When I was starting to eat solid foods as a baby, Mum said the only thing I wanted was banana. To this day, it is one of my favourite foods. So I was a little excited that we were heading towards the banana capital of WA: Carnavon. The country around us is definitely changing and starting to feel like ‘up north’. The dirt is getting redder, there are more shrubs than trees and I’ve seen some birds that are only found in this part of the world. We had entered the Gascoyne region of WA.
Kylie and I checked into a cabin at the Coral Coast Caravan Park (we decided that after a few nights camping, we needed a break from the heat!). I have to say, Kylie is the best roadie ever! Not only does she have the trailer re-packed before I even get up, she makes the best ‘Kylie surprises’ in the kitchen. After buying some local bananas, Kylie got to work on her Carnavon banana surprise. Sometimes she gets it spot on…and sometimes not quite so spot on. Sorry Kyles, this time it wasn’t quite on the money!
The next day we took Gulliver to meet the students at St. Marys Star of the Sea, a pretty relevant name for ECOCEAN seeing as the computer program that we use for our whale shark photo-id is the same one that NASA uses to map stars! The science teacher, Helen Dixon, had asked me if we would like to join in a beach clean up of Carnavon town beach in the morning. I thought this was a brilliant idea and a way we could talk to the kids about why healthy oceans were important.
Kylie and I left the trailer with some of the art students and one of the Indigenous teachers, Bonnie. She said she had a design in mind that would incorporate marine turtles with some Indigenous art – we were stoked as the trailer was yet to see any from our travels so far.
We took the opportunity while the students were painting to head into town and survey locals about previous whale shark sightings off Carnavon. Quite a few had seen them around Bernier and Dorre Islands, an island reserve 40kms west off the Carnavon coast. These islands are in between the Shark Bay World Heritage Area and Ningaloo (both places where we know whale sharks aggregate), so most likely an important place on their migration route.
Back to school and it was time to do presentations to the students. I often get asked by the kids ‘How can we help the whale shark?’ which is one of my favourite questions and warms my heart to think that they have taken on board what I have been saying about this threatened species. ECOCEAN actually has an adoption program where an individual, family or business can adopt a specific whale shark for a year. The money raised through this program goes straight back into our research for the whale shark. Once the kids know this, I hear them asking their teachers if their class could adopt a whale shark. Makes me smile that the new generation of marine conservationists want to try and help from their classrooms.
That night we held our community meeting at the ‘Gwoonwardu Mia’ Gascoyne Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre, definitely the best cultural centre I’ve ever seen! It is designed in the shape of a cyclone and apparently this is what it looks like from a birds eye view. Kylie and I had a quick look around before we set up. Their displays and artwork are fantastic! Gwoonwardu Mia brings people from the five Aboriginal language groups of the Gascoyne region together to showcase their heritage, history, art and culture.
We recorded another previous whale shark sighting off the Carnavon coast from one of the locals during the community meeting. Looks like we have found another important site for whale sharks!