There/here you stand, face to face with one of the deadliest animals to have ever existed. You’re captivated by its colour, its movements, its curiosity as it explores your shared surroundings.
You stand silenced, and wait for it to strike…
The landscape at your already sunburnt feet was a seascape over a metre below the surface not too long ago. A spectacle that has to be seen to be believed has since swept across the sea.
Before your very eyes, almost like the plug of the ocean was dislodged when the tide ticked over from ebb to flow, the ocean to the horizon nearly disappears, leaving seabed behind. You sink with the water, locked into a natural swimming pool separated and bordered by coral, sand, rock, and a bustling horizontal wash out.
Endless expanses of lush mangroves around you take a breath, whilst a plethora of coral spews out organic sunscreen to prevent themselves being scorched in the relentless tropical sun. The drying exposed earth, crackling with minute activity, is a roaring chorus when the whole landscape chimes in together as it’s once again uncovered through the daily pull of the orbiting moon.
Darting from a vantage point, inspecting its Territory and then darting back to cover. From liquid to air, through plant and rock, its actions are precise, aware, and focused.
Getting closer still, you’re stunned, glued to position, captivated by its fantastic contortions and charismatic flesh.
Imagine travelling to a place for over a generation and rarely seeing another person besides those in your company? That’s decades of memories and exploration of an entire land/seascape. A region brimming with tropical life – pods of dolphins, splashes of turtles, the continual unknown whereabouts of crocs, countless birds, and thick schools of fish.
This patch of the world you visit is special in that what is, is pretty much what has always been. The harsh and yet abundant nature of the scene demands all of your sensory attention – the sound of gushing water; the scent of baking aquatic life stuck to the breeze; the taste of salt on everything; the touch of your skin firming up, red from the suns rays; the sight of…
Now, imagine something else..
That this site, this place, this magnificent slice of earth now tells a different story.
People have planned a new future behind closed doors and haven’t told you.
In it rolls. The lives you’ve shared the space with are gone overnight. The larger creatures were possibly lucky, able to have evacuated their home to head out of range, yet the smaller others are chewed up, crushed, squashed, and yanked from the water and left to gasp for death in a slag pile of waste. Massive remnant stands of the coastal savour – the mangrove – are ripped up and torn down, snapped and burned in piles larger than some buildings. The ancient seafloor and coral beds are carved up to the horizon. The once deliciously clean water is contaminated; tainted. Noise, slicks, plumes, and fire foul your senses and replace what it was you once lived along side.
People destroy these places.
What if this was your own backyard, would you want this to happen anywhere in the world? Would you allow it to happen??
But this IS your backyard. This IS your land and water.
There are no map lines and boundaries in the real world. There is no isolation of damage, despite the maliciously biased impact statements that say otherwise. Because you’ve spent a generation mingling with the region you’ve noticed the coming and going with the seasons, the changes and alteration of species interactions that vary month to month, year to year, even decade to decade.
The impact of destroying an area to the horizon cannot be justified and cannot be undone.
The threats to this very real-life place are very real.
The moment’s over – the small, palm sized creature has found a place to rest, shifting shades of colour from near-orange to sand-grey to blend in to the backdrop of coral and seaweed. To think, one bite from the beautiful octopus will have your body shutting down to die in minutes, as the toxin so potent your diaphragm is struck with paralysis and you’re caught short, unable to breathe.
The moment’s over – so you shuffle back to the waters edge, chuck on your mask and snorkel, and make for the boat, just before the tide swings around and flips the world back over..
With a tail wind back to the ramp, towards a halted storm cloud penetrating deep into the atmosphere. Behind, the sun’s giving up for the day in the most wonderful of ways.
You’re outwardly smiling and stoked to hold the fresh salty-memory of the open water once again…
…and inside, you hope that there really is such thing as ‘forever’ for the worlds remaining beautiful places.
If you’re in the Territory, you can help this incredible place. Seek out the team at Keep Top End Coasts Healthy – topendcoasts.org.au.