Climate Council 2016 Kimberley Expedition

19.01.17 By

 

Thank you to the Climate Council’s 2016 Kimberley Trekkers

In September this year, sixteen of the Climate Council’s supporters set off on a very special trip to the heart of Australia’s Kimberley region. The trip started out on the Kimberley Quest cruising down the Mitchell River Estuary and saw the trekkers visit a range of significant locations in the Northern Kimberley

Our Kimberley expedition participants did an absolutely incredible job fundraising almost $100,000 for the Climate Council.

We wouldn’t exist without our community’s support – and we’d like to sincerely thank everyone who participated in the Kimberley trip, as well as their friends, families, colleagues and the community members who donated so generously to their cause.

Your donations are powering the work of the Climate Council, and will go towards many critical projects to be carried out next year, including producing scientific reports, hosting events in the community and getting even more climate change stories into the media.

One of our Founding Friends and trip participants, Laurie Reemeyer has written the below report about his experience in the Kimberley region.

Climate Council 2016 Kimberley Expedition – Reflection by Laurie Reemeyer.

In September 2016, Professor Tim Flannery and Dr Martin Rice joined 16 Climate Council supporters on a once-in-a-lifetime trek to the remote northern Kimberley coastline. The trek, one of two Climate Council fundraising trips for 2016, gave participants a unique conservation experience while promoting and supporting the work of Climate Council.

 

We met in Broome on 21st September at the famous Matso’s Pub, and the next morning took a two-hour small plane flight to Mitchell Falls, passing the rugged and spectacular coastline of mangroves, estuaries, reefs and rocky islands.

Then we were ferried by helicopter to the
Kimberley Quest, a well kitted ship that would become our home for the next
eight nights. We were welcomed by Sam Rose and his crew, including the
encyclopedic Naturalist, Tim Willing.

 

Before long, we were in tenders visiting
extensive mangrove forests and our first taste of spectacular Aboriginal rock
art.

 

By evening, lemon sharks peacefully circled
our ship, and we started getting to know more about each other’s passions and
interests in the glow of a spectacular sunset.

We also got to learn more about each other, and it was soon evident that we were in the company of some diehard conservationists, including avid birdwatchers, amphibian researchers and land management experts.

Over the following days, we saw a diversity of animals and landscapes, and historical relics of both Aboriginal people and foreign travellers. Birds and marine animals were prolific. There were some animated discussions on bird species – what types of plovers and eagles vs. kites. We enjoyed the fruits of our fishing and harvesting, collecting oysters and catching mud crabs, fingermark and mangrove jack for eating. Once we had sufficient fish, we threw many back, including black bream, spotted cod, trevally and blue nose salmon. Occasionally, we needed vigilance for the crocodiles that call this region home, one of which stole our crab bait! On our trip, we passed manta rays, two types of dolphins, humpback whales and turtles, each an exhilarating sight.

Every day brought new Aboriginal rock art
sites, with each site containing different animals and spiritual figures.
Undoubtedly the highlight was a site that potentially showed a full size
thylacoleo (marsupial lion). Tim Willing led us to this special site, and he
and Tim Flannery closely inspected the animal painting, taking measurements and
interpreting the shape of paws, tails and genitalia. Tim Flannery noted that the
painting showed some differences, both to the thylacine and to the famous
thylacoleo fossil specimen discovered in a cave in the Nullarbor. After
careful consideration, he therefore concluded that it likely represented a new
species of thylacoleo. While we may never be certain, this was a hugely exciting
art specimen to see. Aboriginal rock art also gives evidence of the changes in
fauna that have historically occurred in past natural climate change events.

At one island, we saw evidence of non-Aboriginal contact with the land. The Macassans from Indonesia planted a tamarind tree, and there was evidence of camp sites. On the bark of a giant old boab tree, Europeans wrote insults about Chinese workers.

Our trip provided a good opportunity to assess human impacts on one of the most remote and sparsely populated regions of the planet. Kimberley Quest crew noted that garbage, likely from Bali, has washed up in some parts. Bushfires seem to be increasing in intensity, and there were indications that this was damaging some rock art, and potentially harming land based animals. One of the sites we inspected showed evidence of a recent, severe fire. Water flow in the Drysdale River was the lowest in Tim Willing’s memory. We saw no land animals, potentially due to presence of feral cats. There is evidence of illegal fishing in the region. In 2005, Tropical Cyclone Ingrid hit the Kimberley coast as a Category 5 storm, severely damaging the mangrove forests, and climate change may make severe cyclones more common. The front of cane toads, currently 40 km east of the Drysdale River, is approaching the Kimberley and may significantly impact land fauna.

The 2016 Kimberley trek $94,296 raised for Climate Council, supported by Inspired Adventures. These funds help the Council produce ongoing publications to educate Australians about the impacts, mitigations and adaptations associated with climate change. During the trek, Martin and Tim Flannery led several discussion sessions about the story of Climate Council as it rose from the political ashes of the abolition of The Climate Commission, the purpose of Climate Council treks, engagement with supporters and communication with regional Australians struggling with the energy transition to a more sustainable future. Tim and Martin were enthusiastic for feedback from supporters such as ourselves on how best to engage, both for fundraising and to build awareness about climate change and related conservation issues.

We owe enormous thanks to the crew of the Kimberley Quest for an amazing and informative experience. Their knowledge of the Kimberley was deep, and essential in making our conservation experience special.

We flew back into civilization on 30th September. A super storm had just hit South Australia and the entire state had lost power after the spine of the transmission network collapsed, wind generation shed load due to instability on the grid, and the Victorian interconnector overloaded and tripped. Knee-jerking politicians had blamed renewables without listening to advice from electricity system experts. Tim and Martin immediately jumped to work to help clarify public understanding of the event, and the dangers of future extreme weather from climate change. And so, with that jolt, we were back from the wilderness. However, for me, the Kimberley experience is one I will never forget. It is hard to overstate the inspiration and enlightenment that comes with immersion in one of the great wild places left on Earth. Our trek group continues to stay in touch to share information on climate change and land conservation issues. It is great to form these new bonds with concerned and environmentally aware people whose intentions I trust.

The Kimberley is the land of unforgettable
sunsets.

 

Professor Tim Flannery, Dr Martin Rice and Climate Council supporters.