The wildflower collection in Western Australia is the largest on Earth. With more than 12,000 species, over 60% of which are found nowhere else on Earth, they colour the landscapes from coast to forest and city to outback. The six-month flowering season begins in the north in June and July on the vast outback plains of the Pilbara, Goldfields and Coral Coast.
The photographs speak for themselves.
Sorry for this lengthy post but we found this Memorial absolutely fascinating and wanted to share the details of the memorial to the HMAS Sydney II lost off this coast in World War II.
This memorial was recently voted the top tourist attraction in Western Australia. It is located on Mount Scott, overlooking Geraldton and the Indian Ocean. The same ocean where HMAS Sydney II fought its last battle and was sunk with the loss of all 645 men. The original memorial contained four separate elements and since the discovery of the HMAS Sydney II on 17th March 2008, a fifth and final element has been completed. Each element has its own story.
The Wall of Remembrance encompassing the south-west side is a semi-circular wall, faced with Western Australian Black Granite, engraved with the names of the 645 men lost. This represents the ‘encircling Arms of the Nation’ welcoming home it’s lost loved ones. The exterior face of the wall is sculpted with a low relief motif emblematic of the eternal sea. At the Entrance Portal, historic photographic images of HMAS Sydney II, bring to life the reality of the tragedy.
The Dome of Souls, a stainless steel dome is comprised of 645 seagulls representing each of the 645 lost sailors. The concept was inspired by the incident, when a flock of silver Gulls swooped over the assembled crowd, during the Memorial Site Dedication Ceremony, 19th November 1998, while the Last Post rang out in the evening air, at sunset, the last recorded moment in time when HMAS Sydney was seen. Traditionally, the seagull personified the souls of lost sailors and in this context these elemental symbols form a link with the men of HMAS Sydney II, as spirits flying free between water and sky. The canopy thus formed, becomes an open filigree stainless steel structure, redolent of the sound of sea and wind creating a sense of disembodiment and peace, as a graceful distillation of the overall concept. The eternal flame, set in port and starboard lights within the Dome of Souls, was lit on November 19, 2001, 60 years after the sinking of the HMAS Sydney II off the Geraldton coast. The flame was lit from the “Eternal Flame” at the War Memorial in King’s Park.
The Stele – based on the historical symbolism of Standing Stones as grave makers, this vertical element in stainless steel, represents the prow of HMAS Sydney II, metaphorically in a single dramatic gesture, while providing a major focal point visible from many miles around. A spectacular component of the memorial, best enjoyed as you look upwards from a close distance. Interestingly, after the wreck was located, it was found that the Sydney sank with its prow actually separated, caused by the explosion of a torpedo.
The Waiting Woman – this sculpture represents the anxious mothers and relatives looking for the return of their sons serving on the HMAS Sydney II. A powerful picture of the bonds of love strained from the uncertainty of their fate, hoping against all odds that they will appear over the horizon. Again a fascinating fact – the sculpture was erected quite some time before the Sydney wreck was located but the sculpture is found to be looking directly towards the wreck location.
The Pool Of Remembrance, the fifth and final element, was added following the discovery of the wreck. The final concept is a simple, recessed pool, approached by circular terracing symbolically descending ‘down’ into the depths, as it were, evocative of the war grave where the ship now silently rests on the sea floor, 120 nautical miles off Steep Point. The floor of the pool is a map, 5 meters across, showing the location of HMAS Sydney II, embedded in coloured granite. A 2 meter high Stainless Steel gull is fixed to the exact spot where the Sydney lies, with the co-ordinates radiating out from this, both on the exact bearing towards the wreck site. 26 14 45 S – 111 12 55 E. A circular waterfall pouring out from under the bottom terrace dramatically reinforces the concept of ‘going down into the depths’ Inspired by the shadow pattern of the gulls under the Dome of Souls, the lowest step is formed in polished black granite into which is engraved images of 644 Silver Gull shadows, circling the pool and the ship. The 2 meter high vertical Silver Gull is Number 645.
Geraldton is the second largest city in Western Australia and a pleasant place to stay for a few days to rest up from the constant travelling. On the way we visit Port Gregory, a tiny coastal village and its famous Pink Lake. The Pink Lake (official name Hutt Lagoon) is a salt lake with a pink hue caused by the presence of a carotenoid producing algae which is a source of beta-carotene, a food colouring agent and source of Vitamin A. The lagoon contains the world’s largest microalgae production plant.
We still haven’t hit the ‘Wildflower Way’ yet but there are plenty of them around !
Undoubtedly, this has to be one of the top 10 must see’s in natural Australia. This iconic attraction is a wind-eroded opening in the layered sandstone which perfectly frames the rugged upstream view of the Murchison River.
Close by is the Z Bend Lookout, suitably named after the tight bends the Murchison River has carved into the local Tumblagooda Sandstone. Can you spot the rock climbers ?
Next highlight – Kalbarri National Park. We stay in the nearby coastal town of Kalbarri itself which is yet another seaside oasis with a small town feeling. The National Park is really something special with the highlight being ‘Nature’s Window’ (see separate blog entry). This is a rock formation which beautifully frames the rugged upstream view of the Murchison River – outstanding.
Kalbarri is a part of the traditional lands of the Nanda people. The story of the Beemarra serpent is the central dreaming story of Nanda people. The Beemarra is, according to Nanda culture, an ancestral being responsible for the creation of the land and waters in the region. Kalbarri was named after an Aboriginal man from the Nanda tribe and is also the name of an edible seed. The first European people to visit the area were the crew of the trading ship Batavia, who put two mutinous crew members ashore near Bluff Point just south of the town.
There’s something about dolphins in the wild ….. Monkey Mia is a 25 km northeast of the town of Denham in the Shark Bay Marine Park and World Heritage Site. The main attraction are the bottlenose dolphins that have been coming close to shore for more than fifty years. Rangers from the Department of Parks and Wildlife (Western Australia) carefully supervise the Monkey Mia Dolphin Experience.
Eagle Bluff features a spectacularly high cliff that overlooks the Denham Sound and is located 18-20 km south from Denham. The boardwalk provides breathtaking views out across the water. Take a look at the amazingly lifelike Elephant Rock.
Denham is on the western coast of the Peron Peninsula 831 Kms (516 mi) north of Perth. It is the westernmost town in Australia, and is named in honour of Captain Henry Mangles Denham of the Royal Navy, who charted Shark Bay in 1858. Today Denham survives as the gateway for the tourists who come to see the dolphins at Monkey Mia. The Denham region was the second area of the Australian mainland discovered by European sailors, after the western coast of Cape York Peninsula.
Shell Beach is just 45 Kms south east of Denham. The beach is covered with shells for a 60 km (37 mi) stretch to a depth of 7–10 m (23–33 ft). It is one of only two beaches in the world made entirely from shells (the other is Sanibel Island in Florida). The shells have formed a limestone that is known as coquina. Before Shark Bay became a World Heritage Site, the coquina was mined and used for the construction of a number of buildings in Denham.