Page 84

Running Out Of Topics In Exmouth So Off To Coral Bay

Emu Rollover

This picture of a wet emu is a 'rollover' images. Try rolling the mouse pointer on and off the picture. This was one of three emus that we came across kneeling near a water sprinkler on Exmouth golf course .

For anybody who has never had a close encounter with an irate emu it's better to give them a wide berth. Pam was tentatively feeding one from a packet of food in a wildlife park many years ago. The emu was sick of having to pick up scraps off the ground and decided it would help itself to the packet. The bird was about the same height as Pam, a whole lot faster and it had a mean look in its eye. When it made a lunge for the paper bag, Pam dropped it and disappeared rapidly out of the enclosure, never to venture near an emu ever again.

If you think I was brave getting close enough to photograph this one, let me say two words. Telephoto lens.

Emu Drinking

A stroll to the pub certainly beats this way of getting a drink.

A Pink Seagull

It was the last full day of our stay in Exmouth, the temperature reached 38° Centigrade and it was unusually humid. We decided to walk along the beach for a last lunch at the Ningaloo Resort. As always, groups of gulls were gathered at the water's edge, just sitting and sunbathing. As the damp sand is firm, that is where we always walked. Watching our approach the gulls would reluctantly stand up and either move up the beach or take to the calm, sparkling water, leaving our path clear.

Watching them, we spotted a pink gull amongst the rest. We initially thought it was hurt and had blood on its feathers but as we got closer it stood up and walked ahead of us. Its back was pink though in all other respects it looked just like all the other gulls. As were catching it up, it spread its wings and flew low along the beach, settling again among another flock at the water's edge. In flight we could clearly see the top surface of its wings which were a very strong pink at the root, fading to a normal colour towards the tips. We soon caught up with it again and the flock separated to allow us through, all except the pink one which remained alone until we were quite close before flying further away. We left the beach at that point and didn't see it again.

Pink Gull

I faked this picture to give you an idea of what our "pink gull" looked like.

We enquired of the bar staff in the resort if anybody else had seen this bird. They asked a few questions but had never heard of a pink gull. As we sat down there was a lot of whispering and giggling behind the bar. I stress, we saw this bird before touching a drop of the good stuff. And, as always happens, I hadn't taken my camera.

On the return walk along the beach we looked hard to try and spot it again, even asking people on the beach if they had seen a pink gull. Answers like, "No, mate, but there was a pink elephant along a few minutes ago" and, "Are you sure it wasn't a galah mixed up with a flock of gulls?" decided us not to ask further questions. Instead we studied The Birds Of Australia back at the caravan but without resolving our query. We did learn that new feathers sometimes have a pink tinge, but that didn't qualify as an explanation.

Some years later we Googled 'pink seagull' and discovered that other pink seagulls have been seen around the world.
More About Qantas Flight 72, Singapore To . . . Learmonth?

Our journey from Exmouth to Coral Bay was one of the shorter ones. Travelling back down the peninsula we passed the RAAF Learmonth airbase where we saw Qantas's mischievous Airbus 330-300 sitting all alone behind barbed wire.

Airbus A330

Shimmering under the midday sun. The rogue A-330 was still on the ground
at RAAF Learmonth five days after landing.

Seventy of over three hundred passengers were injured, forty of them seriously, when the A-330 suddenly went into a dive while travelling from Singapore to Perth on 7th October. The aircraft landed safely at RAAF Learmonth where it was met by all the emergency vehicles and personnel that could be mustered on the remote North West Cape. More emergency services came from as far away as Karratha but took hours to arrive so it was left to Exmouth to rally to the call. By all accounts, they did an excellent job with fifty to sixty people responding of which all but a dozen or so were volunteers. Even the Shire President was there, serving sandwiches. The most badly hurt were taken by ambulance to Exmouth Hospital with broken bones and lacerations. When Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft arrived from Perth, the casualties were transported back to Learmonth and flown by the RFDS to hospitals in Perth.

The incident faded from news bulletins after a few days but rumours abound . . . The above is all total garbage. According to a media release from the Air Safety Transport Bureau on 14th October, the aircraft's nose-down attitude never exceeded 8.5° and the aircraft only lost 650 feet in the incident. It was flying at 37,000 feet.

Here, paraphrased and condensed, is the gist of the ASTB's release:

The Airbus A330 has a computer which monitors whether the aircraft's nose is too high or too low in flight. It is known as the ADIRU-1 and it receives its input from sensors on the outside of the aeroplane. It sends on that information to another computer, the Flight Control Primary Computer (FCPC-1), which is responsible for changing the angle of the elevators which make the aircraft climb or descend.

Flight QF72 was flying perfectly normally at 37,000 feet when something failed in the ADIRU-1 computer resulting in erroneous and random messages being sent to the FCPC-1 computer. That computer decoded the data as meaning the aircraft was flying very nose-high. It responded correctly by disengaging the automatic pilot and commanded the elevators to lower the aircraft's nose. The nose dipped sharply and the calm, level flight of QF72 was suddenly transformed into a relatively steep dive, pitching anything and anybody that was not secured up towards the cabin ceiling. What goes up must come down.

The flight crew, probably as startled as the passengers, quickly regained control of the aircraft and landed at Learmonth. Airlines do recommend that passengers keep their seat belts loosely fastened even when the seat belt sign is off. You'd be pretty upset if you'd taken that advice, only to have a heavy passenger rise out of a seat three rows ahead, bounce off the cabin ceiling and then drop on top of you. According to the local Northern Guardian, that did happen. Most of the injured were in the rear section of the cabin.

I have a question for you. The ADIRU-1 computer was backed up by two others, ADIRU-2 and ADIRU-3. Likewise, the FCPC-1 computer was backed up by FCPC-2 and FCPC-3. What is the point in building in all this redundancy if the backup units don't take over when a primary unit malfunctions? Another internet contributor suggested that the output of the three computers should be compared and if the output from the primary computer suddenly varied from that of the two backups, then ADIRU-2 should automatically switch in to replace ADIRU-1 in feeding data to FCPC-1. At the speed at which computers react, the passengers would never have known there was a fault. Good thinking, that man.

We heard on the television (therefore it must be true) that Qantas is becoming very sensitive to adverse publicity and is becoming adept at suppressing what it doesn't want the travelling public to hear. Whatever, it must be costing the company a small fortune to have that aircraft sitting at Learmonth.

Update: QF72 landed at Learmonth on Tuesday, 7th October 2008. We photographed it there on Sunday, 12th October. It was reportedly still there the following day but had departed by Wednesday, 15th October. One report said it flew to Sydney, doubtless for further tests and repairs to the passenger cabin.

Coral Bay

Outlook from Caravan

The outlook from our door. Waves breaking on Ningaloo Reef.

What a beautiful spot. We arrived and set up camp right opposite the beach with its white sand and azure water. There was a path down to the sand right opposite us and all day long scantily clad beauties walked to and fro. I decided on the spot; we'll stay here for ever.

We then discovered that the only water supply available for connection to the caravan was bore water unfit for drinking. The idiots! If only they'd told us when we booked we'd have arrived with our water tanks full. Could we sue them for negligence? There was a water tap near the toilet block which supplied good quality water from the park's own 'reverse osmosis' desalination plant but that entailed poor Pam walking back and forth with a bottle. Still, the exercise was good for her.

Outlook from Pub

The view from the pub was nice. Look at that motor home on the right with a Mazda on a trailer. Now is that sheer
opulence or what? And here's Pam and I on the verge of ruin, not knowing where our next crust is coming from.
Did I say crust? Sorry, I meant cask.

People's Park

The best sites in the park, overlooking the bay. There's our good old Pajero (arrowed).

The Ningaloo Reef stretches for 260 kilometres along the coast of Western Australia. It ranges from 7 kilometres offshore to practically touching the beach at Coral Bay. The reef is alive with 250 species of coral, 500 species of fish and 600 species of mollusc. Normally a coral reef will only extend 30° either side of the equator where the water temperature is 22° C. or warmer but due to the Leeuwin Current flowing down from the north, Ningaloo Reef stretches further south than most. There are those who claim that this reef is even more beautiful than the Great Barrier Reef and certainly not under the same stress caused by tourism and nutrients washing off the land.

At Coral Bay you only have to walk a few paces from the beach into the water to reach a shelf where the bottom drops suddenly and there you are. Put on your snorkel or board a glass-bottomed boat and its all there for you to see.

Did we take a tour? Well, no, we didn't. We've seen all that's on offer here on the Great Barrier Reef and in practical terms the cost of the tour we'd have taken was about seventeen casks of red wine. If the Yanks hadn't stuffed the world's economy we could have had both, but our priority now is to tighten our belts - just a bit - and keep on drinking. Oops, sorry, keep on travelling, I mean.

Not Another Drama?

As we strolled along the road towards the lookout we came across five police cars parked near the beach. There aren't any police in Coral Bay, the place is serviced from Exmouth, one hundred and fifty kilometres north. And we doubted that there'd be more than a couple of police cars in Exmouth. So what had happened to draw police from so far afield? A drowning? A shark attack? A murder?

Empty Police Cars

Five cop cars in a row - the middle one's an unmarked police car. Must be something really serious.

We carried on up to the elevated lookout and looked out. Hello, activity around the police vehicles.

Police Cars and Police

Ten strapping men, W.A.'s finest, arrived back from the beach, dried
themselves off, dressed, and drove off in convoy, two to a car.

Nice work if you can get it, guys.

Coral Bay's Power Source

Now don't quote me here, but I was told that up to 80% of Coral Bay's electrical power is derived from wind turbines - three of them. Did I mention the wind turbines we saw in Exmouth? I thought I did but now I can't find it. Anyway, wind turbines in cyclone prone areas need to have special properties. The ones in Exmouth had it and the ones in Coral Bay also have it; the ability to hinge down and lie flat along the ground - play dead, if you like - while the cyclone passes.

Looking inland from the Coral Bay lookout, the turbines were clearly visible on top of a ridge. Two of the turbines were busy, spinning in the lusty breeze that never seems to abate, day or night. The third had been hinged down for maintenance.

Wind Turbines

Hinge-down wind turbines. And, no, turbines don't all have three blades. The left turbine is lowered
(for maintenance) into the "cyclone approaching" position. When cable 'A' is wound in, mast 'B' is pulled
down to the horizontal, pulling tower 'C' to the vertical. And away it goes again. Free, clean, renewable energy.

Pretty efficient, yes? No huge cranes required for these turbines, just lower them down, service them, then wind them back up to provide more pollution-free energy.

Hey, time to move on to page 85.

Explanatory Note. These pages were originally written some years ago and did not comply with W3C Guide Lines. I am slowly updating and reformatting all pages and this is as far as I've got. From here forward - until you reach Page 155 - pages are in the original format.

Footnote: This re-working of Page 84 was completed on 5 October 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.