By Iain Watts and Kim Reader
A mum has captured a stunning shot of herself immersed in a sea of red crabs as the crimson crustaceans start their annual march to the Christmas Island shoreline.
In the striking shot, photographer Kirsty Faulkner, 40, is surrounded by a swarm of red crabs, scurrying along a path to the Indian Ocean.
The mass migration of 45million crustaceans begins at the start of the wet season in October or November each year.
Adult crabs leave their burrows in the jungle and hurry to the beach for a dip in the ocean to replenish body salts.
While mum-of-three Kirsty is always prepared for this ‘exciting’ time of year, the crab march came as a shock to all islanders this year as they have endured an unusually long dry season.
Kirsty, who arrived on the island 10 years ago, said: “On the island it’s been a very long dry season with almost no rain and I don’t think anyone was expecting the crabs the start moving just yet.
“We only received a couple of days of rain but that was enough to get them all moving.
“As long as it keeps raining they should continue to migrate their way to the ocean over the next few days.
“The crabs will be cutting it quite fine to make it down to the shoreline and mate in time so we may get a spawning event in December as well as January – but you never know what the crabs have in store for us.
“It’s just incredible. Everybody that you see, whether they have grown up on the island or people like me who moved here more recently, think it’s amazing.
“It’s a wonderful thing for people to see, it just never gets old.”
The crimson tide currently sweeping the island, is just the first spectacle of this year’s migration.
Male crabs dig burrows in the sand which they defend from other crabs while they try to mate with the females, then migrate back home while the females stay with their eggs.
After two to three weeks, the female crabs put their eggs into the ocean and start their own return journey while the eggs hatch into the water as larvae.
Then baby crabs will emerge from the ocean about four weeks later.
The scarlet creatures turn beaches and roads a stunning shade of red as they make their way across the island, meandering around houses until they reach their destinations.
Four years after their birth, the baby crabs will be ready to make their own migration to the beach to mate and begin the life cycle all over again.
All phases of the migration are popular tourist attractions with visitors timing their travel to coincide with it to see the unique sight, as the crabs only live on Christmas Island.
Kirsty said: “Of course, once the female crabs have spawned, we all wait very impatiently for the tiny little baby crabs to make it back to the island after their epic three or four-week journey around in the ocean currents.
“Then we all watch as they make their way from the ocean shoreline up into the relative safety of the jungle until they’re old enough to join in the migration themselves.
“It’s an exciting time of year to be on the island.”