Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bruny Island, Day 2

I woke up early on Tuesday and slipped on my shoes and a warm jacket and took myself on a nature walk. Most of the wildlife here is visible at dawn and dusk or in the night, except for the amazing birds of course. Even so, at 6 am there were only a few wallabies and a pademelon out and about. We did see a black & white spotted quoll (somewhat like a ferret, see the museum specimens below) but never saw or a possum or an echidna although they are all over the place down here.

This was the day of our Bruny Island Adventure Cruise, something we planned in advance and signed up for. Margaret drove us to Adventure Bay, on the South end of the island, and we went onto a fast speedboat where the first thing they did was suit us up ("rug up" down here) in a warm red head-to-toe waterproof pancho with a hood. We all looked ridiculous, but as the boat raced across the chilly waters of the Tasman Sea and into the Southern Ocean (gives me goosebumps just to write those words!) we understood and appreciated the gesture. They also passed out ginger tablets to everyone to prevent seasickness. They worked beautifully. We were out for 3 1/2 hours, a magnificent journey with numerous stops and starts to look at interesting stuff. And it was plenty cold, despite being a warm, sunny day. The guides were hilarious and interesting, with years of experience boating in these waters, so we felt confident with them. Even when they raced at top speed straight towards a cliff face, then at the last moment turned slightly so that we slid between two tall stone pillars then shot out on the other side. We screamed in terror, but then laughed with relief!

One crew member had been a fisherman in the Southern Ocean for 20 years, going out as far as 100 miles south of Bruny. He was in shorts and a windbreaker yesterday while the rest of us froze!

Mostly we hugged the high, dolorite cliffs along Bruny's southern half. The water was crystal clear. Kelp trees were plainly visible for perhaps 20 feet down. The cliffs were vertical, full of caves, and dotted with sea birds and their nesting habitats. We first saw some white-bellied sea eagles, then many other birds: sooty shearwaters, kelp gulls, black-faced cormorants, peregrine falcons, gannets. We saw giant blow holes where steaming spray was emitted in huge plumes. We lingered around the potently stinky rocks where dozens of male Australian Fur Seals lolled about. It was a true men's club, a sweat room for the guys. We held our noses there. Eeeee-ew!

This was on some islands out in the Southern Ocean, where the turquoise water foamed and boiled around the rocks while the seals slid in and out of the water across the flapping kelp, and the water was full of slithering seal bodies. The lady seals were, quite rightly, in some other area. Who would want to hang out with those guys!?

On the way back we headed away from the cliffs and out into the open sea, again racing across the water until we found a feeding frenzy quite like we have seen in Santa Cruz recently. Here was a pile-up of seals, dolphins, gulls, and huge albatross chasing a school of fish around. They were all around us for awhile, the dolphins sliding under the boat and arching gracefully alongside us. The albatross were enormous, with chiseled heads and beaks, and a wide wingspan. We were told that when mature they can stay airborne for more than 5 years! When they take off from the water they run across the surface on their big webbed feet, flapping those long wings until they lift off. We saw a lot of this as we watched. And then, another thrill. A humpback whale joined the fun! Wow! It was a grand grand-finale to the adventure!

On the way home we stopped at the Bruny Island Cheese Factory to taste a few things, and then at Get Shucked, a new oyster company here. We shared a dozen raw oysters there, appreciating the fresh taste of these local waters.

Dinner was a feast of barbecued scallops with bacon, steak, and sausages, a huge salad and a fresh-baked berry pie (pudding here).

Later we walked out to a clearing to look at the star-studded night sky, away from any city lights. It was breath-taking to see the Milky Way so clearly along with all the brightly shining and unfamiliar southern sky constellations.

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Location:Bruny Island, Tasmania, Australia

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