Stockholm – Arrival and Day 1

We arrived to a rainy Stockholm after a long day of air travel. San Francisco to Copenhagen and then a short jump from Copenhagen to Stockholm.

We found a local pub that served Mary’s favorite beer, one that I had to try, and Swedish meatballs. It seemed like the perfect way to celebrate our arrival.

The next morning we boarded the ship and sailed through the Stockholm Archipelago (24,000 islands!) towards the open Baltic sea. 

The Kimberley – Day 9 – Montgomery Reef

Our final excursion was to the Montgomery Reef. We gathered en masse at 5:30 AM so that we could watch this massive 150 Sq. Mi. of reef emerge from the ocean as the tide ebbed.

There is as much as 10M of tidal change in sea level in this area. This exposes as much as 4M of the reef at low tide. This first shot is of an Egret standing on the reef when it is barely exposed.

 

As the tide receeded and the reef emerged we traveled up a “river” in the reef. It is basically a low spot in the reef that turns into a river as the reef grows on each side. What you see in many of these pictures is the water cascading off the reef into the river as it emerges.

The water flowing off top of the rising reef causes hundreds of waterfalls all of which expose prime fishing territory for the Eastern Reef Egret.

What appears to be an expanse of water behind the Egret in the last two photos is actually the side wall of the reef. It this point it is more than two meters high. The receeding tide also exposed a sand bar at the delta of the reef’s river. We hopped off the zodiac and explored this island that didn’t exist an hour before.

 

On the last day we departed the ship in Broome, flew to Perth, on to Sydney and then back to the US (LAX to SFO). This was about 24 hours of actual air time and 36 hours elapsed, 11,000 miles. On the ship we sailed 1685 Nautical miles (1940 miles). It was a trip we will never forget.

The Kimberley – Day 8 – Talbot Bay

The geography in Talbot Bay was very unusual. In most of the regions of the Kimberley the layers of rock were always oriented horizontally. Here they tilted as much as 80%. This was caused when the Indian and Australian plates pushed against one another.

Talbot Bay is also home to the Horizontal Falls, was a blast. We took a quick tour of the area first thing in the morning and saw the pinched rapids (the proper description of the Horizontal Falls). It was near the end of the Ebb tide so it was fairly calm. The effect is caused by gaps in the vertically aligned part of the McLarty range (>80 degree incline) with 11M tide fluctuations. Note the changes in the water flow and the water level on the side walls as the photos progess.

As the tide changes from Ebb to Flood and back, water in the bays equalizes with the ocean. Trillions of gallons of water will surge through two gaps, one 25M the other 12M wide, in a couple of hour period causing a 5-6 meter drop from one side of the gap to the other. The current is very impressive. After our zodiac tour, as the tidal flow increased, we went on a high speed boat through the gap. They compensate for the immense force of the water with 1200 horsepower of outboard motors (4 @300HP each) to ensure that we don’t hit the gap walls.

The Kimberley – Day 7 – Mitchell Falls

Today we visited Mitchell Falls via helicopter. On the short zodiac ride to the beach for pick-up, the driver was hilariously whistling The Ride of the Valkyrie and evoked memories of Apocalypse Now. The open air helicopters were a fun way to see the country and meant we could skip a bus ride, since they came to us.

For our departure, they landed right on the beach. When we returned (as you can see in the final photo) the beach was 90% gone due to the tide and they landed right next to the trees. They were so close to the trees, I kept thinking giant weed-whacker.

Initially I thought that the lack of a door next to me would mean that I would have unlimited photographic opportunities. While there were many, holding your arms out a window going 100 MPH (not to mention a bulky camera) requred more concentration and effort than I anticipated.

The end objective of Mitchell Falls did not disappoint anyone on our trip who ventured there. Hopefully these images capture some of what we saw.

The Kimberley – Day 6 – Vansittart Bay & Jar Island

The next day we were in Vansittart Bay and visited Jar island where we saw ancient paintings of Wandjina Figures called Bradshaw art or locally called Gwion Gwion Art. Their origin and dating are still in question. They were painted by local indigenous tribes (aboriginal peoples) – many suspect their age to be about 15-20 thousand years old.

Here are two examples.

 

In the afternoon we went across the bay to look at the site of an American Douglas C-53 (DC3) which crashed in 1942. It was flying from Perth to Broome but veered 500 miles off course (that is what happens when you leave the navigator behind).

 

Fortunately all survived even in this wilderness area.

The Kimberley – Days 4 and 5

Welcome to Plan B (and Plan C). Plan B was to visit the Berkeley River since we didn’t hit Jaco island. High winds scrapped Plan B and invoked Plan C – we hopped up to the King George River (and falls) for an extra day. It was really our first day experiencing the amazing sandstone cliffs and breathtaking vistas. This is a view of the King George Falls. We spent two days here and in the surrounding area.

Sunscreen was not optional given the harsh rays. In fact we were encouraged to wear long sleeves when possible despite the heat.

Here are some of my favorite views.

After a long day we are back at the Silver Discoverer

The Kimberley – Day 3 – The Bungles

The next day we trucked (figuratively) over to Wyndham. Wyndham is the northernmost city of Western Australia (WA). WA is 33% of Australia’s landmass and about 11% of its population. There are still more cattle than people. Some of the stations, what we call ranches, have over a million head. You will see stunning examples of the countryside if you watch the movie Australia with Nicole Kidman.

After a short bus ride, narrated by a local retired pharmacist who crammed 2 hours of commentary into 60 minutes, we boarded a 12 person Cessna to fly over Lake Argyle and the Argyle diamond mine (think pink diamonds) on our way to the Bungle Bungle range.

These outstanding examples of cone karst that have eroded over a period of 20 million years are of great beauty and exceptional geological interest. (Wikipedia)

The Bungle Bungles

More Bungles

The Argyle Diamond Mine

Our ride

The Kimberley – Days 1 and 2

We arrived in Darwin, a town of about 150,000 people. It is primarily a port town. It is the capital of the Northern Territory which is >500,000 Sq.Mi. and home to less than 250,000 people. While it is about 18% of Australia’s land mass, it is only 1% of its population. We boarded the Silver Discoverer for an Expedition Cruise, basically the same formula as our Galapagos trip last year.

We were supposed to go snorkeling at Jaco island in East Timor but unfortunately, a prior cruise ran their ship aground on a reef in the bay causing damage to the reef and prompting an East Timor decision to suspend anchoring in the bay. We still went to East Timor which puzzled many of us. Why were we “wasting” a day or almost two at sea? The reason was Cabotage.

Cabotage – noun

    1. the right to operate sea, air, or other transport services within a particular territory.
        • restriction of the operation of sea, air, or other transport services within or into a particular country to that country’s own transport services.

Turns out that Cabotage is also the reason that most cruise ships to Alaska stop in Vancouver at the beginning or end of Alaska cruises. Many (most?) cruise ships, regardless of ownership are Bahamian registered due to tax advantages. However this means that in many countries (e.g. US and Australia) the cruise can not start and end exclusively in one country.

Last day – back to Baltra and then home

It was an amazing trip. One we will never forget. Experienced some amazing places, and met some new friends.

As I write this we are in Quito airport waiting for our red-eye to Atlanta and then on to Minneapolis. It is time for this adventure to end. Looking forward to seeing family and friends while we are there.

This morning I looked out our stateroom and saw our bags (along with everybody else’s) being loaded onto a zodiac. I realize that this ship never docks so everything that comes on or goes off is transported via zodiac but I wish I hadn’t seen this.

Fortunately ours made it. I wonder if, or how often, a bag doesn’t.

Santa Cruz

We cruised overnight to Santa Cruz, the island with the largest human population. The headquarters of the Galápagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station are located in the small town of Puerto Ayora.

At the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center, we saw dome shaped tortoises some of which are waiting to be returned to their home island.

When it gets hot, they enjoy the mud.