Where Two Oceans Meet




Follow us on Facebook!

How many oceans are there and can you name them? Most people can come up with three – the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. They are, in fact, the largest. But there are two more – the Arctic Ocean and the Southern Ocean.

The Southern Ocean is sometimes called the Antarctic Ocean. It is so-called because it blankets the southern hemisphere, encircling the continent of Antarctic. The boundaries, however, have shifted over time.

The_shrinking_Southern_Ocean
By Cruickshanks (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The first map published by the International Hydrographic Association in 1928 had the northern boundaries touch Cape Horn, the southern end of Africa and the entire southern portion of Australia. That’s the area marked as the Great Australian Bight on the map. Since then the boundaries have been progressively moved south. Australia, however, still considers the body of water to their immediate south as the Southern Ocean.

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse

In any event, the last place we visited on our Margaret River road trip in March 2016 was to the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse near Augusta. This hstorical beacon was opened in 1985. Today it is a fully automated lighthouse. While the tower itself is closed to the public, the grounds are not. For a nominal fee you can get headphones for a guided audio tour.

The colorful history of the site is related on the audio tour as well as on signs along the way. The numerous outbuildings are explained. They include the lighthouse keeper’s cottage.

IMG_5284-r
The lighthouse keeper’s cottage. Now just a relic as the lighthouse is fully automated.

But what is of particular interest is that Cape Leeuwin is the most south-westerly point in Australia. It marks the point where the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean meet. Like the folks who denounced the deplanetification of Pluto, the Australians will tell those who deny the Southern Ocean borders their country, “Bight me!”

IMG_5289-r

Although you can walk around the lighthouse, you cannot go up the tower. But there are walkways all around.  And signage describes the history and the landmarks to note.

IMG_5299-r
Two oceans meet. That’s no ocean, you say? Bight me!

We took the steps down to the rocks below. Access is blocked but it is easy to get through the fence. The wind and the waves are a beautiful sight.

Looking out at the junction of two oceans
Looking out at the junction of two oceans

On our walk back we once more passed an interesting piece of pop art – a cow with a telescope. It’s called Moorine Marauder. A nearby sign tells the story: From March to June 2010, 85 cows were positioned across the Margaret River Region as part of the world’s largest public art event “Cow Parade”. In July 2010 the cows were auctioned off with the proceeds going to regional beneficiaries and charities.

Moorine Marauder
Moorine Marauder

Similar pop art festivals have been held in Vancouver and other cities. Of the 85 cows, a great many ended up in the town of….. Cowaramup, of course. Pictures will show up in a future post.

And always with an eye out for the weird and whacky, it seems their were some hippy wannabes visiting the lighthouse. At least if their van is anything to go by!

The Dope Fiend Van. Note the good advice on the back panel.
The Dope Fiends Van. Note the good advice on the back panel. A company called Wicked Campers rents out these colorful vehicles.

The lighthouse marked the end of our road trip we headed back to our rented house for the night and back to Perth in the morning. But we encountered one more interesting sight on the drive back. Tree huggers! Literally! We were driving through a heavily forested area and came across several dozen people standing in the woods hugging trees.

A bunch of tree huggers! Literally!
A bunch of tree huggers! Literally! Note the two at the far right.
Cutaway close-up of two tree huggers from the earlier photo.
Cutaway close-up of two tree huggers from the earlier photo.

We didn’t stop to chat, just snapped a couple of quick pics as we passed, so I don’t know what this was all about. There was a parking lot with some cars and a bus. A school outing perhaps? Some eccentric back-to-nature group? We don’t know.

We’ll close off with a few more photos. We enjoyed the drive out to Augusta. It’s only about 50 kilometres from the town of Margaret River but much of it is windy road. And there are other stops along the way. On the way out we stopped for lunch at a berry farm that sells home-made jams. More on that with pics in a later post.

Looking up at the lighthouse
Looking up at the lighthouse
A spectacular and rare two ocean view
A spectacular and rare two ocean view
Another view of two oceans
Another view of two oceans
Looking back at the lighthouse from the rocky shore
Looking back at the lighthouse from the rocky shore
A plaque commemorating early Dutch explorers to the region
A plaque commemorating early Dutch explorers to the region
A last look at the forest full of tree huggers though only a few are visible here
A last look at the forest full of tree huggers though only a few are visible here

Follow us on Facebook!

Perth’s Kings Park




Follow us on Facebook!

Kings Park is a fabulous urban park sitting on the western edge of the Central Business District of Perth, Australia on Mount Eliza. It’s just a short walk from downtown but there is also lots of parking.

It’s a large park comprising 4.06 square kilometres or 1003 acres. Like Vancouver’s Stanley Park which is about the same size, it is a multiple use park with much of it wilderness. The lower area features a large children’s park which includes many replicas of Australian dinosaurs. We entered the park near here which borders on the university district.

The Synergy Parkland is a children's park in the lower area of Kings Park.
The Synergy Parkland is a children’s park in the lower area of Kings Park.

This area has a lake and a children’s playground as well as the dinosaurs. It is a popular destination for school outings as well as for families. Large signs describe these giant beasts.

This big fellow is a
This big fellow is a muttaburrasaurus,a plant eating dinosaur indigenous to Australia. It measured 26 feet long and weighed around three tons.

A network of roadways connects the various parts of the park and along the roads are eucalyptus trees planted to commemorate Australia’s fallen warriors. A plaque marks each tree with the name and details of one of these soldiers. Over 1600 of these plaques honor the war dead.

Roads through the park are lined with eucalyptus trees and plaques honoring fallen soldiers.
Roads through the park are lined with eucalyptus trees and plaques honoring fallen soldiers.
A couple of newly planted trees with their plaques. There are over 1600 of them along the Honor Avenues of the park.
A couple of newly planted trees with their plaques. There are over 1600 of them along the Honor Avenues of the park.

The upper part of the park stands on cliffs overlooking the Swan River and command a panoramic view of the city. There are restaurants and a convention center as well as spacious lawns and a war memorial.

The upper plaza of Kings Park commands an excellent view of the city.
The upper plaza of Kings Park commands an excellent view of the city.

The upper part of the park also is the entrance to the Western Australian Botanic Garden. This is an 18 hectare area within the park which features over 2000 species of Western Australian plant life as well as species from the rest of Australia.

A path through the botanic garden.
A path through the botanic garden.

Signs throughout the garden explain the flora on display as well as some of the history of Western Australia. Along the trail you pass under a high footbridge. On the return route you can take this bridge to get another excellent view of the Swan Valley.

The footbridge.
The footbridge.

Australian brushland is subject to periodic brush fires. There was a severe brush fire that affected a huge swath between Perth and Margaret River in January of 2016. It wiped out one small ton completely. And we encountered another brush fire when we visited Lancelin.  Kings Park has also had brush fires over the years and many of the trees and shrubs in the botanic garden showed the effects of fire and the resilience of the plant life.

Burnt tree in the botanic garden.
Burnt tree in the botanic garden. These dead specimens are kept as part of the exhibit as new vegetation grows around them.

When we reached the end of the trail, we took an unpaved path back. It was narrow and a more adventurous as well as pristine route.

The dirt path we took back.
The dirt path we took back.

This led us back eventually to the footbridge, formally known as the Lotterywest Federation Walkway.

The Lotterywest Federation Walkway - a footbridge that takes you high above the bottanical garden.
The Lotterywest Federation Walkway – a footbridge that takes you high above the botanical garden.

From the footbridge you get a superb view of the Swan Valley in all directions as well as a great view of the old historic Swan Brewery building below the cliffs. Originally built in 1838 as a sawmill, it was acquired by the brewery in 1877. It was redeveloped in the 1990s and reopened in 2001 as a multi-use facility that preserved the historic character of the building while housing restaurants and office space as well as 28 luxury apartments.

The old Swan Brewery complex with the city in the background.
The old Swan Brewery complex with the city in the background.

Among the plants on display is a magnificent old boab tree. This tree is noted for its very wide trunk.

A magnificent specimen of a boab tree.
A magnificent specimen of a boab tree note for its wide trunk.

Kings Park is a jewel in Perth’s landscape, one of the great urban parks in the world. Below are links to two additional photo galleries and other links of interest. If you are on the front page, just scroll on through for the photo galleries.

Follow us on Facebook!

Photo Gallery: Kings Park 1




Follow us on Facebook!

Here are some additional photos of Kings Park.

Thunderbirds! Ancient Australian dinosaurs.
Thunderbirds! Ancient Australian dinosaurs.
Signs describe the various displays.
Colorful signs describe the various displays.
Lots of school tours visit Kings Park. Australian kids wear school uniforms and hats are an integral part of the uniform to protect against the hot sun.
Lots of school tours visit Kings Park. Australian kids wear school uniforms and hats are an integral part of the uniform to protect against the hot sun.
Play area.
Play area.
These are living rocks - stromatolites and thrombolites - formed by ancient microscopic lifeforms.
These are living rocks – stromatolites and thrombolites – formed by ancient microscopic lifeforms.
Janis and sarah and their friend the murraburrasaurus
Janis and Sarah and their friend the murraburrasaurus.
Large expanse of lawn in the Synergy Parkland.
Large expanse of lawn in the Synergy Parkland.
Vietnam War Memorial near the Synergy Parkland.
Vietnam War Memorial near the Synergy Parkland.
Large tree in the Synergy Parkland.
Large tree in the Synergy Parkland.

Continue to the next photo gallery.
Follow us on Facebook!

Photo Gallery: Kings Park 2




Follow us on Facebook!

The restaurant and convention complex at Kings Park
The restaurant and convention complex at Kings Park
The path leading to the botanic garden.
The path leading to the botanic garden.
Map of the Botanic Grdens
Map of the Botanic Gardens
Magnificent tree
Magnificent trees
Beautiful flower
Beautiful flower
Some burnt trees
Some burnt trees
img_1159-r
Along the dusty trail
At the footbridge
At the footbridge
Australia has six seasons! One of many signs explaining flora as well as Australian lore.
Australia has six seasons! One of many signs explaining flora as well as Australian lore.
The Boab Tree
The boab tree showing some of the damage that happened when it was transplanted here.  Arborists have the plant on the mend. 
img_1185-r
Truly one of the world’s great parks.

Follow us on Facebook!

Busselton Jetty




Follow us on Facebook!

Although Margaret River is actually a small town located on a broad spur sticking out from the southwestern end of Western Australia, that whole region is widely known as Margaret River. It is wine country. It’s also an area of rolling hills, farms, forests and some great surfing beaches.

On the north end of this spur is the town of Busselton which has a claim to fame all its own. It is the home of the Busselton Jetty, the second longest wooden pile jetty in the world and the longest in the southern hemisphere. Built in 1865, it celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2015.

 

The Busselton Jetty
The Busselton Jetty. This picture captures only a part of its length as it angles off at around 15 degrees at the end.

Originally entirely made of wood, it consists of a long pier into Geographe Bay and then extends twice as far again at a fifteen degree angle. Geographe Bay is quite shallow so the pier had to be long so deep sea vessels could tie up there.

img_0969-r
You can see the extension angling off at fifteen degrees from the main pier here.

The pier is a staggering 1.841 kilometres long. And it is well worth the visit. We first visited in May of 2015 and again in March of 2016. A comfortable walk on a nice day, although there is a train that runs the length of it with a stop at the elbow as well as the end. There is a $3 admission to the jetty and an additional fee for the train.

The little choo choo train.
The little choo choo train.

The pier was only 176 meters long when first opened in 1865 and it was continuously added to, reaching its final length of 1841 meters in the 1960s. It was in commercial use until the last ship docked there on October 17, 1971. The jetty was then closed and fell into disrepair. Cyclone Alby in 1978 destroyed the shore end of the pier.

Part of the original jetty is still standing.
Part of the original jetty is still standing. Much of this end of the pier was destroyed in a hurricane in 1978.

In 1987, the Jetty Preservation Society was formed. Battling more storms and fires over the years, it managed to raise both public and private funds to rebuild the pier, culminating in its declaration as a heritage site. The $27 million project was completed in 2011 and it is now a popular tourist destination.

It features a small museum and interpretive center close to shore and an underwater observatory and gift shop near the end. The observatory opened in 2003.

Along the way there is a long line of plaques commemorating people whose ashes have been scattered from the pier. They contain messages like “In memory of so and so whose ashes were scattered by his family from the 300, his favorite spot. Gone fishing.”

A number of people have had their ashes scattered from the pier.
A number of people have had their ashes scattered from the pier.

You’ll also see a number of large signs along the way detailing some of the history of the pier as well as featuring some poems and interesting facts.

There are also a number of platforms off to the side along the way. Stairs take you down to a lower level for different view. And these platforms are popular with fishermen.

A fisherman pulls in a catch.
A fisherman pulls in a catch.

We did not go down to the underwater observatory – there is a fee to do so, but we walked beyond the gift shop to the last 140 meters of pier. This is the very end of the pier – 1.841 kilometres out. Daughter Sarah and her fiancé Jamie, both yoga enthusiasts, struck a few poses with the Indian Ocean as a backdrop.

Striking a pose.
Striking a pose.

When we came out ten months later, more additions had been made at this end. A sign showing the distance from various city centers among them.

Signposts to the far corners of the planet.
Signposts to the far corners of the planet.

Also new were some large murals of whales on the floor of the pier. Created by local artist Ian Mutch, these drawings were life-sized. Mutch’s website includes an aerial video of his amazing renderings of these denizens of the deep.

Busselton Jetty whale mural from Ian Mutch on Vimeo.

Another striking difference between our May visit and our March visit was the great increase in the amount of wildlife we saw. We hit the jackpot with many bird sightings and a pod of dolphins.

xx
The dolphins swam around and under the pier not far from the swimming area. There are two in this picture.
Here's one close up.
Here’s one close up.

On the shore there is a visitor’s center as well as a nice park, a swimming area, a waterslide and a penned off swimming area. We saw wild cockatoos on both our visits but a lot more in March than the previous May.

A wild cockatoo enlarged from a wider shot of a flock of these noisy but colorful bids.
A wild cockatoo enlarged from a wider shot of a flock of these noisy but colorful birds.

So if you’re ever out visiting the Margaret River area, do check out the Busselton Jetty. It’s a colorful venue steeped in history.

Follow us on Facebook!

Photo Gallery: Busselton Jetty




Follow us on Facebook!

Here are some additional photos from the Busselton Jetty.

The Visitor Centre
The Visitor Centre
From just beyond the bend on the Busselton Jetty.
From just beyond the bend on the Busselton Jetty.
One of many signs along the way relating the colorful history of the jetty.
One of many signs along the way relating the colorful history of the jetty.
Janis and I on one of the fishing platforms.
Janis and I on one of the fishing platforms.
About half way out on the jetty.
About half way out on the jetty.
Some of the plaques honoring people whose ashes were scattered here.
Some of the plaques honoring people whose ashes were scattered here.
The train runs the length of the jetty for those who may find the trek too much.
The train runs the length of the jetty for those who may find the trek too much.
Looking back from the very end of the pier.
Looking back from the very end of the pier.
Yoga at the pier
Yoga at the pier
More yoga at the pier.
More yoga at the pier.
The whale murals
The whale murals
z
Whales by Ian Mutch
The signposts
The signposts
Heading back
Heading back
Bird on the remnant of the old pier.
Birds on the remnant of the old pier.
Looks a bit like a penguin.
Looks a bit like a penguin.
Another interesting bird.
Another interesting bird.
A dolphin swims near the pier.
A dolphin swims near the pier.
And a flock of cockatoos
And a flock of cockatoos

Below is a somewhat shaky video of a flock of cockatoos near the jetty.

Follow us on Facebook!

Hillarys Boat Harbour




Follow us on Facebook!

There are a number of small harbours up and down the coast of the Greater Perth region. The largest, of course, is Fremantle which is a major port. The smaller ones mainly serve pleasure craft and a number of those are tourist destinations as well. That’s the case with Hillarys Boat Harbour, about 23 kilometres from downtown Perth or a 35-40 minute drive. The easiest way to get there is to take the Mitchell Freeway (Highway # 2) and turn left onto Hepburn Avenue which takes you all the way to the marina.

The map above is an earth view of Hillarys. Click on the View Larger Map button and you’ll see it on a full page. There you can use CTL and your mouse to rotate the map any which way you choose.

The Breakwater complex has a fine dining restaurant upstairs and a more casual rendez-vous below.
The Breakwater complex has a fine dining restaurant upstairs and a more casual rendez-vous below. The large boat moored there is the Rottnest Island Ferry.

A couple of breakwaters enclose the marina. where many private boats are moored. One of the Rottnest Ferries docks here. The other’s home port is Fremantle. But for visitors, it’s the shopping mall and restaurants that are the big attraction. Formally called Sorrento Quay, it features wide boardwalks and a concert staging area completed in mid-2016.

Reataurants abound here. You can find casual fare like Grill’d or Dome to the the classy Breakwater which has four facilities, the casual Lower Deck to the upscale Ishka Restaurant and adjacent Reid’s Lounge. You can also reserve the Akoya Suite for corporate functions and even weddings.

img_6668-r
Zeno’s Cafe and fro-yo are among the many food service outlets at Hillarys. Much of the quay and boardwalk is on stilts above the water.

There are specialty food places like Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, Belissimo Gelato, La Chocolateria and more. Or fast food like Subway or Little C’s Pizza. Scrolling through eateries on their website, I counted 34 of them. There are also a lot of specialty shops. Everything from clothing stores to souvenir shops to a barber shop and a candy shop. Around 30 different shops.

Art Affaire Gallery
Art Affaire Gallery, one of many gift shops at Hillarys

While the mall is open air, it does have a skylighted roof over the passageways.

img_6672-r
The quay and boardwalk wraps around an inner bay with beach and waterpark.

The complex of restaurants and shops wraps around an inner bay which includes some shallow beaches for swimming. And on the shore is a large children’s complex called The Great Escape which includes a waterslide park. Unfortunately the lease ran out for The Great Escape and it is currently closed until a new tenant can be found. But it is scheduled to partially reopen for the Australian summer starting November 26th.

img_0017-rr
Cockatoos like to hang out near the waterslide park.

When we first visited Hillarys in May 2015, the waterpark was a popular hangout for wild cockatoos.

At the other end of the complex you’ll find the Aquarium of Western Australia. We never got around to visiting it so I can’t rate it. And there is an apartment hotel complex, an exciting alternative to staying in a large hotel.

A bridge and walkway over the harbour connects the mall and the shore. There you’ll find another restaurant, the Hillarys Yacht Club, the Department of Fisheries building and some commercial buildings. You’ll also run across the Three Dolphins statue and fountain.

Sarah and her friend Natasha with the Three Dolphins.
Sarah and her friend Natasha with the Three Dolphins.

A short walk takes you past a couple of shallow beaches and back to the other end of the quay. Here are a few more restaurants and still more shops.

Hillarys Boat Harvour at night.
Hillarys Boat Harvour at night.

We happened to visit Hillarys one Friday evening and the quay is beautiful lit up in the evening. For some entertainment, Perth’s Northern Ukulele Group meets here every Friday from 5:00 to 7:00 PM. I never would have guessed there were so many ukulele players in Perth. And that’s just one club. There’s a website that lists ten different groups of enthusiasts. Who knew?

If you’re there on a hot sunny summer day, you may want to spend some time at Sorrento Beach which is just a short walk away. Like most Western Australian beaches, this one has pristine sandy beaches, a grassy park area and barbecue areas for family picnics or group outings.

The boardwalk from Hillarys to Sorrento Beach.
The boardwalk from Hillarys to Sorrento Beach.
Sorrento Beach
Sorrento Beach

Since opening in 1988, Hillarys Boat Harbour has continued to be a popular venue for both locals and visitors. Do check it out. And if you are arriving or leaving around 5:00 to 5:30, you can catch a glimpse of kangaroos in the wild at Pinnaroo Valley Cemetery. I know that sounds odd, but check out the article I wrote about it a while back. We’ve been back several times. One of the best places for kangaroo watching in my opinion.

Below is a link to an additional photo gallery as well as to some Hillarys Boat Harbour attractions.

Follow us on Facebook!

Photo Gallery: Hillarys Boat Harbour




Follow us on Facebook!

Here are some additional photos of Hillarys Boat Harbour. Above – Hillarys Boat Harbour seen from Sorrento Beach.

img_6678-r
Hillarys Boat Harbour
Clothing stores to souvenir shops. There's lots to keep you interested.
Clothing stores to souvenir shops. There’s lots to keep you interested.
x
The British Lolly Shop – everything for the sweet tooth!
The Boardwalk beside the Breakwater
The Boardwalk beside the Breakwater. Many of the restaurants have outside patio seating available.
The Rottnest Fast Ferry
The Rottnest Fast Ferry
Beaches and canoe rentals - two of the activities available at Hillarys.
Beaches and canoe rentals – two of the activities available at Hillarys.
The Breakwater
The Breakwater
Wild cockatoos roosting on the trees near the waterslides.
Wild cockatoos roosting on the trees near the waterslides.
Hillarys Boat Harbour
Hillarys Boat Harbour showing the bridge and walkway from the end of the quay to the shore.
Sorrento Quay at night
Sorrento Quay at night
The Northern Ukulele Group
The Northern Ukulele Group
Another pic of the ukulele group
Another pic of the ukulele group
The breakwaters. There is open water between the end of the light beacon and the distant breakwater.
The breakwaters. There is open water between the end of the light beacon and the distant breakwater.

Follow us on Facebook!

The Science Center in the Middle of Nowhere




Follow us on Facebook!

Fellow Vancouverites are, of course, familiar with Science World, an exhibition of scientific paraphernalia in the former Expo Centre which served as a host pavilion for Expo 86, the 1986 World’s Fair. We took our kids there many times when they were young.

And when we visited Seattle, we sometimes took them to the Pacific Science Center, a similar venue located just below the Space Needle, and also a legacy of a world’s fair.

Both are located smack dab in the centre of their respective cities. Not so the Gravity Discovery Centre in Western Australia. It is an hour north of Perth smack dab in the middle of nowhere.

A large brushfire forced us to an alternate route. Brushfires are fairly common in Australia.
A large brushfire forced us to an alternate route. Brushfires are fairly common in Australia.

We came across it by accident after a day trip to see the Sand Dunes of Lancelin. A brushfire we passed on our way there had spread across the coast highway and we were redirected to an inland route. The Gravity Centre is located on the outskirts of the Gnangara-Moore River State Forest just off Military Road.

The Leaning Tower of Gingin
The Leaning Tower of Gingin

Its most notable feature as you approach is a large thirteen story tower, the Leaning Tower of Gingin (named after a nearby town). This science education centre has a focus on gravity and cosmology. It’s located out here in the toolies because it is on the site of the Australian International Gravitational Observatory. The public centre is operated by the University of Western Australia.

The main gallery and visitor centre seen from the Leaning Tower.
The main gallery and visitor centre seen from the Leaning Tower.

The main gallery and visitor centre includes a bio-diversity display. This area of South Western Australia is “one of the 12 richest biodiversity hotspots on the planet” says a sign. The display itself is mainly photos and static displays, but you can walk around outside later to see some of the native vegetation.

A Candlestick Banksia, one of the many different flora of the area.
A Candlestick Banksia, one of the many different flora of the area.

Also in the gallery is a varied display of information on space and gravity, including black holes. Many of the displays are interactive, fun and educational for kids and adults alike.

Janis is about to launch a smoke ring at Jamie with the Toroidal Vortex Cannon.
Janis is about to launch a smoke ring at Jamie with the Toroidal Vortex Cannon.

After exploring wave generators, a chaotic pendulum and other exhibits, we left the building and walked through several outdoor displays to a small geodesic dome, the Cosmology Gallery. Here there were a lot o photographic displays but also a 300 kilogram meteorite.

The 300 kg. Mundrabilla Meteorite is one of the largest to have fallen in a meteorite shower in the Nullabor in Western Australia.
The 300 kg. This Mundrabilla Meteorite is one of the largest to have fallen in a meteorite shower in the Nullarbor Plain in Western Australia. The largest, weighing 9980 kilograms, is at the Western Australia Museum.

But the most interesting display is the Niobe Gravitational Wave Detector. This is one of five Wave Detectors worldwide that were used to detect “the sounds of gravitational waves from black hole births in our Milky Way Galaxy during the 1990s.”

Niobe Gravitational Wave Detector - used to detect black holes
Niobe Gravitational Wave Detector – used to detect black holes

The Niobe has the largest bar of Niobium in the world. Niobium is a rare and dense metal that is the world’s best super-conductor. The equipment was kept super-cooled to minus 269 degrees Celsius, just above absolute zero. Niobe “measured the smallest amount of sound energy ever detected, about 10-26 of a Joule.”

From there we went on to the Leaning Tower. Inside we had seen a comparison of this tower to the famous one in Pisa. That one is 60 meters high and has an incline of 5.5 degrees. This one is 45 meters high and has a 15 degree incline.

Comparison of two leaning towers.
Comparison of two leaning towers.

At the bottom of the tower you can fill up balloon with water to take to the top and drop. Then there’s the long climb up – thirteen stories – all stairs – no elevator. From the top you can drop them through tubes and watch through a grilled floor as they hit the splash zone.

The tower is a metal superstructure that is open all around, much like the Eiffel Tower, though it has no elevator. At the top you can see for miles in every direction. It is quite exhilarating to stand at the top of the world in the middle of wilderness all around.

The Gravity Discovery Centre
The Gravity Discovery Centre

Admission to the Discovery Centre is modest at $20 for an adult and $13.50 for a child from 10 Am to 4 PM Tuesday to Sunday. There are also evening hours from 7:30 to 9:30 PM Friday and Saturday, but the price is more than double.

We enjoyed our visit and if you’re heading west to Lancelin or to see the Pinnacles, the Discovery Centre is a nice addition to round out your trip on the way home.

Below is a link to the Gravity Discovery Centre, followed by a map and some additional photos.

Map of the centre and a description of the displays.
Map of the centre and a description of the displays.
The Chaotic Pendulum
The Chaotic Pendulum
We saw this Huntsman Spider on one of the walls. The poisonous Hunstman is the largest spider in Australia and both poisonous and fairly common.
We saw this Huntsman Spider on one of the walls. The Hunstman is the largest spider in Australia and while poisonous, is not considered particularly dangerous to humans.
Filling water balloons at the base of the Leaning Tower.
Filling water balloons at the base of the Leaning Tower.
Dropping the balloons.
Dropping the balloons.
Looking down at the splash zone from 13 stories up.
Looking down at the splash zone from 13 stories up.
Sarah and Jamie striking a yoga pose on top of the Leaning Tower.
Sarah and Jamie striking a yoga pose on top of the Leaning Tower.
Looking straight down from the Leaning Tower of Gingin.
Looking straight down from the Leaning Tower of Gingin.
A kangaroo foraging behind the Gravity Centre
A kangaroo foraging behind the Gravity Centre
The Australian
The Australian International Gravitational Observatory
The Leaning Tower of Gingin.
The Leaning Tower of Gingin – a last look.

Follow us on Facebook!

Fremantle Prison Torchlight Tour




Follow us on Facebook!

 

There is something foreboding about prisons. There used to be two large ones, right smack in urban settings in Vancouver, the old B.C. Penitentiary in New Westminster and the Oakalla Jail in Burnaby. Both now torn down. Before they tore it down, Oakalla was open for tours. We took the kids and it was grimly fascinating.

One large historical prison that is still standing is the Fremantle Prison in Fremantle, Western Australia. Australia was originally a penal colony and the Convict Establishment, as it was then known, was built by convict labour between 1851 and 1859. It is a large prison built to house up to a thousand prisoners. It operated as a maximum security prison until 1991.

The Gatehouse
The Gatehouse

Now the prison is a World Heritage Site, one of eleven sites that make up the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property. A sign outside the prison says “Fremantle Prison contains major evidence of the physical apparatus of an imperial convict public works establishment and of its adaptation for subsequent colonial use. The establishment is the most intact such complex in Australia, and is an outstanding symbol of the period in which Western Australia was developed using convict labour.”

Visitors houses. Here convicts could meet family members who were visiting. It is between the Gatehouse and the prison walls.
Visitors houses. Here convicts could meet family members who were visiting. It is between the Gatehouse and the prison walls.

And it is open to the public offering a variety of tours including a Great Escapes Tour, a Tunnels Tour (not escape tunnels, but an extensive series of water mains that ran under the prison – some are navigated by boat on the tour), an Art Tour (some convicts were talented artists) and the Torchlight Tour, a tour of the prison at night by torchlight (actually small flashlights).

img_7292-r
Aerial view of Fremantle Prison circa 1935.

We came for the Torchlight Tour which run on Wednesdays and Fridays. After waiting around a bit, we were finally led to a doorway where we each fished a small flashlight out of a bucket before entering. Inside our tour guide, an enthusiastic woman named Janine, gave us a short rundown before we headed out. We passed through the reception area where prisoners were checked in and given their prison garb, though the prison kitchen and then through a gate into the large courtyard.

img_7331-r
The main prison complex seen from the courtyard.

Here we paused as Janine told us an eery story. First she asked us if we could imagine walking through these grim doors, a prisoner, even though we were innocent. In 1961, a 20 year old deaf-mute named Darryl Beamish was convicted of killing a young socialite, Jillian Brewer, with a tomahawk and a pair of dress-making scissors. Authorities had coerced a confession from him and so he stood before the judge as he pronounced those dreaded words, “You are to be hanged by the neck until you are dead.” Fortunately his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

Fast forward two years to 1963. John Button was convicted of manslaughter for running down his girlfriend, Rosemary Anderson, with his car. Button was a stutterer and the police interpreted this as nervousness. According to Wikipedia, “Button was refused access to his parents or a lawyer and was hit once by an interviewing police officer before finally confessing to killing Anderson after 22 hours of interrogation.” He was sentenced to ten years.

img_7412-r
Cells stand three stories high at Fremantle Prison.

Meanwhile serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke, nicknamed the Night Caller, had been arrested and stood trial. In September 1963 he confessed to killing Jillian Brewer, the woman Beamish was convicted of killing. The police rejected his confession because Cooke was “an utterly worthless scoundrel” and a “palpable and unscrupulous liar”. In November that year, Cooke was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang.

Ten minutes before he was to be hanged on October 26, 1964, Cooke, unprompted, grabbed the Bible from the chaplain’s hands and cried out, “I swear before Almighty God that I killed Anderson and Brewer.” He was then led to the gallows and dropped into oblivion. He was the last man hanged at Fremantle Prison.

The cell where a condemned prisoner spent his last few hours.
The cell where a condemned prisoner spent his last few hours.

Button ended up serving five years despite Cooke’s deathbed confession. The deaf-mute Beamish served fifteen. It was not until 2005 that he was finally acquitted of the murder, the longest gap between a conviction and an appeal acquittal in Australian history.

Thoroughly chilled by this story, we now entered the main prison. Janine led us to a grim row of cells, three tiers high. A net spreads across the open space above the first level. Too many convicts attempted suicide by jumping from the upper levels.

Netting prevented prisoners from killing nthemselves by jumping from the upper levels.
Netting prevented prisoners from killing themselves by jumping from the upper levels.

Janine pulled out a bucket and told us this was the prisoner’s toilet. Guards learned quickly to walk under the catwalk above the first level. Neophyte guards walking in the open space were likely to get a bucket of excrement dumped on them.

The toilet bucket.
Janine displays the toilet bucket. Remember the bucket you retrieved your torchlight from, she asked. Yep, it was one of these!

As we left, we heard a scream and a body fell into the netting. A dummy. Part of the show, folks! We went out into another courtyard on the other side of the prison. Here we saw a large vat where prisoners would come to dump their buckets. Through a gate to an exercise yard. Prisoners sometimes became unruly here and there was a gated hut where guards could go if they feared for their safety.

The safety hut.
The safety hut. Guards would retreat here if things got hairy in the exercise yard.

We continued on our tour which is an hour and a half long, entering another cell block where we went through a cell and back out to another courtyard.

Visitors enter a cell.
Visitors enter a cell.

This courtyard was a punishment area. We were shown a frame on which prisoners were tied to be flogged. Janine described the ritual in gruesome detail. The flaying of the flesh with the cat ‘o’ nine tails. Man’s inhumanity towards man, which was common then. And sadly, still common today. (See my review of Johann Hari’s book Chasing the Scream on another of my blogs. In it I describe the cruelty of punishments still inflicted in the United States of all places.)

The flogging frame. Men were tied here to receive a whipping with the cat o' nine tails.
The flogging frame. Men were tied here to receive a whipping with the cat o’ nine tails.

Further along we came to a barracks-like structure. This was the solitary confinement building. There are no windows here. When the doors close, there is no light either. Pitch dark. Men were known to go a bit crazy here. The first cell of this building was also the holding cell for the condemned.

An actor describes what it was like to be a prisoner here in the solitary wing.
An actor describes what it was like to be a prisoner here in the solitary wing.

The death chamber was a short walk back to the main building and through another door. We entered and took a sharp left and up two steps. Some of the group went a bit further and entered from a different door, to the witness viewing area. Janine told us that it was not something for the squeamish. Many a witness fainted at the sight.

The gallows. This rope was an actual reserve rope from a hanging. The executioner always had two backup ropes.
The gallows. This rope was an actual reserve rope from a hanging. The executioner always had two backup ropes.

We left the death house and soon found ourselves in another cell block.  We came to one cell where a prisoner, an artist, had received permission to paint his walls. A sign outside says, “The walls of this cell were painted between 1988 and 1991. Prison rules did not allow inmates to deface their cell walls but this prisoner was given special permission for therapeutic reasons.” The result was fabulous.

Garden scene painted by a special prisoner in his cell.
Garden scene painted by a special prisoner in his cell.
The prisoner's bed with a painting above it.
The prisoner’s bed with a painting above it.

We then went through the prison theatre which had an old black and white movie showing and through to some stairs down to a storage area.

Stairs down to storage areas.
Stairs down to storage areas.

We saw several areas where foodstuffs and other goods were stored. Big underground bunkers.

Underground storage bunker.
Underground storage bunker.

Finally we emerged back outside again, our tour at an end.

We're back outside, tour just about done.
We’re back outside, tour just about done.

It was fascinating trip back in history. A grim reminder that the veneer of civilization is thin. Indeed, around the time of our visit, there was a scandal in Australia over revelations of the maltreatment of juvenile offenders in Australia’s north.

Below is a link to a gallery of additional photos. Click on the link or scroll on through if you are on the main page. There’s also a link to the prison website.




Follow us on Facebook!