The ‘Staircase to the Moon’ is a natural phenomenon caused by the rising of a full moon reflecting off the exposed mudflats in Roebuck Bay at extremely low tide, to create a beautiful optical illusion of a stairway reaching to the moon. This spectacular sight occurs from March through to November.
Located at the tip of the Burrup Peninsula, close to Karratha and Dampier, is the North West Shelf Venture (NWSV) – Australia’s first Liquid Natural Gas project. In 2014, the project celebrates 30 years of domestic gas production and 25 years of LNG cargoes to Japanese customers. The project is based on vast undersea natural gas and crude oil resources. It is currently Australia’s largest operating oil and gas development.
Collectively, six venture participants have invested in onshore and offshore oil and gas facilities totalling more than $29.5 billion. If it was built today, it would cost more than $50 billion. The project is Western Australia’s largest producer of domestic gas – providing about 65 percent of the State’s total production. It also accounts for more than 40 percent of Australia’s oil and gas production and is a major producer of liquefied natural gas, natural gas, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), condensate and crude oil. The North West Shelf is currently the 6th largest LNG producer in the world.
One of Dampier’s main claims to fame is as the home of the famous Red Dog Statue. Red Dog (c. 1971 – 21 November 1979) was a Kelpie/cattle dog cross that was well known for his travels through Western Australia’s Pilbara region, most often visiting Dampier. Red Dog is believed to have been born in the town of Paraburdoo in 1971 and had a variety of names to those who knew him, including: Bluey, Tally Ho, and Dog of the Northwest. Tally Ho was his first name, given to him by a man called Col Cummings, who is believed to have been his first owner and the one who brought him to Dampier. The nickname “Red Dog” has been attributed to the red dirt of the Pilbara Region. His second owner was John Stazzonelli, a bus/truck driver with Hamersley Iron, whose work allowed Red to travel as far as Perth, Broome, Roebourne, Point Samson and Port Hedland.
Following Stazzonelli’s death in 1975, Red spent a lot of time travelling on his own. He was also taken in by many members of the community and a veterinarian who treated him. Red was made a member of the Dampier Salts Sport and Social Club and the Transport Workers’ Union. He was also given a bank account with the Bank of New South Wales, which is said to have used him as a mascot and sales tool with the slogan “If Red banks at the Wales, then you can too.”. Although he had many friends, it is believed that his death in 1979 was caused by deliberate strychnine poisoning. Red is buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in Roebourne, Western Australia.
Karratha is a city in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, adjoining the port of Dampier. It was established in 1968 to accommodate the processing and exportation workforce of the Hamersley Ironmining company and, in the 1980s, the petroleum and liquefied natural gas operations of the North West Shelf Venture. The city’s name comes from the cattle station of the same name, which derives from a word in a local Aboriginal language meaning “good country” or “soft earth”.
Karratha serves us as a good base camp to visit the local attractions, including the ‘Staircase To The Moon’, the North West Gas project and Dampier, home to the infamous ‘Red Dog’. (More details on these to follow.)
We had a round of golf at the picturesque Karratha Golf Course with its sand greens – well worth the visit.
Port Hedland is the second largest town in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. It is also the site of the highest tonnage port in Australia, with its natural deep anchorage harbour which, as well as being the main fuel and container receiving point for the region, was seen as perfect for shipment of the iron ore being mined in the ranges located inland from the town. The ore is moved by railway from four major iron ore deposits to the east and south of the Port Hedland area. The port exported 519,408,000 tonnes of iron ore in 2017/2018.
Other major resource activities supported by the town include the offshore natural gas fields, salt, manganese, and livestock. Grazing of cattle and sheep was formerly a major revenue earner for the region, but this has slowly declined. Port Hedland was also formerly the terminus for the WAGR Marble Bar Railway, which serviced the gold mining area of Marble Bar from July 1911 until closure on 31 October 1951.
Located between Port Hedland and South Hedland are the large salt hills of Dampier Salt, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto. These large mounds have almost become a tourist attraction in their own right.
The Cape Keraudren Coastal Reserve is located on the coast 179 Kms north of Port Hedland. It is a low-key recreational area where disturbance to the environment has been kept to a minimum. It lies on a picturesque white-sand beach that stretches as far as the eye can see. The clear blue water is a spectacular welcome to the start of the famous Eighty Mile Beach.
This place was one of the highlights of our last trip to WA. Whilst still beautiful, it has become more popular and, unfortunately, the weather and the tides were against us this time so no major fishing successes.
A return to this iconic beach which lies along the north-west coast of Western Australia about half-way between the towns of Broome and Port Hedland. It is a beach some 220 Kms (140 mi) in length, forming the coastline where the Great Sandy Desert approaches the Indian Ocean. It is one of the most important sites for migratory shorebirds, or waders, in Australia.
We found a new pastime here – it is called rod holding – the idea is to cast a line in the ocean and see who can hold the rod the longest without having a fish go anywhere near your bait. Most people were excellent at this – my record was 3 hours 42 minutes.