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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rocky Pool, Western Australia

This picturesque, deep, fresh water pool is 50 kilometres from Carnarvon and unlike the rest of the Gascoyne River which is a dry riverbed 8 months of the year, Rocky Pool has water all year round.

In 1924 Australia's most famous pilot, Charles Kingsford Smith and his mate Keith Anderson bought a truck and delivered mail and goods from Carnarvon to Bangemall goldfields near Mount Augustus.

It's said he would have boiled his billy here, in this beautiful spot, many times.

In the old days, drovers came here too bringing their thirsty sheep and cattle to drink at this idyllic oasis.

The Gascoyne River in full flood is a major event in the lives of people lucky enough to see it.

The highest recorded flow was in 1960 at 7.62 metres and during Cyclone Steve in 2000 it peaked at 7.50 metres.

Rocky Pool is simply stunning.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Carnarvon, Western Australia

Called after the British Secretary of State, Lord Carnarvon, the little town started out as the supply centre of a thriving wool industry. When the early settlers began to succeed at wool production, Afghan camel teamsters were attracted to the area. Huge carts with wool bales piled high were pulled by teams of camels and would bring the wool from outlying stations to Carnarvon to be loaded onto ships. That's why the front street is so wide, the camels had to be able to turn around.

Wide front street
The Afghans came from many countires including Egypt, Turkey, India, Pakistan and Iran but were known as Afghans or Ghans. They were single when they came to Australia and often married Aboriginal women. One man who is of Afghan, Aboriginal and Irish heritage is proud of his ancestry and calls himself a 'liquorice allsort'. During the 1920's, when the motor car arrived the camels and the camellers virtually disappeared overnight. No longer needed, hundreds of these hard working men and animals were abandoned and forgotten.

New housing development

It's estimated there are over one million feral camels wandering around central and western Australia and they have become a dangerous pest, damaging farms, Aboriginal communities and the environment as they search for water. Now our government has to figure out how to keep their numbers down. A cull seems the most logical solution but the deeply Christian (usually Catholic) faith of many Aboriginal people in Central Australia is proving to be a stumbling block. For them, the camel is a religious icon.

Windblown gums

Today, Carnarvon has a population of about 9,000 and is known as the 'fruit bowl of Western Australia'. The main industries include fishing (prawn, scallops, crabs and fish) pastoral (sheep, cattle and goats) agriculture (mainly bananas and tomatoes) salt mining at Lake MacLeod and tourism.

The Fascine

The annual average rainfull is 233mm (9 inches) and falls betwen May and July. There have been several cyclones since 1960, the last one recorded was Steve in 2000.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Gascoyne River, Western Australia

Banana plantation

The Mighty Gascoyne River

At 760 kilometres, the Gascoyne River is the longest river in Western Australia. With a mild climate and few pests, plants thrive in the fertile red soils around the Gascoyne River at Carnarvon. There are 180 plantations along the river - 5 to 19 kilometres from the mouth where it runs out into the Indian Ocean.

There are 570 hectares for vegetables, 350 hectares for bananas and 100 hectares for fruit trees producing paw paw, mangoes, citrus, stone fruit, avocados, grapes, tomatoes, beans, capsicums and asparagus. The water is rationed and each plantation is allocated a yearly allowance.

Water is precious in this part of the world and if it wasn't for the Gascoyne River, there wouldn't be any plantations. It's an upside down river, it flows in the river bed for about 4 months of the year and under the dry river bed for the remainder of the year. Sounds confusing? Under the river bed are layers of sand and gravel that collect water when the river runs and are called aquifers. A well is sunk into it to extract the water. When the river dries up, these aquifers are still there, full of water, under the sand and provide water for these plantations and the town for eight months of the year.
And that's why they call the mighty Gascoyne River, the bloodstream of the town.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Francois Peron National Park, Western Australia

I find it hard to believe that anyone in their right mind would think of running sheep on this desolate landscape with no water, scorching summer temperatures, no shade for stock and hardly anything to eat. But they did and I think it says a lot about the toughness and determination of our pioneering farmers. When wool prices fell in the 1970's Peron Pastoral Station was only marginally profitable and since then, it has slowly deteriorated to its current state.

In 1990 the Western Australian Government bought it and created Francois Peron National Park, named after the French naturalist and explorer, 52,500 hectares of arid shrubland, red sand plains and clear turquoise water.

Project Eden was introduced and it has three main aims:

. To remove all feral animals from the park

. To reintroduce native wildlife once extinct in the area

. To educate the public about the project

Cattle, sheep and goats introduced by the early farmers almost destroyed the Peninsula but since the removal of more than 30,000 stock, much of the vegetation has come back. Annuals, creepers and grasses that the stock loved to eat are now slowly starting to reappear.

In an effort to keep down the number of feral animals - goats, rabbits, foxes and cats, a fence was erected across the narrowest part of the park, about 3 kilometres wide.

A four wheel drive is necessary if you want to venture beyond the homestead, the sandy, narrow track gets pretty deep in places and it's about 40kms to Cape Peron. And make sure you take plenty of water, there's none in the park.

The Homestead

Feral Fence

This artesian bore was one of 5 sunk of Peron Pastoral lease. It has a constant temperature of 44C and flows into this holding tank. You are welcome to hop in. More than 200 kilometres of pipes were laid throughout the property to thirty points to water the stock. This water was also used for all domestic purposes except drinking - it was slightly salty but quite safe for all stock.

Shearing was carried out in the two hottest months of the year, January and February. Six shearers using hand pieces would shear at least 130 sheep a day, the gun shearer about 200. A small diesel engine drove belts that worked the blades and a grinder that kept the blades sharp.

The cookhouse and mess was built in the 1950's. The cook was one of the hardest workers, starting his day long before the shearers woke up and not finishing until the evening meal was over and cleared away. He had to bring his own provisions and baked bread every day. The cook and the wool classer shared the same quarters, separate from the shearers.

Monday, June 22, 2009

High School Excursion, Western Australia

And away they go

Teacher giving instruction

Lugging gear to the beach

These lucky High School students are going on an excursion. They are going to learn how to sail and spend one whole week on Shark Bay, camping in remote spots along the way and seeing lots of wild life.

Four boats with 4 crew each and 3 teachers on board the power boat.

Shark Bay, Western Australia

Sunset at Denham

The little town of Denham on the Peron Penninsula is the most westerly town in Australia and sits on the shores of Shark Bay.

The Denham Seaside Tourist park has three levels of sites with water views. Watching the sun go down over the clear, azure water right at your campsite in the evening is absoslute bliss.

Denham front street

I found the Discovery Centre very interesting and spent quite some time there watching videos and learning about this special place.

Shark Bay covers 2.2 million hectares of the West Australian coast and is home to hundreds of animals and plants, some found nowhere else on earth.

The most important flowering plant in Shark Bay is seagrass and there are meadows and meadows of it - 400,000 hectares, more than anywhere else in the world. It's estimated that about 10,000 dugongs live and graze on this seagrass along with many other endangered species.

Eagle Bluff

Before Shark Bay could become Heritage Listed, it had to satisfy all four requirements which are:

. Natural Beauty

. Earth's History

. Ecological Processes

. Biological Diversity

Eagle Bluff

As of May 2008, Shark Bay became one of only 20 other places on earth to share this great honour. Some other World Heritage listings that meet the same criteria are The Great Barrier Reef, the Galapogos Islands and The Grand Canyon.

Fishing boats at Denham

Because Shark Bay ranks as one of the world's important wilderness area, the West Australian Governement has a huge responsibility to keep it in pristine condition.

Dozens of fish like this are caught here every day by recreational fishermen in boats

Officers from the Department of the Environment and Conservation and the Department of Fisheries are permanently based in the area.

Meadows and meadows of seagrass

It's a comforting thought to know that Shark Bay will now remain in its natural state, without interference, forever.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hamelin Pool, Western Australia

See the bubbles? They are making oxygen

More bubbles


The Stromatolites were a major factor in Shark Bay becoming a World Heritage Area and Hamelin Pool has the world's best example.

Stromatolites most important role in the history of the earth was putting oxygen into the earth's atmosphere. They take carbon dioxide and water to produce carbohydrates and this releases oxygen into the atmosphere.

When they first appeared on earth about 3.5 billion years ago there was little or no oxygen in the atmosphere. Scientists believe that it was through this oxygen-generating activity of Stromolites, that other animal life on earth was able to develop. Well, that's the theory anyway.
Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve, about 78 kms from Denham, was created to protect these strange structures. They are able to survive here because the water is twice as salty as normal sea water so most other forms of life that would normally feed on them can't survive here.

Now that Hamelin Pool is a marine nature reserve of 1270 square kilometres, it has complete protection from fishing and any other human threat and a boardwalk has been constructed for people to come and see them without impacting on the environment.
They only grow at a maximum of .3 mm per year so those about a metre high are hundreds, if not thousands of years old. And they'll be here for generations to come.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ocean Park, Western Australia

Sea Snake

Turtles can live to be 120 years old

Shark Pool

Tiger Shark and Groper

Coffee Shop

Ocean Park is an Ecotourism venture set on the pristine shores of Shark Bay. Owned and operated by marine biologists, they have put together an exhibition of live marine animals in tanks and ponds which are eventually released back to the sea. Our young tour guide was enthusiastic and informative and his knowledge was very impressive.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Monkey Mia, Western Australia

Monkey Mia is an unusual name. It's thought that 'monkey' might come from the old pearling days when divers kept pet monkies and Mia is Aboriginal for 'shelter'.

A recognised natural beauty and World Heritate landmark, Monkey Mia attracts visitors from all over the world. It has crystal clear water, pure white beaches and sunshine 320 days a year - a true paradise.

But people come here for one reason, to see the bottlenose dolphins up close, they've been coming here to be hand fed every day for the last forty years.

Monkey Mia isn't a place or a town, there are no shops and no houses, just the Monkey Mia Resort.

The resort provides a good choice of accommodation - units, villas, cabins, backpacker quarters and the caravan park is right on the beach.

It was a joy to see a little child with cerebral palsy being pushed to the front in his wheel chair to marvel at these beautiful creatures. Monkey Mia - a very special place.