Flying fish frightened by our cruise ship emerge from the muck, their fins/wings leaving odd zig-zag trails across the stained water to where they plop back into it, probably blinded by the chemicals. It’s sickening to think what must be happening to the marine life in Australia’s once pristine northern waters now polluted over vast areas stretching from Exmouth in Western Australia to Queensland’s Gulf of Carpentaria. And where are the birds? I did not see any sea birds from Exmouth until we reached the Gulf waters, as meanwhile over three days my camera recorded the pollution — slicks stretching to the horizon.
Is it all from the 10-week Montana oil rig leak finally plugged on November 2 or 3, days after a massive fire broke out on the PTTEP Australasia rig, 690 kilometres west of Darwin in the Timor Sea? Or are there more leaks that we are never told about? As Dawn Princess cruised up the WA coast at a steady 19 knots, I was amazed to see how many oil rigs are out there.
PTTEP claimed the well lost about 400 barrels a day (for 10 weeks) but some observers have estimated a flow up to 2000 barrels a day. And now we have toxic oil pollution visible over thousands of square kilometres of the Indian Ocean, Timor Sea and Arafura Sea.
The federal government has promised us a full and independent inquiry, but the damage is done. And nothing can guarantee it will not happen again. Cyclones sweep through this vast area every year.
A recent report in Crikey complained that the media had largely ignored or downplayed this horrifying event. I am from Adelaide, where The Advertiser demonstrated this with its report that the rig had caught alight — three paragraphs buried deep in the newspaper. Pathetic. Apathetic.
The cruise ship is circumnavigating Australia, having left Melbourne on November 18. We are due to dock in Brisbane on Tuesday.