National Geographic : 2004 Nov
chorus of insects and frogs on shore carried a surprisingly long way across the water. "We've got everything aboard you need to run a small town," said Peter Hurley, the skipper. "Soap, razor blades, fresh fruit and vegetables, milk, toilet paper-you name it." There was also cargo for the mine and a shipment of blank ammu nition for a jungle-warfare training exercise the army had penciled in for its special forces. It's normally a 32-hour passage between Karumba and Weipa, but this run was slightly longer because Hurley decided to hug the coast to avoid squalls that were said to be kicking up a nasty swell farther offshore. "This thing rides like a pig in heavy seas," he said. Hurley, a former navy diver, has worked barge runs around the gulf for 15 years. "It can get really rough out here. The waves don't get as big as they do on the open ocean, but because the gulf is a fairly shallow body of water, they have a wickedly short wavelength and can absolutely hammer you." We had a relatively smooth run as far as the swells went, although we met a torrential wall of rain the second night. It tapered off by morn ing, and when we drew into Weipa at dawn, the air was still and muggy, and the glassy surface of the bay simmered in the heat. The crew of the Warrendergot their wish: The rain held off while they unloaded their cargo, but it thundered down again all that afternoon. Scene Three Far North Here at last, in Weipa, was the wet I'd been look ing for-the lush growth along the shore, the brooding thundery skies, the heavy curtains of Holding on while trying to let go, Edwina Brooks leans on a pukumani pole beside herfather's grave at Garden Point in the Tiwi Islands. The pole, carved by Edwina's relatives, is part of a mortuary ceremony that occurs about a year after a burial.A mourner participating in the ceremony, which is designed to usher the dead soul to the spirit world, appliesyellow ochre to his body (left) to disguise him selffrom the deceased. Though most major Aboriginal ceremonies are held during the dry,when traveling is easier, Edwina and herfamily ignored cyclone warnings to bid herfather farewell.