Darwin Departure and Scott Reef

Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni) in golden sunset glow.
Photo credit M.Jenner

 Darwin Departure and Scott Reef 2 emailed 09/10/12

Daffy wings away and we are back to The Usual Suspects Five, now getting ready for our transit trip home to Fremantle via Scott Reef.  We have some unfinished business out there and must go back en route.  On September 25th we up anchor at 1245 and bid Darwin a fond farewell.  We have had a lovely time in this bustling but happening, big-town city.  Mailing a letter from Darwin the post gets to Perth the day after next, I am surprised but have to remind myself that this is major city, it is just that it feels more like friendly over-grown, country town.  I like the feel of Darwin and look forward to returning again sometime soon.


View of ‘R.V. Whale Song’ at the Small Boat Anchorage in Darwin Harbour from the overpass to the Darwin Waterfront.
Photo credit M.Jenner


Curt and Sam returning to ‘Whale Song’ from one of many ashore forays in Darwin.
Photo credit M.Jenner

Darwin – a poem by Micheline Jenner


Hot, steamy tropical feel
With palms, flowers and trees all real

The wet she’s a-comin’
On the rooves the rain’ll be drummin’

Clouds building
Humidity rising

Tempers flaring
Eyes glaring…

Lightning strikes
Watch – it bites

Blackened skies
Where Brolga flies

Walk slow
Pace as you go

No complaining
But the build is draining

Aqua green harbour sloshes
Tide in, tide out it washes

Blue sky and dotted with perfect white cloud
A picture to make Darwinites proud!

Cyclone Tracey leaves her mark
The ruins of the council chambers stark

The city’s a-buzz with utes and trucks
Got INPEX here – Darwin’s in luck!

Fluoro – it’s the new black!
Get accustomed – gotta keep track

Beautiful grounds surround
Beautiful buildings around

Marinas a-plenty
With boats more than twenty

Fishing and sailing under the NT sun
Commercially or for fun

Darwin to Ambon Sailing Race
Started this year with a very slow pace

Across the line we started too
With only a breeze of one or two

Kakadu – an inland natural gem
The trees I’d love to see them

Ancient rocks
Roaring crocs

Dusty tracks
Old shacks

Real outback up here
Better beware

Darwin –a fresh outback edge
Got the cake – a big, wide wedge!

(Written by Micheline Jenner)


At the start of the Darwin to Ambon Yacht Race.
Photo credit M.Jenner


Travelling from Darwin to Scott Reef we are again amazed by the beautiful weather and truly calm seas.  We are getting worried that we might not know how to cope with anything over 12-15 knots… we have been so spoilt, weeks on end of glassy calm ocean.   With excitement and cameras clicking away we experience our Fourth Feeding Frenzy of 6 Brydes’ whales, stripey tuna jumping all over, 20 false killer whales and 75-100 dwarf spinner dolphins in the mix.  The raw energy displayed by this buzzing healthy ecosystem is wonderful to observe at close range and we are all totally exhilarated too!  This is the rich tropical Timor Sea and it is all the things you know a tropical sea will be.


Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni) at sunset showing their largish, streamlined rorqual body shape.
Photo credit M.Jenner

Dwarf spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris roseiventris) join the feeding frenzy.
Photo credit M.Jenner

Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni) under the setting sun.
Photo credit M.Jenner


I am very excited to return to Scott Reef, I love it there, really love it.  On September 28th we arrive at 1200 midday NT time at the eastern side of Scott Reef.  As we are transiting back to WA we decide to change our ship’s time to WA time which is then 1030 am WA time.  Suddenly, with a stroke of the clock’s hand, the lunch meal I serve actually becomes morning tea, funny!  Anchoring at 1330 we prepare for a night of listening, we want to work out what species is making the sounds we heard last time which we call  “the aliens” I think it also sounds like  “cicadas”.  There are a lot of seismic pops going on, but at about 920pm, we are very thrilled when we do hear the “aliens” sounds again.  “Let’s up anchor and head towards the south edge of North Reef” Curt suggests.  In the diffuse moonlight and with our night vision camera directed along the bearing of the sound, Skipper and I maintain station on the Portuguese bridge in front of the wheelhouse. I scan with my binoculars and can actually see the waves, I think I shall be able to see the cetacean(s) making these noises.  Skipper, ever faithful, is beside me and we enjoy the warm, heavy night air that envelops us.  Looking to the port side scanning and checking each wave carefully, I hear a large blow on the starboard side.  It’s a big blow, slightly panicked and most likely only 0.4 nm to 0.5 nm away from us.  Excitedly, I knock on the wheelhouse window “ Curt, I heard a blow!, starboard side”  Looking and looking for another 20 minutes , sadly I don’t see the animal or hear it again, nor does Curt with the night vision camera and even worse, the sounds are no longer being made, evidenced by no signals on the computer screen.  Poor thing, we must have scared it… By working out the sounds of the animals we have already heard and photo-identified, the size of the animal for that sounding blow and regarding the location, we make an educated guess that it is either a Cuviers beaked whale (although I remember their calls recorded at the end of August as very different from the “aliens” and we will check those records soon) or possibly a Longmans’ beaked whale.  We return to our anchoring spot without any further sounds on deck or on the computer system.


The beautiful turquoise waters surrounding Sandy Islet, Scott Reef.
Photo credit M.Jenner


Circle of Life – a poem by Micheline Jenner

Why oh why are coral cays round?
Why in rings are reefs found?

It’s all to do about the ground
Oceanography theories abound!

I think the physical vortexes flow
Round and round and round they go

These places truly become the centre of life
New beginnings of drama and strife

Rings of life
New and old rife

Cogs of the universe
Touched with mankind curse

Take and take and take some more
Take until the earth is sore

No mystery why she opens and groans
Heartfelt, earthfelt dying moans

Currents swirling
Fish tails swishing

Very deep then very shallow
Fish in every shade of yellow!

Round and round the waters flow
Re-newing all the things you know

Path of golden moonbeams lead
To a place we dearly need

Complex, diverse environment
Words as a compliment

Innate beauty, integral must describe
This unique place of coral vibe!

(Written by Micheline Jenner)

Feather stars in the beautiful marine waters of Scott Reef.
Photo credit I.Ford.

The captain and his ship. Curt snorkelling the glassy waters of Scott Reef.
Photo credit M.Jenner

We spend three days at Scott Reef this second time listening for whales and liaise with Customs, Border Protection Control and AFMA (Australian Fisheries Management Authority) regarding sounds of illegal blast fishing activities.  None are heard but the day we sail over the horizon, with routine inspections, explosives are found by the Customs Officers on a traditional fishing vessel anchored at Scott Reef.  Now the rest is history, the reef’s pleas have been heard.  Please go to this Perth Now link for the story that went to press on October 5th


Australian Customs Vessel and a traditional Indonesian fishing boat in the lagoon of South Reef, Scott Reef.
Photo credit M.Jenner

I am sending this news while anchored in Shelter Bay, at the southern end of Shark Bay.  We are resting and preparing for the last jump down the coast back to Freo.  The water is a stunning turquoise blue and the cream, sandy hills of the mainland adjacent to Steep Point and nearby Dirk Hartog Island are characteristically dusted with dark green vegetation and fringed by screaming “come and walk on me” white beaches.   Gotta love WA, she has such great scenery!



Mich and The Whale Songs xx




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