Today, we leave Mullewa and head to the city of Geraldton, the home of some impressive buildings, churches, museums and memorials. Known as either "sun city" or "windy city," it is located on the coast around 424 kms north of Perth.
Geraldton Information centre
As usual when we are visiting a new town, we find the Tourist Information centre and pick up free maps and tourist information.
The Centre is located in the historic buildings of the Bill Sewell Complex, then off to one side of the complex is the Old Gaol museum.
Geraldton's Old Gaol
This gaol was the second longest serving gaol in Western Australia. It was built in 1858 and operated until 1986. Today, all I had to pay was a gold coin donation ($1 or $2) to enter, then I walked through the alley way, peeking in the cell doors to find them occupied by craft people selling their wares. A lot were closed because it was a weekday, better to come on a weekend.
Art and Craft work included gemstones, lead lighting, crystals. crochet, woodwork, jewellery and fashion accessories, natural soy candles, metal art, designer greeting cards, paintings and much more.
Our caravan park was across the road from the beach, a little way out from the CBD. We liked it there as it was quiet, plus I liked the shared bike/pathways where I cycled in the mornings.
it was along here I came across the Moore Point Lighthouse which dates back to 1877.
The tower was a prefabricated steel tower made in England and brought to Australia in segments aboard the 'Lady Louisa,' then was bolted together on the new foundations and a light added in 1878. Painted in red and white candy stripes, the Point Moore Lighthouse really stands out! The interpretive plaque provides some interesting facts about the lighthouse, including the knowledge it is the oldest surviving Commonwealth lighthouse in Western Australia.
Moore Point Lighthouse
Another find was a large Osprey nest on the ocean side of Marine Terrace, not far away from the Lighthouse. This same nest has been used year after year.
The breeding cycle is in Spring when 1 - 4 eggs are laid over a few days. The incubation period takes between 32 - 40 days with the eggs hatching from late August to October.
They are around this area and if you look, there is a good chance of seeing them plunging into the shallow water to grab fish with their talons. This usually happens early morning or late afternoon.
As I followed the pathway towards the CBD, I came across the port of Geraldton, one of Australia's busiest regional ports and second largest for grain export. Also exported from here is iron ore, fuel, metals, mineral sands, talc, garnet and fertilisers. There is an excellent newish, landscaped viewing area from which the views of the bustling harbour were great. I spent some time watching a Ship come into the Port area and be turned completely around by the Tug Boats and finally settle against the wharf, those little Tugs did a great job and didn't take long either!
My next stop was at the Yamaji Art Emu Egg sculptures located on the foreshore..
The cast bronze shapes of emu eggs were made and then decorated with ceramic mosaic to represent the Aboriginal stories of the Emu in the Sky and the Seven Sisters being chased by Orion, the Hunter. The Aboriginal people see these different shapes and designs in the night sky.
I loved the eight Emu egg halves, so colourful and beautiful sitting in the sand on the foreshore.
Ceramic Emu Egg Sculptures
If you have been following my journey through WA, then you would remember me mentioning Father Hawes, the architect Priest. In Geraldton is St Francis Xavier Cathedral, designed by the famous Monsignor Hawes (Priest and Architect), who arrived in Geraldton as a parish priest in 1915.
I must say, I became a fan of his architecture, so I didn't want to miss seeing the Cathedral generally regarded as one of his finest works.
Francis Xavier Cathedral
The foundation stone was laid in 1916, but it took 22 years to complete as it was built in stages.
Romanesque columns, huge arches beneath an octagonal dome and zebra striping of the walls reminded me of St. Georges Church in Bluff Point, Geraldton, only that Church had nothing to do with Monsignor Hawes! The architecture is a blend of many styles.
Francis Xavier Cathedral
After viewing the church, I walked across the road to see an unusual sundial, known as the Iris Sundial.
A visit to the WA Museum was a must for me as it had plenty of information on the four major early shipwrecks located in the region - the Batavia, Gilt Dragon, Zuytdorp, and Zeewijk. Another excellent display was a more recent piece of history - the discovery of HMAS Sydney II - Australia’s greatest naval tragedy.
Entry to the Museum took us into the gift shop where there is a unique range of gifts, many in the nautical range. Souvenirs are related to the region, and there are many books on natural wonders and local history. I bought a couple of nice souvenirs here for quite a reasonable price. As it happened, I didn't find souvenirs anywhere else in Geraldton.
The museum also covers the Yamaji history and culture, and the region’s natural landscapes and marine environment. I discovered how European exploration and settlement had developed in the Mid West, the area we had just been, where agriculture, fishing, mining and science industries have been developed in this area.
The first section on display in the W.A. Museum, is the MID- WEST which is split into two sections = Natural & Social History.
In the Natural History section were displays of fossils found from the Mid West's pre-historic past. The Kangaroo standing on its hind legs looks so real, you may be surprised at just how big and tall the big male Kangaroos are when you stand beside it. No way would you want to make one angry in the wild. This was a really good display.
The Social history explored the culture of the local Yamaji people, tales of European exploration and settlers. On display were boomerangs and other hand made utensils. I found the Bush Tucker section very interesting, especially if you have never seen a Witchetty Grub before, you can see them here in the Museum. It is good to know what you can and can't eat if your ever lost in the bush, very handle for survival. We had already seen some of these plants and their fruits growing in the wild.
One of the displays is a Bristol Tourer Biplane.
In December, 1921, three planes set off on their maiden flight to deliver mail to Derby. One of the planes crashed 130kms from Geraldton, killing the pilot and mechanic. A replica plane was made to fly during the 70yr old commemorative flight in 1992, this too crashed, but this time nobody was hurt. The nearby Greenough shire acquired the plane and it was restored by the Mid West Aero Club who when completed, gave it to the W.A. Museum in Geraldton.
The Shipwrecks Gallery is another excellent permanent exhibition. Perhaps you will be like me and quite surprised to learn 1,650 boats have been ship-wrecked off the Western Australian coast - that is a lot of ships!
The gallery has on display artefacts from four local shipwrecks including clay pipes, silver coins, cannons, the original Batavia stone portico and numerous other relics, some of these artefacts had laid under the water for over 300 years, now it's here for all to see!
The most heard of and most famous shipwreck from the olden days is the "Batavia," Australia’s second oldest known shipwreck (Australia’s oldest known shipwreck is the English East India Company ship Trial lost in 1622.) In June 1629, the VOC ship Batavia was wrecked on the Houtman Abrolhos Islands off the coast of Geraldton, Western Australia. It took another 334 years before fishermen found the wreck of the Batavia.
Another shipwreck was the Zeewijk, this happened 100 years after the Batavia. It was another Dutch ship, carrying 208 men from 13 Nationalities. Its cargo was building materials, provisions for the crew and 10 chests of Gold and Silver bars, small silver and copper coins, quite a valuable cargo that went down with the ship.
You can learn about the famous Batavia mutiny and how the men on the Zeewijk survived and the unknown fate of other European shipwreck survivors stranded on Western Australian shores.
After I had finished with the Museum, I had some time to kill, so I went around the ocean side hoping to find some seating whilst waiting for my transport. My surprise was seeing the Batavia Longboat replica. This was constructed in 2002 by students of the local technical college and now is in the water beside the WA Museum.
The replica is maintained by a small group of dedicated volunteers forming the not for profit organisation, the Batavia Coast Longboat Replica Association. Public sailing is every Sunday afternoon (except the first Sunday of the month).
A really magnificent memorial that should be seen by all who come to Geraldton is on top of Mount Scott, an outstanding memorial built in memory of 645 young Australian Sailors who lost their lives when the HMAS Sydney II sank.
This Memorial really amazed me, mainly because of all the thought that had been put into the design, every little element meant something important, it is one of the best I have ever seen.
From the car-park was a pathway with two old bollards from the Port of Geraldton, which would have been used by the Sydney II on her last visit to Geraldton in 1941.
A LITTLE INFORMATION ON HMAS SYDNEY II.
When the HMAS Sydney II was built, she was the pride of the Royal Australian Navy fleet. She was named after Sydney, the capital city of New South Wales. During her time, the ship was involved in enforcing sanctions during the Abyssinian crisis, and later in 1940, was sent to help the British. She sank two Italian warships, participated in multiple shore bombardments, and still returned to Sydney with minimal damage and no casualties.
In 1941, the Sydney resumed convoy escort and patrol duties in home waters.
It was 19th of November 1941, when in the open ocean near Carnarvon, W.A. that the Sydney spotted an unidentified merchant vessel and closed on the vessel requesting identification. The ship was the HSK Kormoran, a disguised German raider, which eventually opened fire and a battle ensued from which neither ship survived.
I can remember the controversy that surrounded the Sydney, mainly because she had superior fire power, so how and why did the Sydney sink without a trace?
The Sydney's loss with all hands compared to the survival of most of the German crew fuelled the controversy, with some alleging that the German commander lured the Sydney into range. Lack of information and wartime censorship on radio broadcasts and the loss of the Sydney not being confirmed by the Prime Minister until 1 December 1941 didn't help matters .
Exactly how and why the Sydney went down with no survivors has remained a mystery.
Most of what is known to date of the battle and the Sydney's last moments was reconstructed from interrogations of the 317 Kormoran survivors, and many questions are still unanswered:
It wasn't until 16 March 2008 the wreck of the Sydney II was found. This brought relief and closure for many families, as well as the Australian Government. The discovery was made by the "Finding Sydney Foundation," which had also found the wreck of the German Raider HSK Kormoran four days earlier. The wrecks rest some 2700 metres down.
The Sydney tragedy is Australia’s largest loss of life in a naval battle.
HMAS Sydney II Memorial
On reaching the top, there is a domed structure that forms a sanctuary, this is known as the "Dome of Souls."
The Dome came about because of a true incident. In 1998. A large group of people were standing at the site waiting for the dedication of the Memorial to take place, when a large flock of Seagulls flew over as the sun was setting and the Last Post was being played. This inspired the creator of the Dome, to make a filigree of stainless steel in open weave and to include 645 Seagulls, the same number as Sailors lost at sea.
Birds are symbolic as spirits of the dead, soul freed from the body, ascent into heaven and the ability to communicate with God. They depict celestial realm and powers and oppose evil. They are symbolic of the souls of the departed, serene, of spirits flying free, so what an excellent choice for the Dome. The souls of the dead Sailors were believed to be embodied in the Sea gulls.
HMAS Sydney II Memorial
I loved the Dome, I felt peaceful, my eyes drawn to the many silver Seagulls where the light filtered between each. On a sunny day with a bright blue sky, I thought how clever it was to come up with this idea.
I didn't see it at night, but read it is lit and becomes a Dome of Gold.
The Podium is the area underneath the Dome of Souls. Once again, this has been well thought out!
As the Sailors came from all over Australia, the Podium has been composed of cut stone from all the 7 States and Territories of Australia. The design is based on the nautical compass and incorporates symbolic elements based on the Sea gull and Stele motifs.
HMAS Sydney II Memorial
On a sunny day, filtered light was flowing through and shadows of Sea Gulls were showing on the floor. These shadows are meant to represent a sense of movement, either of clouds or the flight of the Gull.
An inscription set into the black granite reads...
"IN MEMORY OF THE MEN LOST ON HMAS SYDNEY II 19TH NOVERMBER 1941.
LEST WE FORGET."
In the centre is a propeller set in bronze which is used as an Altar. It is here, wreaths are laid during ceremonial occasions. Above the Altar is the Eternal Flame which was lit in King's Park, Perth and then brought to here. Beautiful!
HMAS Sydney II Memorial
The Wall of Remembrance is the sad part, the black granite semi-circular wall made out of Western Australian black granite, which bears the names, rank and home base of the 645 men who lost their lives. Their life was cut short when they were so young.
The idea of the semi- circular wall, is for it to represent the "encircling arms of a Nation," welcoming home its lost loved ones. It is so large that is has been split in two, allowing a walkway between the two.
Composite images from actual photos have been photo engraved into the black granite. There is one of Sydney II in action and every day scenes of life aboard the ship, including a group photo of the full Ship's company. Other panels gave a detailed history of the Sydney II.
On the wall in another section is a description of every element that I saw at the Memorial.
Lastly, on the final panel are the words. "THE REST IS SILENCE" engraved into the stone.
HMAS Sydney II Memorial
THE STELE - Wow! This WAS impressive! I really liked it!
The striking shape is the prow of HMAS Sydney II. Its function is a towering symbolic grave marker, built to be imposing and one that can be seen for many miles in many directions. The mast can carry flags and insignia for the Memorial. Water depth markers based upon the actual Sydney II are set into the Prow.
HMAS Sydney II Memorial
THE WAITING WOMAN
This poignant sculpture brought back memories of how I felt when my son went away with the Australian Army as one of the first Peace Keepers in East Timor. You never know what will happen, if you will ever see them again, it is hard!
This bronze sculpture is very well done and looks quite real. I could nearly feel what she was thinking and wondering, the look on her face was tense, her gaze on the horizon.
Here she was, standing near the edge with the wind blowing her dress, her hand on her hat whilst looking over Geraldton and out to sea.
Who was she? Was she a mother waiting for her son to come home or perhaps her husband, maybe it was her father or perhaps a brother, perhaps a girlfriend of one of the Sailors, it could have been any of them.
She stands there, knowing the Ship has sunk way back in 1941, but she wants the Ship to be found, to have closure, to end the grieving process just as everybody else does to end this tragic chapter in Australian history.
Now, the Waiting Woman waits no more, instead she watches over her loved ones who are now at rest.
HMAS Sydney II Memorial
The Waiting Woman portrays well the hopelessness, the never ending waiting, the pain of loss and emptiness of the many long years before the wreck of HMAS Sydney II was found.
The Pool of Remembrance was being cleaned the day I was here.
This is the final part of the Memorial, as it was only made when the wreck of HMAS Sydney II was found.
It is designed as a circle within a circle, symbolizing the "circle of life and death," and the concept of eternity and the Infinite. It is designed to be an area where people like you and me can come and sit, reflect and contemplate.
HMAS Sydney II Memorial
The idea of this shallow pool, is to symbolize the ship resting on the sea floor in 2500 metres of deep water, the war grave of HMAS Sydney II. The floor of the pool forms a map showing the location of HMAS Sydney II. Still following the inspiration of the Sea Gulls used in earlier parts of the Memorial, engraved are images of 644 silver Gull shadows enclosing the pool and the ship. No 645 Gull stands 2 metres high and alone on the co-ordinates of the wreck site in the centre of the pool. At night, LED lighting is used to create a sombre feeling.
There are some interesting old buildings around Geraldton and heritage trail to follow.
I came across the Freemason's Hotel, built in the early 1870s in grandiose style on a block of land that cost £9 at the time, quite a lot more than the original sale, reportedly exchanged for a bottle of rum. When people arrived at the Geraldton train station, this was the first Hotel they saw, quite an advantage for the owners of the Hotel. Originally it had a tower where visitors could go and enjoy lovely views over the bay, this was removed through severe earthquake damage in 1973.
Located in the Geraldton suburb of Bluff Point is the historic St. George's Anglican Church. My first view of this Church drew me too it, perhaps because it was modelled along the lines of an old English Church and exuded a feeling of loveliness. It really isn't 'that" old, as the foundation stone was laid in 1935, and the Church was consecrated the same year. The church is built out of stone, in-fact a piece of stone on the porch wall was formerly part of a cornice on St. Georges Church in Brede, England. It is said to have come from France and is approx. 1000 years old! The Bell in the Tower was made in England.
St. George's Anglican Church
A few steps away from St. George's Church and on the Heritage Walking trail is the Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage.
Unfortunately the cottage was closed, never mind, I was able to wander around the outside and read some of the information plaques.
This rather interesting cottage was built in 1876 for the Geraldton lighthouse keeper and his family. The limestone rubble walls have been white-washed, and the roof is now corrugated iron and not shingles like when it was originally built. Out the back was a garden and the outdoor Toilet. It ceased operating as the lighthouse keeper's cottage in 1943 and is now in the hands of the Geraldton Historical Society.
Also on the Heritage Walking trail is Apex Park, the site of one of Geraldton's first cemeteries which was attached to Francis Xavier Church. All cleaned up and tastefully restored, it was here I found the headstones of Geraldton's earlier residents who died during the late 1800s and early 1900s and of some events like an outbreak of typhoid fever in the Goldfields.
The Centenary of Federation Memorial Wall has attached to it many old headstones. If you like old cemeteries and I do, then do go for a walk around here and read the old headstones. So sad the number of deaths of infants maybe 1 year old or younger.
We enjoyed Geraldton, our only complaint was the strong wind which the city frequently experiences.