Ersatz Reef

March 12, 2020, Cairns, Australia 

Rain, Old Testament rain.  The slight rain in Townsville was just the preview for the heavy rains Cairns.  We went to Great Barrier Reef HQ in Townsville as kind of an insurance policy.  It was a policy I’m glad we took out.  In Cairns we got to the catamaran that took us to Green Island on the inner Great Barrier Reef.  It was raining.  They handed out concentrated ginger pills because it was forecast to be rough out to the reef.  It was.  When we landed at the jetty waves were pitching the catamaran, the rain was coming sideways and hats and scarves were blowing away.  Umbrellas, forget it.  Unloading the cat reminded me of tendering at Easter Island, not as bad but still a challenge. 

The glass bottom boat to look at the reef was not operating, the underwater Scuba Doos were not operating, the helmeted dives were closed down.  We could snorkel but they didn’t recommend because of strong currents, rough seas and stingers, those little box jellyfish.  There was no way I would fit into one of the rented neoprene stinger suits.  And even if we did snorkel there wasn’t much light to show off the coral. 

So, for three hours we sat at a table under an umbrella, sheltering with other humans and not a few birds who seemed to be bothered by us not at all, watching, in awe, the pounding rain.   The boat was supposed to return to Cairns at 4:30. We went back at 2:30 otherwise we would have spent 5 hours under the umbrella.  The rain slackened for about half an hour before we were scheduled to leave and we walked around the island a little on a national park traul, but just as we were getting back on the catamaran, it started again in earnest.  It turns out we were experiencing a tropical depression that was forming into a tropical storm.  It will be named Cyclone Gretel when it finally pulls itself together.

We had an easy time compared to our shipmates who took the catamaran to the outer reef, or rather tried to take the cat there.  It had one engine fail in the rough seas and limped around for 5 hours getting back to Cairns.  There was no diving or snorkeling for them.  

Back in town the rain had stopped and the temperature was pleasant enough so we decided to skip the bus back to the ship and walk along the waterfront.  We both had a good time in a weird sort of way and certainly a good day compared to our friends attempting the outer reef.  Sometimes experiencing a really hard rain is good for the soul.

I had planned for this post to be shots of the great barrier reef, but instead I am posting pictures from Townsville, from the Reef Headquarters, where they have recreated a tame version of the reef in an aquarium for interpretation.  Our insurance policy.

And this second set of pics show a little of Green Island, our avian companions, the rain, and a little of the Cairns waterfront.

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