After traveling for hours through dry cattle country on Australia's national highway, suddenly encountering an uncanny light blue sea at Clairview makes a big impression. The township of Clairview is a string of houses along a beach without even a petrol station or a shop. However, there is a caravan park where people can and should stop for a day and experience the late afternoon vista from the beer garden on the beach.
The bright colour of the sea is from clay suspended
in the water. Huge tides slosh back and forth in the enormous and famously muddy Broad Sound which lies just to the south. Mixing of these muddy waters with the clean blue Coral Sea creates the curious sea colour at Clairview.
At low tide, sand
flats stretch toward the horizon and hold the promise of interesting
creatures to anyone brave enough to seek the low water mark. Large
tides have a reputation for catching people unaware and sweeping them
away. With that in mind, I thought I would take a look.
|Thirteen islands hover on the far horizon (click to enlarge)|
|Colour of the water at high tide in a mangrove creek|
The seabed is like a wet desert. In places it has sand so fine that it flows around your feet like mud. Elsewhere, hard sand ripples form troughs that hold soupy liquid clay. Surprisingly most sandflat creatures like sand dollars and moon snails are not smothered by the sediment despite being immersed in it. Small sand crabs attack you in their crazy style of self-defense. Dugong feeding scars crisscross the sparse beds of seagrass. Sometimes there are turtle body prints in the mud.
|Dugong feeding trails|
|Marine turtle body print|
|Baby Sand Crab on the defensive|
|On the calmest of days the incoming tide stirs the sediments into milk|
|Relict hardpan sculptured by the sea|
|Hardpan studded with stones in the bed of the mangrove creek|
Definitely wear shoes, as every stone has a forest of oysters. The oysters grow vertically on the stone surface and colonies are like a shag pile carpet. Perhaps this orientation frustrates the oyster drills that feed on these colonies as moving over the colony that presents only sharp edges must be hard.
Scattered along the
coast and sometimes well out on the sand flats are small stands of
mangroves. Some open stands of large trees resemble parkland.
|A small variety of oyster that stands on end.|