Captain Billy’s – a slice of wilderness reserved for Tangaroa Blue

Only one day after the Cape Bedford expedition, Tangaroa Blue set sails again for their so far longest and greatest Cape York adventure: For the first time the two northernmost trips were combined into one, saving us another 2000km of driving back and forth to our office in Mossman. And even though volunteers could come to either the Captain Billy’s Landing clean-up or to the event in Somerset, most of the group stayed for the entire time and life long memories.

The windswept cliffs of Captain Billy’s lie in the far north east of the peninsula. It took two days of driving over red, yellow and white corrugations to get there, and the adventure started right on day 1: The team rescued an injured red tailed black cockatoo – named Captain Billie-Flint – from the side of the road. Cool as a cucumber, the wild bird travelled with us in the car for two days, totally comfortable with all those humans around her, before we could hand her over to a wildlife carer near our destination. Captain Billie-Flint was since transferred to a vet in Weipa, airlifted to the avian hospital in Cairns, will be released in a few weeks time and has become the most well travelled cockatoo of Cape York. Not long after our cockatoo episode we even came across mating snakes in the middle of the road, performing a mesmerising courting dance. True David Attenborough stuff!

The camp site at Captain Billy’s was closed off for Tangaroa Blue, making our camp life worry free and adding to the remote feeling. And after our flood hurdle in Cape Bedford, the weather god truly made up for it and presented this notorious windy place in the calmest and sunniest way imaginable.,/p>

For five days the group wandered along 10km of colourful cliffs, bat-filled caves, the occasional crocodile track and white dunes, picking up the rubbish. Our recent helicopter survey along the Cape York coastline clearly showed that the regularly cleaned beaches have a significantly lower debris load than the inaccessible places that have never been touched. With only 1.5 tonnes collected, we were 800kg behind last year’s 2.3 tonne. However, due to the change of a creek bed we were also able to access an area that was cut off in the past, and the thick layer of plastic there was shocking. You are just about as remote as you can be in Australia and yet you walk through man-made debris. And typical for Cape York, about half of what we picked up were plastic remnants, the long lasting remains of various plastic items. Also interesting to note were the over 75% of bleach bottles that came from foreign sources.

Whilst the Tangaroa Blue volunteers picked up all those tiny bits and pieces, the NPARC Apudthama Indigenous Rangers supported the event on the bigger scale (literally), pulling heavy ghost nets out of the sand, wheeling the many bags of rubbish back to the camp and inviting the crew to their daily camp fire to share stories.

To serve the physical welfare, some of the volunteers upcycled a coiled up rope from the beach into the central meeting point for Tangaroa Blue’s daily yoga session. But the best reward after the long sweaty days in a camp with no running water were the trips to a little creek crossing to wash off the sand and grime in a rainforest group swim.

A big thank you goes to the QLD Government’s Everyone’s Environment Grant for the funding, to QLD Parks and Wildlife Service for the logistic support, and to the NPARC Apudthama Indigenous Rangers for their strong arms and indestructible vehicles.

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