In a state that is not short of superlatives, Fraser Island stands out strongly. The world’s largest sand island is a product of 750 000 of years of erosion working its magic along the coast of Australia, as sediments, carried by a strong northerly ocean current, wrapped around the Sandy National Park and deposited them on the 120 kilometre expanse of Fraser Island.
With its huge expanse, numerous clear freshwater lakes, and sand dunes, it is among the most impressive sights in the coastal region. It is also a considerable tourist attraction. It is understandable, then, how locals and park rangers would be somewhat upset when they discovered oil washing ashore in late November, obliging them to break out their spill containment kits.
The oil was coming on to the beach in small ‘patties’, congealed cakes, and while they were not large, it was of primary concern that the oil be cleaned and removed before it became a threat to birds and onshore wildlife. But more than this, it became apparent that this oil would be difficult to trace. By any estimation, it had been released in to the ocean offshore, but the location, and the timing, was anyone’s guess.
With the swift application of spill containment kits, the beach was duly cleaned, although it was an arduous project. Meanwhile, inspired individuals began to utilise Automatic Identification Systems, or AIS ship-tracking software, to try and trace what ships would have been in the area over the course of the last several months. It is a long list. However, there is hope that if a ship is traced, and is within the border limits of Australian territory, they can be brought to justice, and obliged to pay for sullying this piece of natural beauty.