Diving in Kimberley waters is not for the faint hearted; saltwater crocodiles and sharks cruise these tropical waters, and strong tides and currents can take unwary divers by surprise. However, determined to explore an island he hadn’t previously visited, Broome based naturalist Richard Costin packed his swag on the roof of his dinghy and set off on a 500km round trip from Derby to Macleay Island, which lies to the north of Koolan and Cockatoo Islands in the Buccaneer Archipelago, to film and photograph the waters surrounding the island.
As cyclone Alessia developed to the west, Richard dived the waters surrounding Macleay, recording corals and marine life with two GoPro Hero 3 cameras mounted on a hand-held frame and a headpiece. Nearing the end of a spring tide cycle, the waters were somewhat turbid, but nonetheless Richard managed to record significant coral bombies rising from a sandy bottom, and fish and marine life including sea whips and Gorgonian fan corals.
Camping on the dinghy for three nights, Richard also took the opportunity to explore the hyper-saline lagoon that lies at the northern end of the island. Filled by storm surges which push water over narrow, rocky bars on the western side, the lake is filled with small fish and algae, ringed by salt-encrusted rocks.
To the south of the island white sandy beaches are littered by steep sweeps of driftwood. Macleay is one of a handful of islands (along with Koolan and High Cliffy) with significant evidence of human habitation dating from as long ago as 27,300 ± 1100 BP. Anthropologist Sue O’Connor suggests that on other islands people camped on beaches and evidence of habitation was washed away by spring tides.
Richard and partner Annabelle Sandes will be leading two Wildlife Expedition Cruises in September 2014, visiting Macleay Island en route to Adele Island, the farthest island in the Buccaneer Archipelago off the Kimberley coast.