Stepping off the plane in Onslow, the first thing that struck me was that while it was warm it wasn’t hot. It’s strange the things you notice in a new place.
I thought to myself “This isn’t too bad. This is doable.”
Then I realised: it was only 8am. I’d forgotten what it was like in the Pilbara.
I spent a few hours hanging around in Onslow with the other volunteers where we picked up a few things from the local supermarket, and killed time in a hotel while waiting for our boat to Thevenard island .
The town boasts such attractions as the Onslow Goods Shed Museum. It may not seem like much, but in a part of the country that is alternately baked in the sun, thrashed with cyclones, and drowned in floods, it’s good going.
The jet boat trip from the mainland out to Thevenard takes about 45 minutes. Luckily for us, the crossing was smooth and the water beautiful blues and greens.
As we powered along, we saw something in the water up ahead. Was it something floating? Some discarded rubbish? Then it became clear: it was a turtle, just merrily swimming along.
One of the first things you see on Thevenard Island are Chevron’s decommissioned storage tanks.
Several huge, grey concrete structures dominate the island, and if they survive for centuries to come may one day be regarded like the statues on Easter Island.
That this conservation work exists alongside mining, oil and gas giants like Chevron or Rio Tinto is no surprise, since they help fund the programs, but it’s an uneasy partnership.
At night, when you sit on the beach on Thevenard island it’s almost completely dark. Out in the ocean blinks the lights of offshore oil and gas facilities, and in the distant is the constantly-burning gas flame from Wheatstone Project.
The moon rises around 11pm, and the sky is blanketed with countless stars, with the occasional streak of a meteor.
That first night was warm, humid, perfectly still and calm. And there was not a single turtle to see.
Apparently, they prefer windy nights.
It was just as well, since I had to be awake and on the beach at 5am the next morning.