Eddie's island page.

In 1984 I was invited on a camping trip to Masthead Island. I liked it so much I organized my own trip the following year and have been on about 15 similar trips to Masthead, Tryon, North West and Lady Musgrave Islands. These islands are in the Capricorn/Bunker group of islands off the Queensland coast, near the tropic of Capricorn. We generally charter a boat and take a group of 20 to 30 people to make it economical. The last trip I organized was to Lady Musgrave Island in December 1996. The trip cost $200 (aus) per adult for a two week stay. The trips are non profit and the bulk of the money pays for the boat charter. The islands are national parks and camping fees are paid when booking the camping permits (well in advance).

This is Lady Musgrave Island, it's a coral cay near Bundaburg. The camping ground is on the far side of the island. The water in the foreground is part of a large lagoon. The large "boat" is actually a permanent pontoon which the tourist boats come to.

We travel to the islands either on a barge like this one or by boat. The barge can beach land whereas the boat can't and therefore we have to complete the last few hundred meters by dingy.

Apart from toilets on two of the islands there are no facilities there. We take everything including fresh water. If care is taken in selection and storage, then fresh food will last two weeks or longer so we don't have to live on tinned food etc. We generally don't take fridges, freezers or generators. Generators are now banned anyway. No open fires are allowed. In case of medical and other emergencies we usually have a marine band radio but often 3 watt analog mobile phones will work (analog has now been replaced by CDMA). Some of us take solar panels to recharged batteries. I've been know to barter power for chocolate but there's been a glut of power lately that has seriously eroded the exchange rate :-(

The island is surrounded by a reef flat which is exposed at low tide. Even at high tide this prevents large boats from coming in to the beach, unless they have a shallow draught - like the barge does.

This is some of our gear. We have to bring everything including fresh water. All our camping gear, diving gear, personal stuff and a two weeks supply of food amount to a big pile.

Getting to and from the island requires co-operation from the whole group. We have to work together loading and unloading the gear, water etc. Apart from that the time on the island in unstructured, people do pretty much what they like. The tide and sun becomes more important than the clock. For a few weeks we form a small self contained community. There can be friction and strained relationships but there can also be positive bonds formed. We've had at least one marriage as a result of an island trip and many long term friendships.

This is home for the duration. The tarp are there to keep off the bird shit, as well as the sun and rain.

Traditionally Mancala is played for slaves or possibly played using gem stones as pieces. The island version is played using shells.

Many activities involve the beach and the sea. I generally walk around the island every day and sometimes three or four times on the smaller islands like Tryon. I'm most fond of walking around sunset. Sometime we had a dingy to use but most of the snorkeling is done by walking across the reef flat at low tide and going over the edge. We rarely bother with scuba, compressors are banned on some islands and I find a snorkel is all I need.

This is the shallow reef flat. The coral in the deeper water is much better.

A nesting turtle, very few come up during the day like this one.

Giant sea turtles nest here. The adult females come onto the beach in spring and summer to lay their eggs and the babies hatch in late summer and autumn.

A female turtle digs a nest in the sand, she may lay a hundred eggs and lay several times during the nesting period.

Turtle hatchlings.

Many birds come here to breed. The most obvious is the "White Capped Noddy Tern", they make nests of leaves glued together by Noddy shit. Their nests are quite shallow and babies often get blown out during windy weather. Other terns such as the "Bridled Tern" nest on the ground along with the Sea Gulls. The "Wedge Tailed Shearwater" AKA "Mutton Bird" nests under the ground in shallow burrows that are easily caved in by people walking over them.

Some birds migrate thousands of kilometers to nest here.

Almost all the birds live on a diet of fish. Many will spend all day out at sea fishing. This photo was taken on Tryon where Noddies don't seem to nest but are often found resting it the trees.

The number of birds are quite large, often it the hundreds of thousands. During the winter it's quite different with hardly any there at all. The noise is a bit much for some people. The Noddies chatter most of the time and the Shearwaters howl at night like tomcats. They are also know as "Mourning birds" and "Cat birds" because of this call. The shearwaters seem to navigate through the darkness using memory - if you "change the furniture around" by say placing your tent in one of there tracks then they'll keep running/flying into it until you move it. They have clearly defined runways they use to take off at the crack of dawn. They are also easily confused by artificial lights, especially on dark nights (ie no moon).

A Noddy Tern nesting in a Pisonia tree.

Hi density Noddy housing.

A pair of Shearwaters at the mouth of their burrow

Yet another photo of Noddy terns

One of the few fringe benefits of air pollution is that it gives us nice sunsets. Gladstone has a coal fired power-station which mainly powers the aluminum smelters. This plus other factories puts a lot of smoke into the air. The clarity of the air on the islands is mainly dependent on the wind direction, air from the west is dirty, air from the east is clean. Dirty air give nice sunsets, clean air give us good star gazing and satellite spotting conditions.

We get our fair share of nice sunsets. The sun sets over the mainly some 80 Klm away. Sunset is usually the only time the coastal mountains are visible.

We often see coastal storms hugging the coast but they usually don't reach us. Cyclones are an other matter.

This is a sunset at Tryon, North West Island is visible in the far left of this photo.

And another one.

If you do a trip like this - a tolerance (if not enjoyment of) nudity is an advantage. The degree of nudity vary from trip to trip depending on who comes with us and also whether we have the place to ourselves or not.

The nudies attempting to chase away the day-trippers. This is the eastern end of Musgrave Isl. The beach is coral rubble and broken shell (mostly clam). The beaches on the more northerly islands are finer. The sand on these islands is coral sand (Calcium-carbonate)- unlike the "sand" islands to the south (Frazer,Morton etc) where the sand is volcanic in origin (silicon dioxide).

Some related links -

DOUTS- Lady Musgrave
GreatBarrier Reef
Reef, Australia - Photograph

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