Pulling back the curtains of our Geraldton hotel room this morning revealed a large freight ship coming in to the dock just a short distance away. It was another sunny day, perfect for a bit of a stroll around the town after breakfast.
Later in the morning we drove up to the HMAS Sydney II Memorial, situated atop Mount Scott, one of the highest points in Geraldton. The memorial was constructed in memory of the 645 Australian servicemen and civilians who lost their lives when the ship was sunk, about 200km west of Shark Bay off the Western Australian coast, during an engagement with a German raider, Kormoran, in November 1941.
The memorial has five features. The Dome of Souls, centrepiece of the memorial, features 645 silver gulls which symbolise the freed spirits of the lost sailors ascending towards heaven. The Wall of Remembrance bears the names of the deceased and is semi-circular to represent the embracing arms of a nation grateful for their sacrifice. The tall stele takes the form of the ship’s prow. It is based on the concept of Standing Stones, which were often used as grave markers in the ancient world. The Waiting Woman statue symbolises the grieving woman, looking out to sea, waiting for her man to return. In 2008, 67 years after it went missing, the wreck of HMAS Sydney II was discovered and, as it happened, the Waiting Woman was staring in the exact direction of the ship. Since that time, she no longer waits – instead she keeps watch over the lost souls of the ship’s crew. Following the discovery of the ship 2500 metres deep on the ocean floor, the fifth feature was added to the memorial – the Pool of Remembrance, which features a map of the WA coastline. The wingtip of a silver gull marks the resting place of the ship and the other 644 silver gulls encircle the pool. The memorial is surrounded by beautiful gardens featuring rosemary for remembrance and lantana for the green and gold colours that represent our nation.
Looking at the map, it seemed that the best place to stop for lunch would be a small town called Northampton, about 50km to the north. We pulled up outside the pub, thinking a good counter lunch would be perfect. Outside the pub were life size cutouts of former Northampton footballers who had gone on to make a name for themselves in the AFL – a rather impressive lineup, including Carlton skipper Patrick Cripps, Eagles goalkicker Josh Kennedy and Magpie legend Tarkyn Lockyer. When we entered the pub, the barman told us there wouldn’t be any meals served because everyone in town was at the local footy match. We asked if there was anywhere we could get a feed. He told us it was impossible to get staff, but that the Liberty service station restaurant would be our only option. Thankfully they were open and had a few items of food on sale, so that’s where we ate. Speaking to a few of the locals we discovered that some of the food places lost their roofs to a cyclone in April last year and were still waiting to re-open. We saw a few houses there still waiting to be repaired. And more recently there’s been a mouse plague. And on Christmas Day, the temperature hit 52 degrees. It seems like Northampton’s had a pretty rough time lately. We left town and headed on through fairly dry farming country.
Our next stop was at the Hutt Lagoon near Point Gregory. There’s a certain kind of algae in the water that makes the lake appear to be pink. We stopped for a while at the lookout, feeling a little bemused by it all. I can’t really give any further insight into why the lagoon is pink, so I’ll just post a couple of photos and leave you to figure it out.
We spent much of the afternoon pulling off the road to visit vantage points from where we could view coastal cliffs and landforms along the Indian Ocean coastline just south of Kalbarri. Some places were quite reminiscent of sections of the Great Ocean Road. Marg spotted the distinctive spray of water from a whale not too far out from shore. We watched for a while and saw the water spout quite a few more times from a number different lookouts – the whale (or maybe it was whales) was moving north and we were able to follow its progress over a period of about twenty minutes. When it surfaced, it appeared to be a humpack, which apparently can be seen migrating north around here in May and early June. I managed to get one photo – I’ve enlarged a part of it so the whale is more easily visible on this blog.
We arrived at our destination, Kalbarri, just after 5pm. We soon discovered that even though this was a popular tourist town and this was a public holiday weekend, there were also very few places here where we could get a meal. Once again, the devastation wrought by last year’s cyclone was largely to blame, but also a lack of available hospitality staff made it impossible for many restaurants to open. The tavern near our accommodation was still serving food, however, so we headed down there early and got an outside table, from where we had a good view of the sun going down. We’ll be at Kalbarri for a couple of nights. Tomorrow we’re planning to do some walking in the nearby national park.
Love that you saw a whale. Hope you get to see some more xx
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ah the June long weekend in the west! a few years ago i took my boys across on this very weekend. i had learned that still with us at the time was the last remaining member of dad’s unit (2/7 fild amb). happily, Hal was prepared to meet us, so the boys could get some sense of their grandfather’s wartime experiences. they saw the depth of his emotional reaction as he spoke of tending his first dying comrade, something their grandfather also no doubt endured. then time as POW’s. all very interesting, powerful and insightful. the meeting remembrances endure, so too that Perth was dead. getting a breakfast in a cafe on a long-weekend was near impossible and we walked kilometres to do so. this was well before covid. i don’t buy the staffing issue – the west just goes to ground on a long weekend!
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That’s pretty special, Garth, meeting a member of your Dad’s unit, especially with your boys. Those stories need to be passed down through the family. There’s another issue going on here in WA. The cyclone last year did major damage to lots of small businesses. Many were not insured. It’s taking them some time to get back on their feet. Anyhow, we’ve learned to plan ahead and buy food when it’s available, and book restaurants well ahead of time because even after the long weekend there are places that aren’t open.
Psychedelically enhanced Hutt lagoon.
Must have been a sight to behold.
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