Farewell from Heron

Sunset at Heron Island resort.
Image: Angus Livingston


Friday 12 September 2008
By Angus Livingston 
AFTER three weeks on a tropical island it is time for the team to pack up and say goodbye.
Samples will be sent off, reports done and research collated.
For me, coming fresh from a cold Tasmanian winter straight to an island on the Great Barrier Reef, this has been a welcome respite from the snow.
I'm certain none of my friends down south have been wearing shorts and thongs for the past couple of weeks.
But apart from the ridiculously gorgeous weather (have I mentioned that enough?), I've been part of something intriguing, enjoyable and most of all – important.
The work done here on Heron Island will increase our understanding of reefs and the creatures that make their homes there.
When you think that the Great Barrier Reef is listed as one of the seven wonders of the natural world, and thousands of tourists visit it every year, it is surprising to learn that there is still so much we don't know about it.
Of all the science done on this expedition – and there was a lot – the thing that struck me the most was how much we still had to learn about soft corals.
Those beautiful structures, which make up a large part of the Great Barrier Reef's appeal, remain very poorly known.
Hopefully the work done on this expedition will encourage more research in this area.
The scientists themselves proved to be among the hardest-working and most passionate groups I've worked with.
A working day typically included an early dive collecting samples and taking photographs, then another dive doing the same, before spending the afternoon and late into the evening classifying and examining what they've collected.
They know they've got limited time in the field, so every minute is precious.
Of course, there was still time to enjoy the fact they were on a tropical island.
Thanks to some impromptu salsa dancing lessons and balloon animal making sessions, the whole group can go home knowing they've learned new skills on this trip.
I will go home with a new found appreciation for the small things living on the bottom of the ocean, as well as disappointment knowing Christos won't be cooking my meals anymore.
In a year's time the team will return, hopefully to a newly rebuilt research station and a lack of early morning construction work.