(6/24-28/11) Twenty-odd years ago, when I was a young Assistant Professor, I was invited to a workshop on Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef, all expenses paid. Alas, I somehow decided that i was too busy and declined the offer, which was never repeated. Several years later I met a NASA colleague and noticed that he was wearing a Heron Island polo shirt. "Did you go to that workshop?" I asked excitedly. "Hell, no" he replied, "I went there for my honeymoon! Splendid place, truly paradise!"
Live and learn.
Last week I finally made it to paradise. Taking Adam, Galen and their Seattle friend, Luca, we flew to the rough and tumble, industrial port city of Gladstone where hotel rooms were in short supply due to the accelerated efforts to complete an offshore deep-water dock and natural gas refinery. Next day, we boarded the Heron Islander and headed east through some disturbingly large swells.
|Heron Island is a tiny emerald jewel set in a huge turquoise reef. A rusting wreck marks the entrance channel to the tiny harbor.|
|The resort is surrounded by national park with lush and exotic plants creeping across perfect white sand. Sheoak, Pandanus and Birds Beak are seen here.|
|Ineptly named. There are no Herons on the island, instead we saw a multitude of Eastern Reef Egrets.|
|Both white and grey color morphs are common.|
|Also common were Buff Banded Rails (above) and Black Noody Terns, which roosted in the Pisonia forest at night and hunted the seas during the day.|
|Much of our time was spent diving and we saw too many extraordinary fish to list. Green Turtles were very common, but I was especially thrilled when a twenty-foot Manta ray soared above my head!|