Brisbane is Australia’s third largest city and the capital of Queensland. Situated on its namesake river, it is famous for its amazing climate that is near perfect all year round, as well as its proximity to many of Queensland’s major tourist destinations. And while today’s weather was, indeed, “near perfect,” torrential rainstorms over the past two days led to a decision to delay our arrival by about four hours to ensure that the pilot could board the Viking Sun in daylight. This meant an abbreviated visit to Brisbane, and since we had made arrangements to visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (more on that later in this post), we were only able to enjoy brief drive through this beautiful city.
This delay, along with witnessing the difficulty of Sydney’s pilot getting back onto the pilot boat the night before, led us to investigate the exact role of the pilot boat and its importance to our safety. We happened to be seated near the window where the Sydney pilot boat was trying to get close enough to the Viking Sun for the pilot to jump safely from our ship back onto his deck in very heavy waves and wind. After several unsuccessful attempts, the pilot boat finally got close enough and the pilot made it back “home.” But we did a little digging, and this is what we learned. Most ports throughout the world require “pilotage,” the practice in which a local pilot comes on board near the entrance of a port to assist the ship’s captain with bringing the ship into port and docking or anchoring at the designated spot. The pilot also helps provide safe passage when the ship departs. Contrary to what we had thought, the pilot doesn’t take command of the ship from the captain. Captain Lars always stays in command of our Sun. Pilots are usually licensed master mariners with years of experience in their local port. As such, they have a wealth of knowledge about local currents, piers, docks, water depths, communication procedures and regulations, and local users of the waterway. Since no two ports in the world are alike and can change over time, this knowledge can be invaluable to the captain. On arrival at the breakwaters or fairway buoy, the ship is met by a pilot boat. The ship’s speed is adjusted to 8 to 15 knots, and course alterations are often necessary to ensure a safe and efficient transfer from the pilot boat to the ship. The pilot boat matches the speed of the ship and comes alongside near the pilot ladder, which is connected to an opening in the hull called a “shell door.” Wearing a harness, the pilot uses a rope ladder suspended from the shell door to board the ship, and is met at the top of the pilot ladder by a deck officer who is in radio communication with the bridge. This officer escorts the pilot to the bridge, where the pilot and captain decide on the appropriate arrival plan. At the time of departure, this process is reversed. We were lucky to capture the exciting departure of our Sydney pilot as well as the more peaceful arrival of our Brisbane pilot. We’re grateful to both for the role they play in keeping us safe.
Shortly after our arrival in Brisbane, we headed to Lone Pine, where we enjoyed the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary. Starting with just two koalas named Jack and Jill, Lone Pine is set in a beautiful, natural environment and is home to more than 130 koalas and a menagerie of other exotic Australian wildlife. We met some of the dedicated animal handlers and learned about some of the fascinating wildlife research that takes place here. We captured some delightful photos of koalas, kangaroos, various reptiles, turtles, flying fox (a type of bat that looks like a fox with HUGE wings), and even the elusive Tasmanian devil.
After that, we only had time for a whirlwind tour around Brisbane, where we caught glimpses of the ways distinctive Queenslander and modern architecture blend into an eclectic mix of old and new, often side-by-side, and sometimes even within the same structure, as shown in the bottom left picture of a new, modern hotel that had to incorporate a protected historic Queensland home into its new design.
Once again, we were left with a sense of “unfinished business,” and a desire for more time in this beautiful city that is rich with history and an unparalleled arts and design scene. Art galleries, museums, and a host of chic boutiques and cafes made us long for an opportunity to linger just a bit longer, but perhaps one day we will return. Until then, we left with fond memories of this city by the river.