This is where I belong. On the edge. The active, crashing, ever powerful and changing boundary of wet and dry. Where I cling to the rock around me like the species adapted to do so at my feet. The waves rush over the platform, running out of momentum and receding back into the ocean. On a lower tide and a full moon, only one in eight waves might make it beyond the exposed rocky ledge. The noise doesn’t stop – it keeps your ears full; keeps you craning your neck frequently to check you’re not going to get drenched or worse, swept away by a rouge rush of water. Despite this, today is pretty cruisey, and the entire rockpool is open for enquiry. It’s ready for inspection.
Here, in the intertidal zone, a totally fascinating mix of animals and plants hangs on for their lives, living through the drought of low tide and flood of high tide – multiple times a day. Come summer, the sun beats down unashamedly, scorching seaweed and bleaching the shells of barnacles and sea snails into a coastal cream colour. As low tide exposes the flats, most hide away and wait for the time to pass. Seabirds drop by for easy pickings, and you might even catch an octopus exploring for stranded fish. At high tide and the flood returns, with a wash of activity. Anemones, barnacles, and other filter feeding creatures emerge in the tide, taking in a feast.
We’re totally immersed in the abundance of life offered by these Bundjalung rock pools, and are some of the highest quality temperate (cold) water pools I’ve ever visually dissected. We loose count of the number of different sea snails and limpets, the hurried crabs, anemones, and different types of fish swimming under ledges. One unfortunate blenny, a type of fish, we found isolated in a divot in the rock, a hole smaller than a clenched fist, and almost empty. The look in its eyes said it all.
It’s a super special place, yet one we’ve seen multiple groups of people miss out on. Approaching the platform, they gaze out over the storm black coloured rock, then up to the storm grey coloured clouds approaching and filled with rain. They shrug, unsure of what to make of the scene, and head back to the beach or carpark. Yet if variety really is the spice of life, one must immerse themselves in a rock pool to know where it’s at!
Rockpools are the inspiration that directed me into marine conservation. Their abundance humbled my knowledge not once, but always.
Most folk haven’t realised how unique and well adapted life is to live in these conditions. Pete and I came across a stunningly minute nudibranch – a devilishly ornate sea slug. From head to tip of tail it’s a centimetre long, with gnarly, soft spine needles, each a shade of light purple. Its body was ghostly grey, with fluorescent blue streaks glistening like the universe was embedded into its skin. Defining gorgeous.
Someone had the foresight to protect this beautiful and ecologically abundant pocket of the north coast of NSW. National Parks like Bundjalung are cultural and ecological nirvanas – incredible, special places we can come and learn by glimpsing into the past and wondering about the future. Right here, we have an amazingly healthy system of creatures and plants coexisting in every nook and cranny. Our Parks are places every generation can visit to share near identical experiences with nature, knowing the balance of life is left to its evolutionarily proven ways.
Sadly, the NSW government is very out of touch with quality policy and attitudes to ensuring a healthy environment will exist for emerging generations. Everyone wants those up next to experience a wealth of life in our special places, like these rock pools of Bundjalung. I want the life in our National Parks to continue to thrive and inspire intrigue among everyone who is fortunate to see them.
With a changing climate and warming oceans altering the range of where the intertidal life can survive – the best chance rockpools or any other habitat has at long term survival lies in its strength. Each habitat needs to be healthy. It needs to thrive, in order to survive.
Over two hours later we’re rambled out, as we pack up for the day and venture north only slightly wind-burnt but completely invigorated by this ultimate ecosystem.
Our National Parks provide the much needed protection our habitats require. Our job now is to protect our National Parks, to learn from them, and to treat them with the respect they deserve. For now, and for the future beyond our years.
The Bunjalung NP is on the traditional lands of the Bundjalung people.
Act now: The National Parks Association of NSW is dedicated to helping the public stand up for the protection of our special natural places.