As we turned south and headed back to Perth, we stopped at Shell Beach, and like the name indicates it is an entire beach of shells. It was not sand and shells, but just small white shells for miles.
As Carl Sagan said -“billions and billions”. In the Denham museum there were examples of shell blocks that formed over the years through compaction and were used to construct buildings. There was no shortage of shells and it was impressive to see.
We then continued south to the town of Geraldton, a relative metropolis of 40,000 folks compared to the towns we had stayed in on our way north. Our Airbnb was near downtown and had a nice clothesline in the backyard to hang our laundry. Australia, like many places in Europe and the UK we’ve visited, doesn’t really embrace the use of a clothes dryer.
We walked downtown that evening and found a surprisingly good little Italian restaurant. We both tried a different pasta and sauce combination, and a nice bottle of Australian wine. It was a very good dinner.
The next day dawned with bright blue skies. Just at the end of our street was the St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, designed and built by the Catholic priest and architect Monsignor John Hawes. Completed in 1938, it is considered one of the finest Cathedrals built in the 20th century. He also designed and built several other churches along the coast of Western Australia.
The HMAS Sydney II memorial is also in Geraldton. The ship was one of the few Australian cruisers at the start of WWII, but gained fame during early engagements in the Mediterranean Sea, sinking two Italian warships and providing shore firepower for the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Crops) troops without sustaining a single casualty.
It was the pride of the Australian Navy and thought to be unsinkable. It disappeared, with all hands lost, off the coast of Geraldton in November of 1941. The true events of the battle that sunk her took some time to piece together. It was eventually discovered that the ship was lured into a surprise attack by the German cruiser Kormoran, disguised as a merchant vessel. The initial volley destroyed its big guns and the bridge, but the crew somehow managed to sink the Kormoran and turn towards home for repairs. Both ships were found in 2008 about 10 miles from each other off the western coast. Some of the Kormoran’s crew were rescued, but none from the Sydney survived.
The seagull tip marks the spot on the ocean where the ship was eventually found.
We then visited the museum in town. It covered a lot of interesting topics; the Aboriginal folks that lived there, the expansion and settlement of the area by Europeans and the marine life off the coast. This was a display of the Aboriginal boomerangs that rotated in the case for a nice visual effect.
They had a cross-section of a typical early explorer ship. The ballast of brick and stone provided the stabilizing base for the ship, while all the cargo and supplies were layered until the internal hold of the ship was filled. I’m sure the early explorers took ship packing to a whole different level.
A new exhibit had art done by some of the local Aboriginal kids. Aboriginal art is typically very colorful and is usually done in colored dot patterns rather than brush strokes.
Geraldton had a nice public park and walkways along the entire waterfront. In one of the kid’s parks we saw these Emu egg “benches” colorfully painted in Aboriginal-style art patterns.
There was a nice tavern in downtown Geraldton that we stopped in for a bite and a beer. Traffic lights are very uncommon throughout Western Australia. Most intersections, like this one, are traffic circles. Entering them in a clockwise pattern takes some getting used to, but we did it. The Australian GPS tells you to take the first (left turn), second (continue straight) or third exit (right turn) from the traffic circle. Traffic circles work well to keep everyone moving in light traffic but seem to have issues in heavy traffic and especially when one direction has most of the incoming flow. Nothing is perfect all the time.
After our stay in Geraldton we continued south to Perth. We had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches under a treeful of black-cockatoos at our lunchtime stop along the road.
We stayed at a hotel near the airport, along the Swan River that runs through downtown Perth. It had a nice walking path for an evening stroll after our drive.
We caught this Australian Darter sunning itself along the riverbank. Similar to cormorants, these birds dive for fish. Their feathers have less oil on them compared to most birds to reduce their buoyancy, making it easier to dive deeper and longer to catch fish. It comes with the price of needing to dry out their feathers after a hunting period so that they can fly again.
As a bird tidbit of info, owls too have very little oil on their feathers, providing them extremely quiet flight capability in the night. Because of this attribute owls cannot fly in the rain for very long.
The hotel path led us past the Ascot horse racing track. Unfortunately, there were no races that night.
We had dinner at the hotel and tried another Australian wine, The Squid’s Fist, from the Some Young Punks vineyard. How could you not choose that wine? It’s good to see some folks having fun in the wine business. The wine was pretty good too.
This ended the first of three legs of our Western Australia trip. The next day we would fly to Broome, meet up with relatives and start the second leg of our adventure through the Kimberly region.