21 June 2013

Arafura Sea, Arnhem Land

Saltwater crocodiles lurk here beneath the milky blue surface of the Arafura Sea. We patrol the beach for sea cucumbers and pottery left by Macassans, who sailed to Australia’s Top End from South Sulawesi centuries ago. It’s a lonely land made lonelier still by the traditional owners’ absence; they’re away on sorry business, for one of their clan has died. But the light and warmth and isolation are deliciously hypnotic: we could set up camp here like those Macassans, cook sea cucumbers, shuck oysters fresh off the rocks, barter with the Aboriginal landowners and leave only when it suits us, catching the monsoon winds and letting the sea take us wherever it goes. Someone has found a pottery shard embedded in sea-sand behind the scrub. We hold it up into the honeyed light and smile at the clues history leaves behind. The sun is plummeting now, glowing defiantly until it is extinguished by the sea.

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