5 Beaches, 4 Turtles and 1 Dangerous Canister – Adventures up North

From the 5th-13th of September a crew of 13 Tangaroa Blue volunteers and 3 staff headed off to Somerset in Cape York to conduct a beach clean-up along the 5 Beaches Loop track. With a visit from the local school, the discovery of a dangerous silver canister and a visit to the northernmost tip of the continent, it was a trip packed with true adventure as well as hard work.

At the beginning of the clean-up, we had a Welcome to Country by Traditional Owner, Raymond. Then the team met with the Apudthama and NPARC Rangers who helped us pull the debris off the beach and take it to the sorting area. We always appreciate their assistance, and it was great to get some further insight into the local area, particularly about some resident crocs.

The 2020 5 Beaches Loop crew with the Apudthama and NPARC Rangers on the first day, ready for action!
It was a massive help having the rangers transport waste for us as it meant we could spend more time picking up debris.

A massive highlight of the trip was a visit from the Pollution Warriors from Northern Peninsula Area State College (Bamaga Junior Campus). These legends have been learning about the impacts of pollution on their local beaches and had already conducted a beach clean-up and rubbish sort earlier this term, so they’re well on track to being future AMDI citizen scientists! They joined us on one of the days and inspired us with their energy and enthusiasm. 

Pollution Warriors from Northern Peninsula Area State College came out to lend a hand and teach us a thing or two about plastics!



The crew standing on the most northern point of Australia, Pajinka, commonly referred to as “The Tip,” and


Halfway through the trip we were able to visit Pajinka, commonly referred to as “The Tip,” and were blessed with the sighting of a number of turtles coming up for air amongst the turbulent waters between the mainland and surrounding islands. 

On the way back to the carpark the volunteers couldn’t stop themselves from filling up a couple of bags with the rubbish that had washed in along the track leading to Pajinka! 




With the help of Apudthama Rangers, Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council (NPARC), the school kids and some fellow travellers keen to lend a hand, we pulled close to 1.4 tonnes of marine debris off the beaches of this incredible part of the world. Amongst the debris this year was 25,921 hard plastic remnants, 6,426 plastic lids and bottle tops, 2,475 rope and net scraps, 1,416 film remnants and 677 thongs and rubber soles. 




However, amongst the debris the team also found a nasty silver canister, known to contain Aluminium Phosphate which can be fatal to ingest or inhale! These are used for pest control on ships, and a large spill off the north-east coast of Australia a few years ago has resulted in them being scattered along the coast as far south as Tasmania. Thankfully, everyone had listened closely to the safety briefing provided by staff and the volunteer who discovered it followed the safety procedure step by step.


The area was cordoned off and we called 000 for the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services to come and get it with their oxygen tanks and hazmat suits. Remember if you see one of these, don’t touch it, make sure you stand up wind and call 000.


In addition to cleaning up the 5 Beaches Loop track, we were also able to pull a heavy load of rubbish off the 6th beach, as well as conduct our quarterly monitoring as part of the ReefClean Program. As always, all data collected was entered into the Australian Marine Debris Database. The information collected will be used to establish source reduction plans and stop this rubbish from entering oceans in the first place.

Linde, a return volunteer, proudly stands above her sorted bottle categories.

We found a ridiculously high number yellow Zaneg chicken trays which we also kept finding at Chilli Beach…

As well as a huge thanks to the volunteers that came on the trip, we would also like to say a massive thank you to the crew at the Jardine River Ferry (for their wealth of information and discounted ferry tickets), Punsand Bay Camping (for their amazing hospitality and rainwater to keep the volunteers hydrated), the Croc Tent and BRACS radio station (for rallying the troops), Bramwell Junction Roadhouse (for spreading the message and being so supportive), and the Coen Exchange Hotel and Armbrust Store for hosting us and allowing us to fuel up early on weekends! 

It is no surprise that these clean-ups are successful due to the dedication from volunteers and the support of the community, and for that we are always grateful. 

On the way back home, there was nothing better than jumping into the beautiful crystal clear waters of Fruit Bat Falls as a reward for everyone’s hard work!

ReefClean is funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and delivered by Tangaroa Blue Foundation in partnership with AUSMAP, Capricornia Catchments, Eco Barge Clean Seas, OceanWatch Australia, Reef Check Australia, and South Cape York Catchments.

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