Monday 20 August 2012

Oz Trip - Day 111

Day 111 – 20/8/2012 – Horizontal Falls Tour

We were up early for an 8:15am pick for a Horizontal Falls trip. On the way out to the airport one interesting fact that I learnt about Derby is that has the largest runway in the southern hemisphere. The runway is located at the Curtin Air Base and was built in case the space shuttle couldn't land at its home base in the northern hemisphere. It also contained a 20 bed underground fully functioning hospital which was activated every time the space shuttle was launched. With the shelving of the space shuttle program and the planned US military base at Darwin, the runway will still probably be used as the landing strip for the US military planes that are too large and heavy to land at Darwin and then they will transport the equipment back to Darwin via road.

Our Seaplane

The house boats - overnight accommodation
The top deck where we had lunch
After landing it was a quick change into the togs and in for a swim with the sharks! In a shark cage of course! Only the day before one of the staff members was feeding the sharks and he wasn't quick enough to get his hand out of the way and got bitten.

The shark cage
The sharks!
After the swim it was off for a bit of a cruise around the area to Cyclone Creek – the creek where boats shelter in a cyclone and also where some staff quarters are located. Then back to the house boat for a comfort stop and then on to do our first run through the horizontal falls.

The old staff accommodation prior to the house boats. Two staff still choose to stay there.  If you look closely you can see the mirror ball.  
There are actually two gaps where the horizontal falls are. We could only go through the first as the second gap was too treacherous. When it is fully running there can be up to a 4m difference in the height of the water between the two sides of the gap! The first gap that we did go through was only about 0.5m different. Even then it was still pretty rough. I was lucky enough to get front seat. It was great for taking photos, but I also copped the most splashes.

The first gap

The second gap
Trying to get some perspective on the water level height difference
The narrow gap. The boat had to maintain 17 knots to stay in place and not get sucked through the narrow gap.
It was then back to the house boat for a BBQ barramundi and salad – yummmm!

The sharks wanted some lunch as well!
After lunch it was back in the boat for another quick spin through the falls and a bit of a cruise through some more back water areas. The area is so rich with iron ore that compasses don't work. The skipper said that in one spot they can pull the boat up and the compass just spins. Cockatoo Island which is relatively near by, contains the best iron ore in Australia. The people fly in and fly out of the island but everything else has to be sent by barge to the island.

On return to the house boat it was time to re-board the sea plane and head home. On the way back we flew low through the gorges and the archipelago.

Derby from the air
We landed at the airport at about 2:30pm and were back at the van park by 3pm. This gave us a bit of time to unpack what we needed from the camper before it went in for repair.

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