December 4 – Willis Island

Willis Island – 09:00
16°16′31″ S 149°57′60″ E

This morning we arrived for a brief stop at Willis Island, an Australian weather station in the Coral Sea.

This island is very remote as it’s about 450 kilometers off Australia’s east coast & beyond the Great Barrier Reef.

No going ashore here! This island is tiny, measuring about 1,600 feet long by 500 feet wide & it’s highest point is only 30 feet above sea level.

The cruise ship stopped a few hundred yards off the shore & the Captain broadcast a conversation between one of the island’s meteorological staff & the Great Barrier Reef Pilot who was on board our ship.

There are only 4 persons stationed on the island at any given time & each staff member stays for 6 months before rotating out. I guess they had all better get along with each other because there’s nowhere to go if you don’t want to deal with someone on your shift!

Each morning the staff release a weather helium-filled balloon that rises over 20 kilometers, collecting & relaying data to the station on its way up. Once it reaches its maximum height the balloon bursts & it falls back to earth & sinks into the ocean, instruments included.

We watched the balloon being released & then got back underway on our passage to Sydney. Our Captain gave the islanders a special salute on the ship’s horn as we sailed away.

Click on this link below for a special video/sound treat that I made:

There are many seabirds – terns & red-footed boobies living on the island. As we approached it the birds came out to meet the ship. The Captain informed us that the birds like to follow the wake off the bow for an easy meal of flying fish.

The birds stayed with our ship for the rest of the day & into the night. The sea was very calm, so great conditions for us & for the birds.

We spent the rest of the morning relaxing on the Lido deck & then shifted over to our cabin balcony in the afternoon. Not sure if we can maintain this pace for 3 more days!

The weather is still hot – over 30 C, but now that the ship is headed south, our cabin gets the morning sun & is shaded from the hot afternoon sun. That makes sitting on our balcony much more comfortable.

I wish this cruise could go on for another month (or two) but I would have to get some new clothes because what I have with me now is getting too tight! Cath is doing a much better job than I am at resisting all the temptations available on the buffet. She also heads to the gym each morning for a workout while I lay in bed & watch European soccer highlights on TV. Each to our own.

Early this evening we went to a live entertainment show featuring a comedian/juggler, “The Checkerboard Guy”, from Vancouver Island, BC. He was pretty good. Then it was off to the dining room for yet another meal.

We have been informed that the ship will cross into a different time zone tonight, so we all have to put our clocks ahead 1 hour. Hey, that means that we don’t have to wait so long for breakfast tomorrow.

Life is good. Cheers!