AUSTRALIA
2000


"After The Flood"

Hunter River, Western Australia

 

Views of the Hunter River estuary below the gorge

Below the gorge was the estuary of the Hunter River into which fed several tributaries, including our own. We considered the possibility of Rough-scaled python living in neighbouring gorges and would later run a couple of short but unproductive dinghy recces into these areas.

 

The Hunter River sweeps around a wide spit of sand below the gorge
Our campsite was established at the upper end of the sand spit, right of picture

We established our campsite at the upper end of a long white sandy spit of sand on a sweeping bend in the Hunter River, just below the entrance to the gorge. This decision also meant we did not have to portage all our supplies and equipment deep into the gorge. When the time came for us to be evacuated in ten days time we could break down the camp and load it into the helicopters landing on the sand spit.

The camp consisted of scattered personal tents and "bashas" amongst the debris of the flood and centred around a communal area which comprises a couple of large tarpaulins over an area of sand, the cooking, eating, social area which also served as kit storage.

Around Camp
Rob Porter and Ann Ward relax
Photo: David Wright
Mark and Des Seal, David Wright in background
Photo: Rob Pendlebury

Dr Ann Ward,
our expedition medic

The irrepressible Alf Britton
Photo: Rob Pendlebury
OurNepalese chef Tenzing Sherpa turned out some amazing meals
Ann Ward, Alf Britton and David Pearson (CALM)
Photo: Rob Pendlebury

 

Personal camps were mostly up or down the sandy spit, amongst the fallen trees, but Alf and a couple of others established themselves a short way up the left-hand slope of the lower gorge. John decided to live at his beloved "Shangri-La", and he would trek in for dinner in the darkness and then trek back again afterwards, a good 20-30 minute hike at night. Despite this being northern Western Australia, the nights were often cold, wet and windy.

Basecamp - established at the end of the heli LZ
Basecamp - the communal area
Photo: David Wright
Alf in camp as the sun drops and illuminated the cliffs
Photo: Rob Pendlebury
My "basha"for 10 nights amongst the detritus of the flood
click on the image for a larger labelled version

Soon after arrival Dave Pearson from CALM found a juvenile Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) near our campsite. It was photographed and released.

Juvenile Saltwater crocodile,
Crocodylus porosus
Juvenile Saltwater crocodile,
Crocodylus porosus
Released back into the wild CALM officer David Pearson with juvenile Saltwater crocodile,
Crocodylus porosus
Saltwater crocodiles are sometimes known as "Naked-neck crocodiles" because there is a distinct gap
in the scutation between the back of the back of the cranium and a group of six nuchal scutes
common to all crocodilians.
Other crocodiles possess a row of four post-occipital scutes in this area.
Mouse-over to see where these would appear

Bur the juvenile was not the only "saltie" sighted, a larger specimen hung around our inflatable boat for several days and with the large estuary, the Prince Frederik Harbour and the mangrove swamps nearby we figured there were much larger crocodiles in the river.

 

It was not only small crocodiles that appeared around our campsite!
Spot the crocodile teenager intent on mischief, and where there are small crocodiles
there will be large crocodiles.

Click on the image to view the visitor
Lurking Saltwater crocodile,
Crocodylus porosus

 

Taking our dinghy to recce other channels of the Hunter River

 

We decided to bathe in the pools at the head of the gorge, a long walk but safer than taking a dip in the river besides the camp.

Base camp was also the location chosen for some of our interviews, particular the interviews with Rob Porter and Alf Britton who had been present when the two Rough-scaled pythons already at ARP were captured.

Rob Porter (left) and Alf Britton (right) tell their stories