Saturday, October 08, 2011

Return to Lizard (Dyiigurra)

Lizard on Lizard Island  (Gould's sand monitor )           Photo: Emma Tippet

The Guugu Yimithirr Bama, particularly the Dingaal tribe have a long and deep connection with Lizard Island. Or in Guugu Yimithirr 'Dyiigurra' which means 'stingray'. The island had been a sacred site for initiation of young males and for the harvesting of plentiful shellfish, turtles, dugong and fish. Their connections to the island were brought to a brutal halt when in the late 1800's Aboriginal men murdered the chinese servant of Mrs Watson, who lived on the island with her husband, a beche-de-mer fisherman. This event led to her and her baby's death. The story goes that after finding her servant speared, she fled the island with her baby and other badly wounded servant in a beche-de-mer tub. We have just sailed past Watson Island where the tub landed (North-west of Lizard) and as they saw no passing ships ,the unfortunate people died of thirst.
The result of this incident was a terrible massacre at Cape Flattery on the mainland, where the Hope Vale/Pelican camp has often been held. None of the attackers were killed but over a hundred Guuggu Yimithirr men , women and children were slaughtered by whites seeking revenge.
Louis Charlie- Dingaal traditional owner
The island was named Lizard after James Cook landed there and found the Sand monitors. It is now home a very upmarket resort.
The Hope Vale/Pelican project has been visiting the island nearly every year since 2005, giving both traditional owners and local Bama the opportunity to visit and sometimes camp overnight. This year we were camping for one night. An elder from Hope Vale, Trevor Bambi, told me it was his first visit. Traditional owner (Louis Charlie- brother of Johnny Charlie- who shared the Dingaal story with us last year) on board with us, had not had the chance to go there for a very long time. In the past, we have visited the Research Station on the Island but this year we did not have enough time. Also we had Chris Roberts from Balkanu handy to talk about the Island from a biologist's perspective.
Before every journey on the Pelican there is the obligatory safety talk by Garry McKechnie- Skipper. He somehow always manages a laugh when he talks about what people are meant to do if they are going to be seasick. He warns that it is unsafe to rush to the side of the boat as you are likely to be disoriented. Instead the person needs to grab a bucket, find a comfortable place and "hug the bucket". Fortunately, though a couple of people felt a bit queasy as the conditions were quite big on the crossing, no one needed to this trip.
Raising Pelican's sails.
Louis with Ignatious Burns.


Eddie Naylor- his traditional country is the Starke region where the camp was held this year. Pictured here with Sean Gillen from Balkanu.

Rodenta Burns dreamily taking in the beautiful turquoise waters of the island. The other beauty of Lizard is that you can generally swim without fear of crocodiles. The Starke river region, on the other hand, is next to impossible as there are crocodiles everywhere. Chris Roberts nearly stumbled on a big one on a walk near the camp and the older women told me there were at least 6 that they knew of near the camp. 


The path to the camp site with Pelican anchored in Watson's Bay.


The camp site was shaded by these beautiful trees (Barrington calyptrata)- the blossoms carpeted the picnic tables and grounds.



After lunch on board Pelican of the mackeral caught on the journey over, everyone jumped in. We had some snorkel to give the Hope Vale kids an opportunity to glimpse beneath the crystal waters to the underwater wonderland of the reef. This photo and all the following underwater ones were taken by Michelle Quach, our environment scientist chef!

Staghorn coral- there are more than 450 species of corals that have been recorded from the waters of the GBR, eastern coastal Australia, and continental and Coral sea islands.
Octocoral. Beautiful pic of the polyps opening like flowers to catch their food. Food sources for coral include planktonic organisms and incidental detritus.


The lip of a clam shell. The bright blue circles are an algae that lives symbiotically with the clam.

Saden and Austin after their swim.


After a night onshore, packing the dinghys, ready to return to Starke.

We journeyed around the whole island as the elders had not seen the island from that perspective before. 
Eddie Naylor and Louis Charlie.

Austin caught the first of quite a few fish that were taken back to feed the camp.

Eddie Naylor, Trevor Bambi and Ursula Burns.

Shaunica Lee Cheu took to Pelican's bow for most of the journey home.

Returning to Starke camp, just before the light faded. The wind quietened on our journey home and by the time we came to shore, everyone felt relaxed and happy with the journey to Dyiigurra.

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