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LatestPhoto
Mullet Fish feeding at Doctor's Gully.
Photo: Chris Johnson

October 12, 2001
Doctor's Gully
  Real Audio
  28k


Log Transcript

This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from inner city Darwin, a municipality that harbours a quiet and secluded waterfront cove in which an amazing interaction takes place every single day of the year, between curious visitors and several species of fish.

At Doctor's Gully, thousands of fish come to shore at high tide to feed. This unique aquatic phenomenon is an excellent opportunity to educate people about the fish species that inhabit the local marine environment. Staff discuss the natural history of various species, answer questions, as well as highlight potential and existing threats to the animals.

LatestPhoto
Genevieve hand-feeding fish.
Photo: Chris Johnson

Darwin is an exceptional place, subject to massive daily tidal movements of up to 25 feet. As a result, the fish that visit this place can only come close inshore for a few hours a day before they are forced to retreat with the outgoing tide.

By far the most numerous species we saw were the dark, robust mullet. These fish literally numbered in the thousands. In many places, they were so thick it was impossible to see the water for their writhing bodies. Their seemingly fearless nature and willingness to take food from the hands of people made them the most popular with the children. Several other species could also be observed in the shallows, among them were 4 foot long milkfish, catfish, barramundi, and at least 3 species of ray, including the bizarre looking shovel-nosed ray.

The history of Doctor's Gully is a remarkable story that began nearly 50 years ago. Carl Atkinson was Australia's most famous deep-sea diver who won huge contracts working on Allied ships sunk in Darwin Harbour during the air raids of World War II in 1942. He was credited with saving several lives through the construction of northern Australia's first decompression chamber.

Atkinson's expertise as a salvage expert was well respected, but he was also an adventurer with a passion for all things associated with the sea. In 1958, having earlier secured a lease over Doctor's Gully, Carl began to feed the few fish that came to shore during high tide, as a hobby. The number and species of fish attracted to the area steadily began to increase, so he applied for the 'Gully' to be declared a fish reserve. The reserve was eventually established and with it the beginning of a marine attraction that is probably unique in the world today.

No fishing is allowed here and people are welcome to enjoy the company of these animals that are entirely free to come and go as they please. Although he died in 1985, Carl has constructed an enduring sanctuary that to this day protects his beloved wild fish.

Log by Genevieve Johnson

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