Flying high down under – the Great Barrier Reef

Blogging from the Great Barrier Reef. How could we not?

Ok… so we are not exactly fully submerged in water right now, more like chilling at the airport rocking some sunburn. But the facts are still the same: what an absolutely awesome weekend!

On Friday night we lucky three jetted off to Cairns, a tropical town about two hours north of Brisbane, in the hope of catching a wee glimpse of everyone’s favourite lil’ fish, Nemo. We managed to bag an absolute bargain, staying at a backpacker’s hostel – fittingly called The Globetrotters – where we got the fine privilege of a bed… just a bed.

Sunrise in Cairns
Sunrise in Cairns

Wake-up for us was an eye-watering 5.00am, but the notion that we would soon be kicking it back with some of the ocean’s finest was far too exciting for sleeping! Also, walking out of your door to this view was eye-opening enough – check it out!

Our quest to find Nemo begins!
Our quest to find Nemo begins!

After renting a waterproof camera (we couldn’t resist), we boarded our little vessel prepared with every herbal remedy we could think of to protect us from falling sea sick – blame this on Izzy. A two hour boat journey later (let’s just say Izzy’s medicine didn’t quite help everyone… sorry Tom) we finally arrived at the Great Barrier Reef. And believe us we have never seen such stunning water, it’s SO blue!

We got kitted up in our dive gear and it was heavy enough that we actually had to be awkwardly plopped/pushed into the water – pretty embarrassing to say the least! Soon we were entering what seemed like an underwater VIP club with access to all areas, seeing fish of every colour, shape and size. Even the coral was alive and pulsating. It was very special, but our adventures didn’t end there.

We were lucky enough to see the reef from above in a private helicopter (student life seriously does have its perks!). Believe us, as cheesy as it sounds, it really puts the uniqueness of our planet into perspective. The area we flew over was just a tiny portion of the reef. Cue mind-blowing pilot fact of the day: the Great Barrier Reef is the largest living organism in the world. Crazy!

The rest of the day was spent snorkelling at different locations along the reef. It was a great way to spy on life under the sea – it was literally just us and the reef, and there was so much to see! But sadly Finding Nemo is harder than it sounds.

After recovering from all the salt gulping, we spent our final day in Cairns walking through the botanical gardens and rainforests before trekking up Mount Whitfield. We felt like right Steve Irwin’s stopping to look at all the birds and other wildlife. Croc watch update: we are yet to see one! Despite this, our time in Cairns was absolutely fab – one of the most memorable from our journey so far and we feel privileged to have experienced one of our planet’s natural wonders together.

Helicopter pictures

So before you get to thinking that we’re having a wee holiday out here, we really have been working away microwaving and breaking more rocks! We cannot believe we are going into our sixth week at the JK and our project is coming together very nicely.

Our first sets of results have come back from the assayers and suggest the “Secret Squirrel” may be very promising. We haven’t mentioned how the RBT machine (see last blog) decided to “break” on us last week. Literally will never forget the feeling of a half a million pound machine going down, but as our supervisor proudly says, “nothing a hammer and a splash of WD40 cannot fix”. Ahh, the ups and downs of doing experimental work!

Cairns pier photo

Sadly our GeoMetallurgy lectures have come to an end, but the lessons learnt will not be forgotten. It definitely has opened our minds to the importance of understanding ore variability, and the need for integration between all disciplines. Also, we were lucky enough to be invited by Professor Paulo Vasconcelos – Head of the Earth Science department at UQ – to a thesis presentation evening sponsored by Vale. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet other like-minded geophysicists and to discuss future career possibilities within the mining industry.

Our internship here in Oz is seriously going from strength to strength and as you can see we are also grabbing every opportunity to explore the country – trips to Sydney and the Sunshine coast are definitely on the cards!

We must be off as our plane back to Brisbane is about to board – one of the perks of a super saver light ticket means you are the last to leave the airport!

And so another week on The Secret Squirrel commences… See y’all later,

Hayley and Izzy

P.S. After sun is getting slathered on as soon as we get through the door!

Never seen a fish so big!
Rainforest Lake photo - Mount Whitfield, Cairns
Mount Whitfield, Cairns

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