West Coast Day 104 - Pilbara Coast

Tuesday, Nov 03, 1998 at 01:00

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

The trip from Broome to Port Hedland is 612km and we had heard that there is very little in between. At the Broome market however, we struck up a conversation with the local leather craftsman. He was also a keen fisherman and a very friendly one at that. He recommended we stop part-way to Port Hedland at a place called Eighty Mile Beach and to check out another nearby spot called Cape Keraudren. So that's what we set out to do.

Today is Melbourne Cup day and racing fever just doesn't seem relevant to us. Mum has phoned through the names of 3 horses for a sweep though which was a lovely touch. We listened to the race call on the radio and bought the Sydney paper and ate strawberries and drank red cordial as we drove the boring stretch of road from Broome to Port Hedland. No winners.

There was just nothing on this stretch of road and we even had to stop at a roadside parking bay for our lunch in the midday heat.

Finally, we arrived at Eighty Mile Beach and discovered it had a caravan park that had been lovingly established over the last 10 tens to provide all day shade and grassy camp sites just behind the sand dunes. We were given the front row position and set up our camp around 4.30pm. We walked over the dunes to see the beach although the tide was out (all 9m of it!). What were left were thousands of shells up on the high tide mark - a collector's dream.

This evening the temperature dropped to only 24 ° and I thought I was going to need a jumper! The moon was almost full so we walked along the beach until we found turtle tracks leading up to the base of the sand dunes. The turtles were in their nesting season and it seemed we were about to see one prepare her nest and lay eggs.

The whole nesting procedure took over 1 1/2 hours and we were able to watch from a very close distance. No one else had ventured as far along the beach as we had that night so we were on our own with this nesting turtle. First, she crawled out of the ocean and chose a spot at the base of the sand dune. Then, she began using all four flippers to burrow a circular ditch of level hard packed sand. Finally, she used only her back flippers to scoop out sand to form a deep narrow ditch in which she would eventually lay her 44 eggs. Using first one back flipper and then the other, the turtle painstakingly dug a hole about 2 foot deep. And then she stopped. We weren't sure what was going to happen next so we waited, silently as she began to contract and dip her enormous shell backwards into the hole. In a matter of seconds she quickly swept the sand over her precious eggs and filled the hole. The hole filling process took a surprisingly long time but when she was satisfied that she had hidden all evidence of her nest she slowly made her way back down to the water and slipped out of sight.
David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
Travelling fulltime in 2024
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