Always take the weather with you

MSU's blog | Created 2 years ago

This would have been good advice for the marine field trip we organised in April this year, to collect specimens for our Pilbara Conservation Systematics project. Initially we thought we'd managed to dodge the bad stuff. Our trip started only weeks after Ex-Tropical Cyclone Olwyn went through Exmouth as a Category 3, the starting point for our expedition. But only a few days into our two-week trip, an unseasonal patch of weather had us hiding at anchor at the Montebello Islands. 

Picture of Divers enter the water during calm, perfect, sunny conditions.

Divers enter the water during calm, perfect, sunny conditions. Image copyright Nerida Wilson/WA Museum

Picture of Expedition team members on beach

Before the storm: expedition team members reach the beach for some intertidal collecting at low tide. Image copyright Nerida Wilson/ WA Museum 

The Montebellos are an archipelago of about 70 small islands, lying 20 kilometres north of Barrow Island. They are fairly low lying, and mostly orientated in a north-south direction. Which means, that in a southerly, anchorages are a bit more limited than usual. We were nice and snug but did not really have options to move around much. It's pretty normal to lose a few days to weather in a trip, so everyone remained very positive. But as the days wore on, this became harder! We did a lot of intertidal collecting, facilitated by some very wet rides in the smaller motorboats (tenders) that allowed us to get access to some new areas. In the end, we were just grateful that the weather cleared up just in time for us to make it back to Exmouth. In fact, it was so nice by then, the team jumped in for a dive at the Muiron Islands to get those last samples.

Despite the poor weather, we had collected some fantastic animals in the first few days.

Picture of Processing animals after a dive.

Processing animals after a dive. Image copyright Nerida Wilson/WA Museum 

Picture of Soft corals and sponges underwater

Soft corals and sponges on an overhang.
Image copyright Monika Bryce/WA Museum 

Picture of a Spot-tail Anglerfish

A Spot-tail Anglerfish Lophiocaron trisignatus collected during one of the dives.
Image copyright Sue Morrison/WA Museum 

Picture of a sea slug

Aphelodoris karpa, a seaslug that can swim, named after a word in the Yindjibarndi language that can mean to ascend, rise up and fly away.
Image copyright Monika Bryce/WA Museum 

So, in the end, we were happy with our haul. In fact, we were pretty grateful that we were out of there before Cyclone Quang formed, only days after we departed...