Carnarvon lies at the mouth of the Gascoyne River which only flows for an average of 6 weeks per year. It is positioned between Shark Bay to the south and Ningaloo Reef to the north. The area is one of the largest market gardening areas in WA. Unfortunately we were a little early in the year for most of the locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables. But we did sample some of the local seafood which was very fresh.
We visit the Carnarvon Space Tracking Station which was built to support NASA’s Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs. It was commissioned in 1964 and operated for 11 years. It was the last station to communicate with the space capsules leaving the earth orbit, and the first to make contact before splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. At the height of the operation it had a staff of 220 people.
One of our objectives this trip is to see as many of the famous Western Australia wildflowers as we can. Even though the season has not really got under way yet, Point Quobba gave us a taste of what is hopefully to come.
Point Quobba is 75 Kms north of Carnarvon on the west coast of WA. It is well known for the impressive blow holes which seem to be active all the time as the wind and waves are constantly battering the coast. No longer is the Ningaloo Reef in the way to temper the effect of the waves. This is the area where the wreck of the HMAS Sydney was found. The ship was sunk by a German raider in 1941 with the total loss of its complete crew of 645.
Exmouth is a town on the tip of the North West Cape in Western Australia. The town was established in 1967 to support the nearby United States Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt. Beginning in the late 1970’s, the town began hosting U.S. Air Force personnel assigned to Learmonth Solar Observatory, a defence science facility jointly operated with Australia’s Ionospheric Prediction Service. Nowadays the town relies more on tourism than the station for its existence. On 22 March 1999, Tropical Cyclone Vance reached category 5 status as it made landfall near Exmouth. This resulted in the highest ever wind gust reported on the Australian mainland of 267 km/h at Learmonth, only 35 km to the south.
Coral Bay is positioned towards the southern end of Ningaloo Reef. It is famous for its pristine beaches, sparkling blue waters and fish feeding at the beach. The main industries are tourism and fishing. The electricity for the town is provided by a wind-diesel hybrid system. Coral Bay was formally settled in 1968 and was named after a hotel that had been established in the area.