In Darwin we collected our reef pilot, Captain Welwyn Gamble, who would stay aboard for the whole trip throught Brisbane. He also gave us a talk yesterday afternoon, to give us an insight into his work. Pilots are now mandatory for all vessels over a certain length, passing through the Great Barrier Reef, mainly to protect the environment, as if a grounding occurred, the coral would be damaged to an extent that would last thousands of years. His work started at 2.45pm this afternoon as we entered the Torres Straights and the Prince of Wales Channel that would take us towards the 500 mile passage to Airlie Beach. This is the longest pilotage in the world, and will take us 36 hours to transit, in which time Captain Gamble is only allowed to take sleep in 1 or 2 hour stints. For our part, we get to sail through very interesting waters, at parts only 15 miles from the mainland, passing islands by feet in some cases. We have 20 meters of water under the ship on average, and the channel is only a few meters wide, marked on either side. He has also been comentating from the bridge on points of interest all afternoon. As I have come in to write this post, we have just passed all the small islands named Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
After some debate, which involved a passenger delegation, it has now been announced that we will berth in the prestigeous Portside Cruise Terminal in the centre of Brisbane, instead of the (cheaper and P&O owned) grain terminal located way out of town on Fisherman's Island. This will make things much easyer for us, as we want to spend as much time as possible with relatives in Bribane while we are there. The grain terminal is also an unpleasant place, similar to other freight terminals we seem to have found ourselves in throughout this trip. One up for passenger power I think, although the feeling was so strong among the Australian Passenger contingent, that if we had berthed at Fisherman's Island, there would have been a mutiny on board!
The Whitsundays come first however, on the 19th. We then spend two days in Sydney, with an overnight, on the 23rd and 24th, after Brisbane on the 21st. The images above, although of not much interest, were taken this afternoon, during our passage of the Great Barrier Reef.