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Carnarvon to Monkey Mia

...via Hamelin Pool

sunny 23 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Return to complete the Lap on SteveJD's travel map.

Our first port of call in Carnarvon was the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum. It may come as a surprise to some that this isolated town played an important part in the United States manned moon missions. So much so that, in 2013, Buzz Aldrin came over to open Phase One of the museum's development. Australian-born astronaut, Andy Thomas, did the honours for Phase Two in 2014 and Phase Three was opened in 2016 by Gene Cernan, the last man on the moon - at the time of writing. The Tracking Station, which forms the basis of the museum, was built in 1964 to support Gemini, Apollo and Skylab missions and, for 11 years, it was the last station to communicate with astronauts before leaving earth's orbit and the last voice they heard as they headed for splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. (Acknowledgements to the Carnarvon & Coral Bay Destination Guide for this and other information about the area.

The huge satellite dish and the giant Redstone rocket are the first things one sees, on approaching the tracking station. Inside there is an almost overwhelming display of items connected with the history of the station including full scale replicas of Gemini and Apollo command modules. In the latter you can sit inside in 'launch' position and hear the sound of the rocket - it's worth doing for the atmosphere. The Gemini is decidedly less roomy but also accessible. The museum is expanding and it is easy to while away at least a couple of hours and still not see everything - excellent value.

The Redstone rocket near the entrance

The Redstone rocket near the entrance

The main satellite dish

The main satellite dish

There's always one!

There's always one!

Steve and Judith inside the replica Apollo command module

Steve and Judith inside the replica Apollo command module

Some rooms were crammed with machinery which is all beyond me but very interesting

Some rooms were crammed with machinery which is all beyond me but very interesting

7f690720-1a8a-11ea-b9e2-eb6db621e809.jpgTwo views of Steve in the Gemini replica

Two views of Steve in the Gemini replica

By the time we had finished there, it was time for lunch and we made our way to the Small Boat Harbour, where we had an excellent meal of fish & chips at the Harbourside Cafe.

Harbourside Cafe

Harbourside Cafe

Steve inside the cafe

Steve inside the cafe

In the afternoon we visited the One Mile Jetty. It is currently closed for safety reasons but we found quite a bit of birdlife there while walking on the mangrove boardwalk. There is also an interpretive centre providing details of the jetty's history. The jetty is, or was, the longest in Western Australia and at one time had a tramway which transported people and goods. The goods have included, from the late 19th century until the 1950s, wool, sandalwood, livestock, pearl shell and people.

One Mile Jetty viewed from mangrove boardwalk

One Mile Jetty viewed from mangrove boardwalk

Black Kite hunting over the mangroves

Black Kite hunting over the mangroves

Singing Honeyeater by the mangrove boardwalk

Singing Honeyeater by the mangrove boardwalk

A relic from bygone days at the jetty

A relic from bygone days at the jetty

We then planned on driving out to Bibbawarra Bore but after driving several kilometres along a dusty track, we found a "Road Closed" sign! Our next stop was Chinaman's Pool, a nice treed area by the Gascoyne River. Here there was a pleasant walk and plenty of birds but also swarms of mosquitoes! Our stay was short but productive! On the way back to our cabin, we called at a pharmacy where we asked after something for itch relief (the mossies had been really nasty) and the pharmacist recommended a haemorrhoid cream which worked a treat!

Australasian Pipit

Australasian Pipit

Little Corellas

Little Corellas

White-breasted Woodswallow

White-breasted Woodswallow

Meadow Argus butterfly

Meadow Argus butterfly

Having anointed ourselves, we returned to the Small Boat Harbour where we saw more birds and a lovely sunset to see us off. There is a great deal to see and do in and around Carnarvon so, if you can spare more than the two nights we managed, you will be busy.

Fishing boat returning to harbour

Fishing boat returning to harbour

Wader (possibly a Redshank) at sunset

Wader (possibly a Redshank) at sunset

Panoramic view over the inlet at sunset

Panoramic view over the inlet at sunset

Sunset over Carnarvon Beach Resort, across the inlet

Sunset over Carnarvon Beach Resort, across the inlet

A flight of ducks over the inlet at sunset

A flight of ducks over the inlet at sunset

The following day we headed off on our drive of about 380km to Monkey Mia. Most of the drive was pretty uninteresting but after we turned off towards Denham, we found Hamelin Pool. The caravan park and amenities are rather shabby, to be kind, but the short walk to the pool and out on the boardwalk to see the stromatolites is well worthwhile. The low tide area is covered with living organisms known as microbial mats which sometimes trap grit and become stone, at which stage they become microbialites. When these microbialites grow one on the other and the layers form a small tower, they are called stromatolites - living stone! The are not the prettiest things you will see but they are fascinating.

A dried out and broken stromatolite (perhaps an ex-stromatolite?)

A dried out and broken stromatolite (perhaps an ex-stromatolite?)

Stromatolites growing under water

Stromatolites growing under water

The boardwalk over the pool gives an excellent view of stromatolites and other marine creatures

The boardwalk over the pool gives an excellent view of stromatolites and other marine creatures

A ring of stromatolites out of water

A ring of stromatolites out of water

Welcome Swallows resting on a stromatolite

Welcome Swallows resting on a stromatolite

Clearly it was nesting season for these Welcome Swallows - their nests were tucked under the boardwalk - hopefully above high tide!

Clearly it was nesting season for these Welcome Swallows - their nests were tucked under the boardwalk - hopefully above high tide!

Seaweed seen from the boardwalk

Seaweed seen from the boardwalk

Back in the car park, an Australian Hobby posed nicely for us.

large_20190621_IMG_5785.jpgTwo shots of our friendly Australian Hobby

Two shots of our friendly Australian Hobby

Not far beyond Hamelin Pool, we pulled in to Shell Beach where the shells are 7-10 metres deep over a stretch of some 60km! The shells are mainly a species of cockle and these have formed a limestone rock known as coquina. Before Shark Bay became a World Heritage Site, this material was mined and used for building in Denham.

View down to Shell Beach

View down to Shell Beach

Panorama of part of Shell Beach

Panorama of part of Shell Beach

Stay away - it gets really crowded!

Stay away - it gets really crowded!

At Denham, an attractive little coastal town, we turned off towards Monkey Mia and drove through some good bushland. Close to the resort we stopped for a group of Emus and, a little further on, an Echidna crossed the road, paying little attention to us.

Emu by the roadside

Emu by the roadside

A closer view of one of the emus

A closer view of one of the emus

The Echidna on the road

The Echidna on the road

Echidna safely across and into the sand

Echidna safely across and into the sand

The RAC/Big 4 resort is massive and the staff are friendly and helpful. We paid extra to be upgraded to a sea-facing villa which was well worthwhile and, shortly after arriving, we saw dolphins swimming close to the beach, from our verandah.

View from our villa

View from our villa

Inside the villa - plenty of room

Inside the villa - plenty of room

Sunset from our villa

Sunset from our villa

The cabin was very roomy and comfortable and was equipped with no stove but at least a microwave. We were unable to access wifi, so had to talk to one another!

The following morning we went along the beach to see the dolphin feeding and were delighted to see a couple of females come in with calves. It was a bit breezy so no nice clear water for good photographs unfortunately.

People waiting for the dolphins

People waiting for the dolphins

The first one in to be fed

The first one in to be fed

A beautiful creature

A beautiful creature

Smiling for the camera!

Smiling for the camera!

Steve sitting in the shade on our verandah while Judith takes a few more photos

Steve sitting in the shade on our verandah while Judith takes a few more photos

A Silver Gull came onto the verandah hoping, in vain, for a handout

A Silver Gull came onto the verandah hoping, in vain, for a handout

View along the beach to the dolphin feeding area

View along the beach to the dolphin feeding area

Colourful kayaks lined up waiting for an outing

Colourful kayaks lined up waiting for an outing

Across the road from the resort is a bush walk area. We picked up a map from the Dolphin Centre, with the intention of heading for a bird hide. The paths that led to the hide were blocked off and it turned out the staff in the Dolphin Centre were unaware of the closures! Nonetheless, we wound our way through the dune bushland, seeing quite a few birds both in the bush and along the coastal strip, as well as a family of kangaroos.

Panoramic view from top of dune on bushwalk

Panoramic view from top of dune on bushwalk

View over the resort from the bushwalk

View over the resort from the bushwalk

Western Grey Kangaroo and joey in the dunes

Western Grey Kangaroo and joey in the dunes

Torresian Crow on the beach

Torresian Crow on the beach

Australian Pelicans on a sandspit

Australian Pelicans on a sandspit

Australian Pied Oystercatchers on the beach

Australian Pied Oystercatchers on the beach

Posted by SteveJD 08:42 Archived in Australia Tagged animals birds boats sunset australia museum dolphin western_australia monkey_mia mammals carnarvon echidna hamelin_pool stromatolites space_technology Comments (0)

Karratha to Carnarvon

...with side trips to Cossack and Dampier and via Bullara Station

sunny 27 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Return to complete the Lap on SteveJD's travel map.

While based in Karratha, we drove along the coast to Cossack. Here there are a few surviving buildings of a once-thriving settlement. Originally it was called Tien Tsin after the barque which landed there in 1863. However, after Governor Weld visited in 1871 aboard HMS Cossack, the town gained its current name. Having quite a good harbour, Cossack provided a point of access for the settlement and development of the Pilbara region, including a gold-rush in the 1870s. There was also a significant pearling industry which attracted a wide variety of different nationalities. The most tangible reminder is the Japanese cemetery and in its heyday, the town had areas know as "Chinatown", "Japtown" and "Malaytown" - not very politically correct! Cossack grew quite quickly over a period of some 40 years but when the pearling industry moved north, the goldfields petered out and the harbour's limitations became more evident, the population shrunk even more quickly. The town staggered on and by the early 1950s, was virtually abandoned. Thankfully, some of the main buildings have been maintained and provide a fascinating insight into life on the coast in the 19th century. (Acknowledgements to the "Emma Withnell Heritage Trail" booklet, produced by the Roebourne Visitor Centre, for this information).

Bonded Store and Customs House

Bonded Store and Customs House

One of the ruined buildings

One of the ruined buildings

437c3510-093d-11ea-831d-0f6b31903fe9.jpgFlowers and shrub, Aerva javanica - a weed apparently

Flowers and shrub, Aerva javanica - a weed apparently

Cossack Cafe, at the rear of the Customs House

Cossack Cafe, at the rear of the Customs House

Thirsty Spinifex Pigeons!

Thirsty Spinifex Pigeons!

The ubiquitous Willie Wagtail

The ubiquitous Willie Wagtail

45ccb4c0-093d-11ea-89a2-b51c670b76fd.jpgPolice Lockup - complete with bushranger!

Police Lockup - complete with bushranger!

Heading out of town, to the coast, we reached Reader Head Lookout which gives great views over Settlers Beach and Jarman Island (named after the captain of the above-mentioned "Tien Tsin") sitting in the Indian Ocean, as well as back along Butcher Inlet towards the township. Near the lookout, is the cemetery in which many of the headstones refer to people who died at very young ages - it was a tough place to settle. On our way back through town, we went up the Tien Tsin Lookout and then down past the old schoolhouse. A cyclone destroyed an earlier building and children had to go by tramway to Roebourne for their schooling

Panoramic view over Settlers Beach

Panoramic view over Settlers Beach

View from the lookout towards Jarman Island

View from the lookout towards Jarman Island

Nankeen Kestrel in flight

Nankeen Kestrel in flight

The little cemetery

The little cemetery

Panoramic view from Tien Tsin Lookout over the township and the land-backed jetty on Butcher Inlet

Panoramic view from Tien Tsin Lookout over the township and the land-backed jetty on Butcher Inlet

The old Schoolhouse

The old Schoolhouse

What is left of one of the trucks used on the tramway to Roebourne

What is left of one of the trucks used on the tramway to Roebourne

We used to have a kelpie cross (courtesy of someone who dropped her, at about 5 weeks old, over our fence in Perth). She was a black and tan and she was the light of our life, so we became great fans of kelpies. Naturally, we had read Louis de Bernieres book "Red Dog", so had to make the pilgrimage to Dampier where they have a statue to this famous peripatetic dog as the town had been the main base for Red Dog's adventures. We had time for a brief stop at the North West Shelf Visitor Centre (natural gas being brought in from the seabed) but unfortunately were too late to visit the wonderful collection of Aboriginal petroglyphs a little further along the Burrup Peninsula.

Dampier was named after William Dampier (1651-1715) who was a colourful character. He had been a buccaneer and a privateer (i.e., a pirate!) before being being given command of HMS Roebuck, in which he explored the north-western coast of WA and then into the islands to the north of Australia. He landed at Shark Bay and collected the first known detailed record of Australian flora and fauna. Unfortunately, the Roebuck became unseaworthy and foundered at Ascension Island when Dampier was attempting to return to England. The wreck was found in 2001 by a team from the Western Australian Maritime Museum. He and his crew were picked up by an East Indiaman after about five weeks and returned to England. On his return to England, Dampier was court-martialled for having his lieutenant jailed in Brazil while on the outward voyage. He was found guilty, his pay was docked and he was dismissed from the Royal Navy. About a year later, he was appointed, as a privateer, to command the St George in order to act against French and Spanish interests during the Spanish War of Succession. He sailed with another ship on which was a seaman by the name of Alexander Selkirk. When he complained about the seaworthiness of his ship, the Cinque Ports, he was marooned for nearly five years before Dampier rescued him. Selkirk's experience is believed to be the basis for Daniel Defoe's story "Robinson Crusoe". Dampier's ship, St George, was eventually abandoned on the coast of Peru and he returned to England in 1707. He made a third circumnavigation 1708-11, still privateering but it seems unlikely that he received his share of the expedition's gains, as he died in 1715, in debt.

Red Dog welcomes visitors to Dampier

Red Dog welcomes visitors to Dampier

20190614_IMG_5644.jpgStatue of what I presume are riggers or drillers

Statue of what I presume are riggers or drillers

The gas burning off can be seen from a great distance

The gas burning off can be seen from a great distance

After our, as usual too short stay, we drove about 458km (via Fortescue River and Nanutarra Roadhouses) to Bullara Station, about half way between Exmouth and Coral Bay. On our way south, we stopped at Miaree Pool where we saw a small colony of Royal Spoonbills and the first Black Swans we have seen on this trip!

Some of the Royal Spoonbills

Some of the Royal Spoonbills

Royal Spoonbills and Black Swans

Royal Spoonbills and Black Swans

Flower of Solanum lasiophyllum

Flower of Solanum lasiophyllum

At Bullara we had a very good cosy hut, set among trees which were filled with birds throughout our stay. There are some good walks on the station and also plenty of opportunity to meet other guests - look out for Pommie John and his delicious damper!

Hale Hut and the Beast MkII

Hale Hut and the Beast MkII

b8630a30-0955-11ea-b68c-d9472465e982.jpgInside our hut

Inside our hut

b7e6ae40-0955-11ea-b68c-d9472465e982.jpgA Grey Shrike-thrush liked our vehicle but looked better in the bush

A Grey Shrike-thrush liked our vehicle but looked better in the bush

Blue-breasted Fairy-wren

Blue-breasted Fairy-wren

A treeful of Zebra Finches

A treeful of Zebra Finches

20190616_IMG_5666.jpgCockatiels finding a roost in the late afternoon

Cockatiels finding a roost in the late afternoon

Juvenile Butcherbird strutting its stuff

Juvenile Butcherbird strutting its stuff

Rainbow Bee-eater with a snack

Rainbow Bee-eater with a snack

The Grey Shrike-thrush came back - obviously the Hilux makes a good perch - or is it vain?!

The Grey Shrike-thrush came back - obviously the Hilux makes a good perch - or is it vain?!

Sunset from our hut

Sunset from our hut

Our original plans had included a cruise out to Ningaloo Reef but, after our dire experience on the Great Barrier Reef a couple of years ago, as this entailed taking a whole day - with a 6am start - we reluctantly decided to remain land-based. Outside the reef the seas were more than a little choppy, so we felt that it was probably a sensible decision. Our hosts had advised us to head for Exmouth rather than Coral Bay, so we took a drive north to Exmouth, stopping to look at the Potshot and Operation Jaywick memorials, just south of the town.

In 1942 the United States Navy established a submarine base under the code name “Operation Potshot”. Extensive facilities were built adjacent to where Learmonth Airforce Base now stands. Although the submarine tenders only stayed in the area for a very short period, the base continued to operate as a refuelling facility. Australian Army, Navy and Airforce personnel operated early warning radar, radio stations, anti-aircraft guns and provided fighter cover for submarines.

The famous Operation Jaywick which attacked shipping in Singapore Harbour departed from Exmouth Gulf. The Japanese bombed the location in 1943. A cyclone in 1945 extensively damaged the base and troops were withdrawn.

Road sign to the memorials

Road sign to the memorials

Potshot Memorial

Potshot Memorial

The scrub was fairly bland and the town did nothing to excite us but we stopped in a beach-side park to have our lunch.

In February 1818, the explorer Phillip Parker King was forced into the gulf now known as Exmouth Gulf. He spent eight days exploring the region and named the gulf after Admiral Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth. It would appear that there was no 'town' here until the US Navy built a submarine base (the above-mentioned Operation Potshot). Even then, the town was not really established, and named after the gulf, until the US Navy established a communications station here. They finally handed control of the station over to Australia in 1999.

Steve enjoying lunch by the sea

Steve enjoying lunch by the sea

A Silver Gull eyeing us hungrily

A Silver Gull eyeing us hungrily

We continued round to Cape Range National Park and enjoyed some bird-watching in Mangrove Bay. We had a pleasant time in the bird hide there but would probably have seen more birds if the water level had been lower. The bay itself was more productive and generally a very worthwhile stop.

df92b540-0957-11ea-9717-790e74b37e6d.jpgA Mangrove Grey Fantail kept us amused

A Mangrove Grey Fantail kept us amused

Eastern Reef Heron

Eastern Reef Heron

Little Egret in flight

Little Egret in flight

Mangrove Bay

Mangrove Bay

59525a10-0959-11ea-b30c-999c05a550d6.jpgWildflowers at Mangrove Bay

Wildflowers at Mangrove Bay

We returned along the coast, stopping at Tantabiddi, where we saw a White-bellied Sea-Eagle on its nest, right in the middle of the car park. A little further north we dropped in at the Jurabi Turtle Centre which was very interesting and must be wonderful to visit during the nesting or hatching seasons. Nearby Vlamingh Head Lighthouse stood tall at the end of the peninsula. As far as I can establish, Phillip Parker King named Vlamingh Head, when he visited the area in 1818, in honour of the Dutch explorer Willem Vlamingh who had visited the area 200 years earlier.

Brown Falcon

Brown Falcon

Rocky coastline near Vlamingh Head

Rocky coastline near Vlamingh Head

Vlamingh Lighthouse

Vlamingh Lighthouse

The Big Prawn in Exmouth

The Big Prawn in Exmouth

In all we spent 4 nights at Bullara, enjoying walks, relaxation, trips out and very good birdwatching. The station covers 250,000 acres in a region known by the local Yingarrda people as punurrba, meaning 'sea breeze'. However, the station was named after a state-owned boat that sailed up the coast in the 1900s. We enjoyed a few more birds near the hut before finally, and reluctantly, leaving.

Juvenile Collared Sparrowhawk

Juvenile Collared Sparrowhawk

Diamond Doves

Diamond Doves

Rufous Whistler

Rufous Whistler

Crested Pigeons

Crested Pigeons

Finally, it was time to leave and head further south to Carnarvon, some 315km, via Coral Bay. The latter is a delightful spot and we wished that we had had an extra day to come here. We could at least have snorkelled in the clear waters over the corals and perhaps seen some of the interesting underwater life there. It looks as if we are going to have to come back - yet again!

Our first view of Coral Bay

Our first view of Coral Bay

Judith with Jet Set at the viewing point

Judith with Jet Set at the viewing point

Jet Set solo at the viewing point

Jet Set solo at the viewing point

Jet Set really enjoyed the sand at Coral Bay

Jet Set really enjoyed the sand at Coral Bay

View over Coral Bay from the viewing point

View over Coral Bay from the viewing point

When we reached our cabin at Norwesta Lifestyle Park (an AirBnB place) only find that it was very compact and had no cooking facilities - far from the "complete flat/house" advertised! We were also not impressed to hear that our neighbours had paid considerably less than we had. We made our feelings known and Michelle, the new owner, was very apologetic and sympathetic. She quickly had the description changed and refunded one night's accommodation, so we felt that we had a fair deal.

The camp kitchen, which was close to our cabin, was brand spanking new with all mod cons. As the park is convenient and the cabin reasonably priced, we would probably still have booked it - but with the knowledge that there would be limitations.

Posted by SteveJD 08:35 Archived in Australia Tagged birds history coral_bay buidlings exmouth carnarvon karratha cossack dampier bullara_station pearling Comments (0)

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