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American on Walkabout

The World's Largest Sand Island

AUSTRALIA | Tuesday, 29 September 2015 | Views [257]

So I'm currently on my mid-semester Spring break and I just got back from my first of two research based field trips. I spent the past 5 days with my Terrestrial Environment class on the world's largest sand island: Fraser Island. It boasts 122km in length and is about 22km at its greatest width. Fraser Island is the host of numerous fresh water lakes, the purest population of wild dingos (I saw 2 on the first day!), and both eucalypt forest and a stunning rainforest. Here are some of the highlights!

4WD: In order to get around Fraser, you need a 4WD drive since there are no actual paved roads on the island. Someone else described our 4WD experience as "the most Australian thing I've ever done here." And it really is. We barreled down the beach at 80km, flew over bumps in the sand and past some wild dingoes as ocean water sprayed over our big SUVs with snorkels attached to the engines. The whole experience was basically the India Jones ride in Disneyland, minus the fake snakes and mummies and plus some other dangerous fauna (it wouldn't be Australia without it right?).

Bushwalking: The first and fifth days were travel days and we spent the other 3 out in nature the whole day. We hiked somewhere between 6-12km each of those days and it was exhausting since it was all on sand (some compact, but also a lot of loose sand). If my calves weren't buff enough before, they definitely are now because I really felt the burn after some of those hikes. Nonetheless the bushwalks were absolutely beautiful throughout Fraser's diverse ecosystems. I would have never guessed that a rainforest could grow on sand. That just seems to defy logic, but I guess this is the topsy-turvy, upside-down continent of Australia. Each of the environments hosted an array of weird plants, creepy crawly insects (with spiders that did not need to be the size of my hand and too many mosquitos), and some amazing bird watching (wild cockatoos, sea eagles, and some neat sounding whip birds).

Sandblow: This was one of the really awesome places that we hiked to on our third day. It honestly looked like someone picked up a giant sand dune from the Sahara Desert and dropped it in the middle of a eucalypt forest in Australia. The sand was soooo soft and had an amazing view of the ocean in the distance. My group and I climbed to the top of the dune and jumped off for some great fun and some pretty cool photos.

Freshwater lakes: We also hiked to 3 different freshwater lakes that were all super beautiful. I swam in all of them and they were all a pretty comfortable 23C or about 72F. So pretty warm, but cool enough to be refreshing after a long hike. The first one, Lake Wabby, was at the bottom of another pretty big sand blow and a number of people tried sledding down it into the water. The second lake, Boomanjin, was like swimming in a big cup of tea, since the water was a reddish brown from oil from surrounding trees. And finally, Lake Mckenzie was a beautiful crystal clear lake surrounded by white sand beach and is possibly one of the prettiest places I've been. 

Fieldwork: Well, this was a class-based trip so obviously we did some science. It was mostly survey work: doing transects on the coast and in the forests, collecting leaf and spider specimen (spiders are not my favorite), and identifying soil profiles. Eventhough it was a lot of work, it was definitely fun to be outdoors instead of in lab for a change. Australia has such unique flora and fauna and it's all really interesting.

Hobbit meals: Essentially, to keep up enough energy, we ate almost as many meals as hobbits. We had breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and dessert. All the food was delicious and I ate wayyyy too much this trip :)


Tags: 4wd, australia, eucalypt forest, fraser island, rainforest, sand dunes

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