At the Huon Reef the wind backed to the SE on the 2nd day, and the sun shone. We spent a week at anchor in calm seas, and found the island fascinating.
Totally unspoiled, it consists of white sand, coral and some rock, though grass-topped above the reach of the tides. Such pristine conditions makes it home to colonies of thousands upon thousands of seabirds that live mostly undisturbed, apart of course from the odd yachtie who turns up on occasion. We identified four main species. Two types of booby, one definitely the white-breasted variety, the other very handsome specimen with its yellow bill, predominately white plumage and grey feet we think is a masked booby. What we believe to be Sooty Shearwaters and Common Terns were living cheek by jowl with the boobies. What appeared to be a solitary frigate bird was also in evidence! They were mostly nesting whilst we were there, and we saw thousands of nests in different terrain, all with one or occasionally two eggs, some just laid amongst the grass or on the sand, others made elaborately with shells. Sadly though, a predator is never far away and crabs sidle up to unguarded nests to eat the eggs. Some pairs were courting, a generally gentle ritual that was enchanting to watch, females looked after fluffy hatchlings often bigger than themselves, with some young taking ungainly, unsteady steps or learning to fly. Tern hatchlings we found clinging to the lee side of rocks at the edge of the lagoon. Surprisingly most of the birds were unafraid of us, and allowed us to get within 3-4 feet of them. Equally they were curious about Pipistrelle, often leaving their calling card overnight! We circumnavigated the island on foot one lovely morning a walk taking us over three hours, stopping frequently to photograph the wonders of this natural world, looking for shells and just drinking in the unique atmosphere.
With Helmut and Kerstin from Lop To we had a fun evening BBQ ashore over an open fire for which we had collected driftwood. In five years of cruising, this was a first for us! We also used the opportunity to burn our rubbish – again a first. The site of our fire was obviously at a safe distance from the main nesting area. On our last day we ceremoniously burnt a couple of bags full of discarded plastic rubbish that had been washed up on the windward side and collected, so the island now looks a little tidier and we made a contribution to the environment! However, happily there was not nearly as much litter here as we have seen on other islands in the Caribbean or Pacific, and fortunately there was not a trace of oil either on land or in the lagoon.
Photograph captions to follow once we have a faster internet signal!