Saturday 10 May 2014

The Shark Bay Show

Looking Eastward, the spec in the bay would be "Small Fry".

After seeing off Goeff, an expedition ashore to climb a hill and get some phone reception (which worked) and a lunch of fresh fish, we weighed anchor and headed for the sailing tour of Shark Bay. Soon after the wind left us and I was cursing it. Not a great day to sail, I thought. After ghosting along at 1 knot, we motored for 45 minutes, then killed it. At least the glassy water looked nice, and the quiet (sans motor!) was very pleasant.

A day of ghosting, watching and lazing around.

We then started hearing “plop, plop” then another “plop, plop”..  they were dugongs, had to be quick to see them.  “Splash”  that’s a Sail Fish leaping in the distance! Never seen those before, with their sword nose and huge fan top fin. thought they remained on the continental shelf. There’s a large pod of dolphins, there’s another, then another, surrounding by them, some are leaping. Attacking a school from above.  What is that dark shape going under our boat? A hammerhead shark!  We were standing in the cockpit just gawking at our surroundings. Shark Bay is putting on a show, telling us the reason why it was given World Heritage status. We were crawling along silently on the glassy crystal clear water for several hours and didn’t care about 1 knot pace. The view was stunning, the amount of wild life was astounding.

All I could do to capture those dugongs..
View over the side, crystal clear.

The secret of Shark Bay was the sea grasses which are apparently unique and supports an extraordinary high concentration of micro organic life, which in turn supports a huge population of small school fish, which in turn attracts an abundant population of sea predators.

We aren’t getting very far so we chose a bay on the eastern coast of Dirk Hartog Island and anchored there. Only ran aground once…  I should keep a closer eye on the plotter. Got off by both of us standing to one side of the cockpit to heel the boat and powered the motor. Its an easy boat to heel over and easy boat to “unground”, knew that would be an advantage somehow..

This place is called “Red Cliff” and really was deserted. This is more like it!

Red Cliff
Dufus recorded. "DOH!" marks the spot where dufus runs
boat aground..

Dirk Hartog Island itself has history, us West Aussies have to learn about it in school. The first European to set foot on W.A. soil was Dirk Hartog and he nailed an engraved plate to a post on Dirk Hartog Island to proclaim his arrival there back in 1616. 

Aussie’s first European document.

80 years later Willem Vlamingh found the plate (in the sand, the post had rotted), took it back to Holland and replaced it with his own, nailing it on a new post. Over a century later (around 1822) English Navigator Philip Parker King found the post and reasoned the plate was taken by natives. On his arrival back in Britain he discovered the Frenchman named De Freycinet had swiped it 3 years previous.

First instance of plate theft in West Aussie history.

King then spelt his name and date with nails hammered into the post.

First instance of graffiti and tagging in Aussie history.

On the way home, De Freycinet’s boat then shipwrecked on the Falklands (he had smuggled his wife aboard - Neptune in those days disapproved of women on ships, thus the wreck - he has reformed his attitudes since..) but the plate was rescued. It ended up in a French museum, then over the next century they lost it. After WWI they found it and presented it to Australia as a gift for services rendered in that war and it (Vlaminghs plate) is now in the Fremantle Maritime Museum.

The post is still there on the Northern end of the Island. Those plates have seen a lot of action! The Hartog plate itself is in a museum in the Netherlands. But there is a replica in the museum in Denham, Shark Bay.

Between here, the Abrolhos and Rottnest we are travelling through the earliest of European - Australian history.

Dirk Hartog's pewter plate

Hartog reported the place was barren which discouraged further investigation by the Dutch, not that would have achieved much if he said anything else. Willem Vlamingh later discovered lush green land further south (Perth’s Swan River) and raved about it. Still the Dutch weren’t interested. They were after spices to trade and I guess the Willem didn’t report any growing.

Dunes of Dirk Hartog Island

Quoin Bluff, Dirk Hartog Island

A turtle!

After a nights sleep and a breakfast of bacon & eggs, we continued next day, but winds were light, so we knew we wouldn’t get far. Chose a modest distance, two bays up was a homestead with “tourist facilities on shore”, so decided to head there.

Approach to Meade Island (resort) anchorage

Off Dirk Hartog Island Resort
Ashore at the resort

It was actually the “Dirk Hartog Island Resort” and facilities were for resort patrons only. On the way in I saw something that gave me the shivers. A sea snake popped its head above the water and looked at us. I heard they are inquisitive creatures and this is the first one I’ve ever seen. Shark Bay must be the southern extreme for them. Looks like there be no more swimming for us. Rowing the dinghy into the beach at the resort I saw another, he cocked his head to one side and seemed to wear a smile then ducked back under. Rowing the dinghy back an hour later he was in the same spot, giving us another look. Must be the resort’s pet… 

We spent the night at the anchorage and decided it was too busy here. Crowds of people. I think I counted..  8 or 9 humans!! Perth central station! The winds were still from the wrong direction, northerlies. So it was going to be a another short sail. Six hours saw us drop anchor in Louisa Bay, still on Dirk Hartog Is. Beautiful spot and looked deserted, but noticed we had company later, the far end had a campsite of 3 kayakers.

Sunset at Louisa Bay

Louisa Bay morning - batteries need topping up

In the morning this guy (about 18" long, type of puff fish), and his mate bumped around
the boat, attacked the aluminium rungs on the ladder at one point. The 19th century English survey ship captain Philip Parker King couldn't get his crew to eat them, mainly because they are inedible. Of course the French, who also heavily surveyed this region, practically lived off them (aint that typical..).

One of the kayakers

1 comment:

  1. dear susie and gary. on march 14 i sailed within 20 metres of your boat anchored in brisbane waters north of sydney. i was curious as i was familiar with the badger design having read of pete and annie hill. gary waved to me from the cabin as i glided by. imagine my surprise on comming on your web site. wishing you all the best and safety in your adventure. jack langlois,catamaran,coral coast 29"janess"