Only 9 months ago, Tangaroa Blue travelled to the very tip of our continent for the first time to clean up the iconic Five Beaches Loop near Somerset. After a 2-day break from our Captain Billy clean-up 2016, Tangaroa Blue and Conservation Volunteers Australia headed there again to remove what had washed up since September 2015.
With the camp set up at Australia’s northernmost camp ground Punsand Bay (the presence of running water and showers at the camp came like Christmas presents to the volunteers that had just spent a week at Captain Billy’s), the group travelled every day to Somerset, where we set up our data camp near the access to the chain of picturesque coves and rugged headlands that form the Five Beaches Loop. Giant red termite mounds fringed the rough 4WD track to the beaches where the team of 20 fanned out to collect the rubbish.
Whilst in 2015 the coastline was covered in debris that was so old and degraded that it crumbled into plastic powder by the touch, this year’s debris load was much lighter and the rubbish easier to pick up, proving that regular clean-ups vastly decrease the work load and the environmental impact. What took 5 days and weighed over 3 tonnes last year, only took 3 days and weighed 1.5 tonnes this year. But all this changed when the team then headed to “Beach 6” that was not on last year’s radar. Just like the five beaches in 2015, Beach 6 was loaded with rubbish that fragmented all too easily.
As the site closest to other countries, the Five Beaches Loop hosts a greater diversity of foreign items than any other site around Australia, but the most concerning find was not one, but three silver canisters, those infamous bottles with contents that can be fatal if inhaled or ingested. Whilst silver canisters have been found since 2012 all along the Australian east coast, with now 4 detected by us along the Five Beaches Loop, the tip of Cape York seems to be a hotspot. At least this made it worthwhile for the QLD Fire Brigade to come all the way from Thursday Island to remove the canisters safely in a sealed barrel.
A treat of a special kind was the community day with a BBQ sponsored by the Seisia Kiosk. Not only did some tourists and local students come along to help out on the beach, Traditional Owners and elders also joined the gathering and blessed the food in a ceremony for everyone to enjoy.
Last, but not least, the group headed to the famous sign “Northernmost point of Australia” to fly the Tangaroa Blue flag at the edge of the continent. But after having the heads stuck in sand and rubbish for 5 days it was a helicopter flight for some of the crew over the Five Beaches Loop that truly revealed what a stunning place Cape York is and that there is no excuse to let it drown in debris.
This event had been made possible through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Reef trust with the help of the NPARC Apudthama Indigenous Rangers, the Seisia Kiosk and the Conservation Volunteers Australia.