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5 Surprises Cruising Western Australia’s Kimberley Coast

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Zodiac Trips to See Ancient Geology

The Kimberley Coast is old. Its geology hails from two billion years ago when the Kimberley Plateau’s continent kissed the Australia land mass. Ancient sandstone makes up the core, with heavy doses of precious minerals like iron ore that gives the stone its vibrant slashes of color. Dense aquamarine sky and water are bookends to the ferrous red rock with a saline-white, ruler-straight line along the cliffs to delineate the high tide watermark. The uniqueness of the region is in part due to its tidal movement, which can shift as much as 30 feet a day.

The Orion’s itinerary calls for zodiac trips, almost twice daily, along the cliffs to explore spots that the 337-foot ship can’t access.

On a trip to Nares Point in Yampi Sound, we view the undulant rock layering called anticline and syncline. Then we motor to Cockatoo Island and Koolan Island both home to iron ore mining. It might seem counterintuitive to visit sites of strip mining, but the juxtaposition of the construction vehicles dumping dirt into the unsullied ocean to Mother Nature’s artistic geology is stark and ominous. Western Australia is rich in natural resources, but the problem of how to remove the minerals and natural gas in a cost-effective manner from a remote region remains. Not to mention the ecological cost. Mining industrialists have stalled production due to problems with shipping costs, intense weather, and mineral vein depths, but they are bound to find solutions and put the region’s environment – and tourist endeavors such as the Orion – at risk.