night learning a new skill we can take with us into old age— lawn bowling, also known as “barefoot bowls.” We students were the youngest people at the club by about forty years. Though, the old men playing next to us were very friendly and encouraging! We split off into teams of two against another team of two (Emma and I, Team Sauron, lost to Shannon and Ian, Team Tron, by the smallest margin possible… as they pointed out to us, though, maybe we should have picked a team name that didn’t lose. Fair enough). We had a great time nonetheless and finished off the evening with a delicious fish and seafood fry at the club restaurant.
Several of us started off the final morning on Straddie bright and early with a quick jaunt to the beach for a final swim. It was a bit cold and gray, and the beach was pretty much empty— such a nice change compared to the crowded Sydney beaches! We frolicked in the waves for a while, until some locals came up to us with a helpful tip: apparently a deep-sea current had brought up a lot of bait fish from the depths of the ocean, which were attracting “big fish” (sharks) to feed… maybe we should stop swimming? Suddenly, the deserted beach made sense. Needless to say, we got out of the water pretty quickly. 

Now we’re back in Brisbane, starting the second week with our homestay families. I can’t wait for all the coming adventures!


On the Hike Between Home Beach & Cylinder Beach

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