The Strand just after cyclone Yasi, 2011
I love the Strand at Townsville. It is a long stretch of shoreline at the waterfront which has the Rockpool at the northern end. It’s the best of outdoor city living, offering a variety of alfresco experiences with the facilities that rates can provide. I especially loved the Rockpool last year, when I was a broken-kneed cripple who needed a handrail to walk into the seawater.
Rockpool - Magnetic island in the distance
All sorts of people are at the Strand in the evening, taking in the cool air, reputable, disreputable, large family groups fishing (from a little promontory designed to extend beyond the Rockpool), skateboarding, walking dogs, jogging, inline skating, strolling, putting something delicious on the barbie, sitting on the ingeniously designed seats, looking out to sea, looking at women, looking at men, riding a bike, sea kayaking...and swimming.
I sink into
the warm brown water,
swim the full moon path
It reminds me of evenings in the villages of Western Samoa, where I travelled when I was twenty-one years old. The young people like myself strolled around the village in small groups, talking and socializing. In a tropical climate the evening is the time to be sociable, the middle of the day, the time to be alone and snooze.
And the moon was full. It trailed its silver scarf across the water, tipping the wavelets which fell onto the beach. After my first full day, we went to the stinger net enclosure. I was the only person having a night swim, and yet, what could happen inside a net?
Small hospital tank
for Noah the sick turtle -
he clanks a flipper
Green turtles are common in tropical Australia. So are small boats powered by outboard motors. Not every boatie is alert to these shell-covered reptiles and it’s not a problem to them when they run over a turtle - but the turtle suffers. And as for plastic bags - so convenient! - they are global. Turtles adore to eat jellyfish, they are the chocolate, or the potato chips of the turtle world. And floating around in the ocean - lets not get numerical over how many - are plastic bags that look like jellyfish to this reptile. Yum! But we now know that plastic doesn’t break down easily. In a turtle’s gut they act like a plug to the turtle’s bottom end. Nothing passes through like it used to. The poor creature gradually fills up with waste, which then begins to ferment and produce gas. He or she floats to the surface and then, because they can’t sink down to feed, they starve. I had that ‘stuck at the top’ feeling myself when I had my first scuba lesson on Magnetic island, and my BCD filled up with air till I was like a balloon bobbing around helplessly on the surface.
looking from the Fort on Magnetic Island, out to the reef - before scuba lesson
At Reef HQ, which is a coral reef aquarium in Townsville, there were three turtles in the hospital, each in their own tank. Two of them were girls with deep gashes on their shells, made by propellers of outboards. The shell of one of them had suffered damage right across it, but she was growing it back. Noah though, had been brought in with a lung infection. Each of these turtles require thirty squid a day, and fresh water pumped into their tank. He hadn’t been fed recently and he was cranky.
I am told that the Hauraki Gulf off Auckland, NZ, where I spent much holiday time as a child, is somewhat barren of fish these days. The bottom of it is as smooth as a turtle’s shell. We used to trawl for fish and catch trevally or terakihi, which we’d eat for dinner. You’ve heard this story in its many variations, so many times before.