Life Down Under: Lady Musgrave Island

posted in: Oceania, Travel | 2

Life Down Under: Lady Musgrave Island, Queensland

The Great Barrier Reef

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

My family’s adventures at the Great Barrier Reef include a brief visit to  Lady Musgrave Island (an uninhabited island in the middle of the Coral Sea). The island is a true coral cay—formed from years of ocean currents depositing dead coal and sea debris along the edge of the Southern Great Barrier Reef.

Over time, the debris built up and birds soon stopped to rest on the small island. The birds’ dropping contained tree seeds, which sprouted in the nutrient rich, bird-poo and trees grew on the tiny island. As the trees grew, their roots helped keep the entire island together and hence, Lady Musgrave Island was born!

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

The island’s deep water lagoon  is unique to the Great Barrier Reef and has over 8 kilometres (3000 feet) of living coral surrounding it.

The natural lagoon, ideal for snorkelers. Rough currents are tamed by the reef; however, snorkelling too near the reef, one can get swept over the reef and out to sea.

Below, the Great Barrier reef at low tide with Lady Musgrave Island in the distance. The top of the coral is exposed to the sun and air; the coral excretes a mucus like substance, which act as a sunscreen, to protect the coral from the harsh elements for the few hours that it is exposed during low tide.

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

The reef forms a lagoon that enables boats to enter and anchor in the calm waters. The lagoon’s calm ocean currents make snorkelling near the reef easier.

Below: another view of the Great Barrier Reef and Lady Musgrave Island. You can see the calmer waters of the lagoon and the reef (on the left).

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

Below: a view on the open ocean side of the reef. You can see how much stronger the currents are on exposed side of the reef–ocean currents are too strong to snorkel on this side of the reef.

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

We arrive next to the Great barrier Reef on a giant catamaran. After a few hours of snorkelling, we take a smaller boat to Lady Musgrave Island.

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

Below: as we approach Lady Musgrave, it is evident that the entire Island is covered in a thick forest of pisonia trees. The birds nest in the trees and add more fertilizer for the island’s forest floor.

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

Below: Lady Musgrave Island’s sandy beach is made up of finely crushed shells and dead coral.

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

Lady Musgrave is a small island, and despite the sweltering heat, we walk around the entire perimiter.

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

The beach is fascinating. There so are many unique coral skeletons and shells that I could spend an hour studying a small section of the beach.

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

Shoes are mandatory on the Island because of the occasional poisonous crustasion on the beach.

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

The island shore contains large pieces of dead coral, living crustasions and many discarded shells.

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

The island is a protected natural area and thus, no shelling! It is wise not to shell on Great Barrier Reef Islands as there are venomous cone shells.

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

The shells are beautiful and I’ve capture a few specimens with my camera below:

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017
Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017
Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

Peter and Pip looking over heated under Queensland’s afternoon sun.

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

As we walk around the island, I imagine what it would be like to be ship wrecked on a coral cay. My first concern would be the lack of fresh water. I guess the birds survive by drinking water from the large pisonia leaves after a rain.

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017
Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

Below: we stay away from the sand dunes that border the forest—sea turtles build their nests in the dunes.

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

The Pisonia Forest on Lady Musgrave: The trees provide a slightly cooler, but humid escape from the sun.

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

We explore the pisonia forest, careful to stay on the trails as to not disturb the birds that build burrow-style nests amongst the tree roots.  

Lady Musgrave, Mix Hart 2017
Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

Lady Musgrave forest is an etherial, unbelievably beautiful world where birds rule and humans don’t exist.

Lady Musgrave, Mix Hart 2017

The Lady Musgrave “mutton birds” have a unique call; they sound like a ghost howling and then a baby crying. Long ago, sailors would stop briefly but leave after one night, convinced the island was haunted!

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

The scent of Lady Musgrave will never leave me. It has a unique smell: heavy,musky, woodsy and yet fresh at the same time. 

Lady Musgrave Island, Mix Hart 2017

I hope you have enjoyed visiting a Great Barrier Reef coral cay with us. #SavetheGreatBarrierReef

2 Responses

  1. Sandra Hart
    | Reply

    Very interesting and wonderful pictures. I really got a good idea of what it is like there.

  2. mixhart
    | Reply

    Thank you S. It is such a unique place on Earth. I feel so lucky to have visited the Southern GB Reef 🙂

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