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In the following article, Josh Coxall recalls one of his many Montgomery Reef visits during cruises on the Kimberley coast. The event described was early in his career with Coral Expeditions when he was Mate and assisting as an Explorer driver. Following Josh’s ‘Sunrise’ article he has been kind enough to detail his career progression within Coral Expeditions.
6:30 am on the back of C-deck, a slow procession of drowsy eyed guests washes the last of the previous night sleep away with steaming cups of coffee before signing out and lumbering onto the Explorer ready for our departure.
’15 minute call’,’ 10 minute call’, ‘5 minute call’, ‘LAST CALL!’, and with everyone aboard, we depart into the morning twilight for what appears to be an open lake extending out beyond the horizon and into the dimly lit sky.
Ever so gently the Explorer creeps closer and closer to the now rippling edge, as if stalking some much larger prey just beneath the surface. An eerie stillness passes over the group as we wait quietly in ambivalent anticipation of the sunrise to come. Time seems to stand still as the red ball peeps over the King Leopold Range and looks into Doubtful Bay as if peering into its own reflection in the mirror-like waters that surround Steep Island.
Then, as if signalled by the dawning of the sun, the reef breaks through the mirror of water to seemingly rise up from the depths in triumph as the sky changes from deep red to a clear blue. The falling tide begins to reveal a reef that is exposed with each tidal low.
Now with a flurry of action the water cascades down the reef edge breathing life back into the moment and reality sets in with time snapping back to normal. Six at a time, life jackets on, clambering from the Explorer to the tender where I await, ‘Metal, Rubber, Wood’ is preached as each person is assisted to step from the Explorer onto the edge of the inflatable boat then down to its floor.
We’re off to get a closer look down the reef edge. As the tender edges closer to the barren-looking wall it starts to separate into small colonies of finger, brain and leather corals. We also find some small ascidians such as sea squirts holding on for dear life and masses of stone-like red algae as the water cascades over their surface. As we drift the edge it is amazing that life can survive here in such a changing environment.
With the sun now beating down on the reef from above we see the first of the opportunity takers, the Eastern Reef Egret, arriving from nearby islands to scour the reef flats, water’s edge and cascades searching for a trapped fish or small morsels of food washed off the reef. Spotted in the distance is a rather smooth looking dome now high on the reef flats and on closer inspection, it is found to be that of a juvenile Green Turtle that spent too much time gorging itself and has now become stranded as the water receded. But never fear the Coral Expeditions team is here, and the young turtle, in a rather unflattering way, is assisted back into the water in a flail of flippers and, without thought or thanks, is off into the depths once more.
By now we are reaching the end of the channel that penetrates the reef and we find a very bizarre phenomenon where the water is cascading down the reef edge with such ferocity that it looks like you could almost drive the tender up the very steep incline. The water flow is intense and the whirlpools amaze as the tender is flung from side to side but alas we have to start making our return back down the channel. With all the action and excitement of the torrents of water cascading down the channel you could almost forget about the pristine and wild nature of the place until, whilst drifting back, a friendly sea snake decides it would like to join us in the tender for a ride.
In this moment the Kimberley coast finds a way of reminding us of its beauty and unexpected nature with Montgomery Reef being no exception.
September 2008, fresh out of University with a Degree in Marine Biology and a Coxswain-I ticket, I gained a position with Coral Expeditions as a Trip Director on Coral Princess II (now Coral Expeditions II) on its Great Barrier Reef itineraries.
In April 2010 I took two month’s study leave to complete a Master Class 5. This enabled me to be promoted to Mate on Coral Princess II in June 2010.
I decided to further expand my experience and in July 2011 became the swing mate working in both the Kimberley on Coral Princess I and on the Great Barrier Reef on Coral Princess II.
In November 2012 I completed and gained Master Class 4 certification which enabled me to become primary Mate on Coral Princess I in February 2014.
In January 2015, I received a further promotion to Master on Coral Princess II on the Great Barrier Reef and in March 2016 took over Coral Expeditions I as Master on cruises in both Tasmania and the Kimberley.