1 correction by anonymous - Show corrections
Its Claims to Importance
(By P. U. H.)
WHEN the coasting steamer turns around Cape Inscription, at the north end of Dirck Hartog Island, to make for Carnarvon, vou enter historic waters, so
far as Western Australia has an historic past. There are not many Dutch names on our coast to mark the frequent visits of that enterprising people in the seven teenth century, but at once you meet three of them, in three of the islands which guard the bay, Dirck Hartog, Dorre and Koks, and another in Edel, the name of the district on the mainland just south of the bay. It was more than three hundred years ago that Dirck Hartog sailed Into the bay and anchored oS the north end of his island, and 'Dirck Hartog Roads'- figure in Dutch charts as early as 1630. Dirck Hartog may have been followed by Abel Tasman in 1644, though we have no account of that ex ploration of our western coast which we believe he made. Certainly the English man Dampier was here in 1699, and gave it the name of Shark Bay, from . the number of those fish which he saw there, fish which his sailors ate 'savourily.' In the eighteenth century Captain St. Allouarn touched at Cape Peron, but did no exploration. His countrymen who came out under Baudin in the Geographe and Naturaliste (1800-1802) spent much time here and made a careful chart of its waters and much of its coast line. Hence the number of French names which figure on the map, Peron's account of that : voyage 'has inuch 'to say about It. First he expresses -surprise that Dampier, usually so 'accurate' an observer, should have given, tiie name of 'bay' to what is an extensive. series. of gulfs, harbours, es tuaries, -etc.- Like Dampier, he was astonished' at the number of fish that swarmed In 'Its waters, and expresses the opinion that this must surely be the fishiest place In the world. (Nul pays au monde n'eet peut-etre aussl poissoneux que le grande bale de Chiens-Marins) Otherwise they were not Impressed with the appearance of the country on its shores. They were definitely scared by the few natives whom they met, and they exhaust their vocabulary of words to de scribe the barrenness of the land, and the dangerous character of the reefs and rock-bound coast outside. When Captain P. P. King was making his careful exam ination of the coast (1820-1824) on those voyages in which he was assisted by Lieutenant J. S. Roe, afterwards (post et propter hoc) our first SurveyorGene ral* he deliberately passed by Shark Bay, because the French had done the work here so systematically. Captain George Grey was the next Englishman to ex plore the.neighbourhood (1837-1839), and he was concerned with the country Inland rather than with the coast line. Point Greenough, Babbage Island, Gascoyne River are names which he left behind to recall his visit. He met with storms and badjuck in the bay, for he had only smill boate to get about in. The provisions which' he buried on the shore of Bernler Island on his arrival, he found destroyed or scattered by storms on his return from exploring the Gascoyne River. He crept out of the bay by the south-west passage, round Steep Point, only to be wrecked ?nd lose his boats on the shores of Gan theaume Bay. . . Carnarvon. Carnarvon ought some day to be a con siderable port It is at the mouth of the Gascoyne River, and the Gascoyne is an, imposing stream— when it Is in flood, which may happen about once a year.- Like. so many of our West Aus tralian rivers, it collects the rainfall of a vast stretch of country with few outstanding geographical features, such. as mountains or lakes, so that when the rain falls it makes its' way over; the fiat country into the shallow and almost im perceptible river-bed, floods large areas, and, near the coast, where it has eaten out a more definite channel, rises, it may be, 16 feet in a night, and rushes out to sea. In the course of ages it has prob ably thrown up Babbage Island, and now finds its way through two channels, not too, clearly defined when the river itself is not in action. If Carnarvon ever does acquire sufficient importance to justify it, the river will have to be taken in hand and made to flow into channels where its waters may be put to best use. But in the, course of ages that river has left, a large' area of alluvial flats whose soil, with the aid of copious' supplies of water conserved below, is proving capable of producing tropical, fruits in rich abund ance and variety, and Carnarvon today is hoping for prosperity from the develop ment, of that industry. Otherwise it exists as the natural outlet for the wool xaised in the Gascoyne-Minilya district. It was hoped that meat might also be ex ported, but a meat works, erected on Babbage Island, stands today unused and falling into decay. Its promoters were either before their time or misjudged their opportunities. As a town we can see that Carnarvon might be made at tractive along its sea front; but it lies between the desolation of the common age .and the depressing flat of Babbage Island, over which only the masts of. visiting steamers are visible. For busi ness purposes, or to enjoy the excite ment of, the steamers' visits, you take a toy, tramway, across the river for some two miles. About this the best that can be said is that the fares discriminate be tween male and female passengers, so that the latter can travel much more cheaply than the former. Carnarvon has two other features, of which you soon be come aware. First, there is always a fresh breeze, which keeps the tempera ture down on a warm day; but, secondly, as against this, there is the fine dust thrown about in clouds from those allu vial flats along the river— a source of wealth in its proper place, but of drouth and discomfort when it finds its way into your mouth and eyes. But let us give Carnarvon its due. It is the only town for hundreds of miles where you meet with any of the amenities of civili sation, where you come back into touch with the life of the outside world and can learn what Perth is thinking or what Mussolini is doing; and its people have that warm-hearted welcome for visitors which characterises men long cut off from the society of large cities. Besides, it Is the metropolis of Shark Bay, and its praises have lately been sung by two writers. Sir John Kirwan and the author of 'Cobbers.' Peron Peninsula. Peron Peninsula, one of three which push, themselves up northwards from the mainland, cuts Henri Freycinet Harbour off from Hamelin Pool by Taillef er Isth mus. Its northernmost point was called Cape Peron by King, In 1822, but It had an, earlier name, of which King was probably Ignorant, Point des Hauts
Fonds, given it by Captain St. Allouarn on his visit in 1778, the only place-name which he bestowed on our coast. Off Cape Peron are Dampier's Roads, a fitting me morial of that doughty seaman's visit. Eagle Bluff, on the western side of the Peninsula, is a name which has appar ently supplanted the French 'Point Mo reau,' a second injustice to Ensign Moreau, for the Canning River mouth was named Entrance Moreau, and that name disappeared when the Canning was discovered to be a river, and not, as the French thought, an entrance to or from the sea. Further down the east side of the Peninsula is Cape Rose, which commemorates the voyage of the Uranie (1817-1820) under M. Louis de Freycinet, who was accompanied by his wife. Rose de Freycinet That lady, in her diary of the voyage (only published in 1927), complains of the hardships experienced, especially from want of water, but found some consolation in the excellent oysters of the district, 'better than all those eaten in France.' . Denham. If you book your passage by steamer to 'Shark Bay' you will be landed at Den ham: and how many have ever heard of Denham? You might find it hard to dis cover on the map. But it has an im portance of its own. Look for it on the western side of Peron Peninsula, a few, tin houses set on the slopes of a curving coast. It has a staple industry, which no doubt accounts for its existence. Walk along what may some day be called 'The Promenade,' and you will find that in iustry being carried, on under your very nose and perceived most acutely by that particular organ. For off shore here lie banks of oysters, not the succulent va riety, small but sweet to the taste, be loved of epicures, but such as yield a small but precious pearl;- and , it seems necessary in order to secure these In per' fection to allow the oyster to disintegrate it its leisure, with results that can be better imagined than described, though the scent leaves nothing to the imagina tion. Denham is the headquarters: of the Shark Bay Road Board, which happened bo be holding Its monthly meeting on the night of our arrival, and prolonged its discussions till after midnight. There must be much to discuss, and some of the members have to; travel 60 or 70 miles over Shark Bay roads to get there, and it might be said with some appearance of truth that there are no roads in Shark Bay. But this would be unfair to those miles of wire netting pegged down In double strips where the soft soil on the undulating country makes travelling im possible at times for motor cars. Were there ever such quaint highways? We were reminded of the Importance of Den ham by the arrival of the monthly steamer. True, she kept at a respectable distance from the shore, but one or two lighters hoisted their sails and made, off to welcome her, with bales of wool from neighbouring stations, coming back with a few tons, of cargo. . There are various ways of shipping wool in these parts. The most primitive is to put it into dingheys oh the beach, from these transfer to a lighter further out, and so to a passing steamer when it arrives. There Is a fine view of Shark Bay from the top of the hill above Denham. Lighters and lug gers in the foreground, out in the blue water, just beyond the white that marks the shallows hi shore. Cape Heuisson is in the middle distance; and beyond that stretches the vague outline of Dirck Hartog Island, that long,, strong, ram part which keeps the turbulent waters of the Indian Ocean from disturbing the peaceful quiet of this placid bay. Be hind Dirck Hartog the sun sets- glori ously in a. cloudless sky. Some day Den ham may become— not a fashionable watering-place— but a most picturesque little centre from which -fishing jen. tbusiasts might enjoy the alluring oppor tunities of Shark Bay. . At present the Iron 'houses' are in various stages of de cay; but if these were replaced by com fortable little cottages of shell-blocks, set back from the sea front on the slopes of the hill, in allotments studded with palms, which already grow there luxuri antly, it would be a place to attract visi tors who were in search of absolute rest and quiet and gentle occupation. . - - -i- . Hamelin Pool; There is something restful about the word- 'pool' quite hi keeping with the place. The French called it Hamelin Harbour; but that word conjures , up visions of wharves and docks and liners and tramps, of engines whistling and bustling up and down lines of rail, of busy workers and idle watchers. There are none of these here. ' It is just a quiet pool of water, in the south-east corner of Shark Bay, bounded, by the eastern side of Peron Peninsula1 and the coast of the mainland. True it boasts of a port, if Gladstone, which, is no more than a jetty and a name on the map, can be called one. Here lighters take off station wool for shipment at Denham, and here an odd fishing boat may land a cargo for the goldfields, if some enterprising enthusiast may think it, and find It, worth his while to embark on such a spe culative undertaking. The shore of Hame lin Pool has one remarkable feature. Where one looks for sandy beaches, here one finds beaches all of small white water-worn shells, mostly a tiny bivalve. If ever the lady existed, of whom it is said 'She sells sea shells' (say this quickly and frequently) it must have been here that she lived and set up in business. For the supply seems endless. In places the shells have become solidified Into masses, which can easily be sawn into blocks. These have supplied material for building homesteads in the neighbour hood, and very picturesque and suitable material It makes. When Captain Stirling wrote his report on the country, after his visit In H.M.S. Success (April, 1827), he discusses the difficulty of finding safe anchorages on the west coast of Australia, and says that this had been looked on as an Insur mountable objection to its being settled. He mentions Shark Bay, but puts It aside as being too far north for general settle ment. Certainly in choosing the Swan River he fixed the capital In a latitude which is common to many of the chief cities of the southern hemisphere— Syd- ney, Cape Town, Buenos Aires, Valparaiso. But if ever the northern portion of Western 'Australia becomes more thickly populated and more highly developed, the claims of a port in Shark Bay to be the chief centre of its commercial life will have to be considered. For it has many advantages both as to climate, position and geographical features, which, with wise development, would seem to make it most suitable. Such a contingency may not arise in our days, but it is worth' while to keep it in mind.