Monday, January 23, 2012

Dirk Hartog Island

These poles mark where the first recoded European stepped onto Australian soil. (Tyler Roberts)

The ledge at Cape Inscription. (Adriana Weil)
When people visit Australia they rarely come to the West side of the continent because it is so remote and many think that there is probably not much worth seeing.  It’s a terrible misconception causing droves of people to miss out on the beautiful sights, amazing wildlife and rich history of the area.  Dirk Hartog Island is the landing spot of the first recorded European to set foot on this country.  In actuality many had before, mainly the Portuguese, but they never recorded their visits and usually disregarded Australia as a barren wasteland not worth the effort of exploration.

Captain Dirk Hartog, for whom the island is named, landed his ship the “Eeendracht” in 1616 on the northernmost point of the island.  He inscribed on a pewter plate his name and the date then attached it to a wooden pole wedged between the rocks on the cliff top of what is now known as Cape Inscription.

Cape Inscription Lighthouse. (Adriana Weil)

A Flemish captain, William de Vlamingh, landed on the same spot in 1697. Upon seeing the badly weathered plate he copied the information to a second pewter plate adding a few of his own details.

In the early 1900’s the island was an outpost for the pearling and guano mining industries.  They erected a lighthouse and several other buildings at cape inscription.  It was here that we stayed during our time on the island, camping inside the stone frame of a house that still remained originally meant as quarters for the keepers of the lighthouse.

Our sleeping quarters. (Tyler Roberts)
The island was used for years as a goat farm with thousands of goats covering the landscape.  It wasn’t until the 1990’s that the first steps were taken to protect the land and the wildlife.  The Australian Department of Environment and Conservation was charged with controlling and eliminating the populations of feral cats and goats that decimated the island’s native species.

Now the island is a thriving National Park and shining example of effective conservation management. It is home so several endemic species found nowhere else and a significant breeding ground for the Shark Bay Loggerhead Turtle, the focus of our volunteer efforts.

Cape Inscription Lighthouse (Tyler Roberts)

We found this little Stimsons Python trying to get in my tent. (Adriana Weil)

(Adriana Weil)

Cape Inscription. (Tyler Roberts)

A cosy little place. (Tyler Roberts)
The Homestead. (Tyler Roberts)

(Tyler Roberts)

A river of salt and Algae. (Tyler Roberts)

While out exploring the island one day we came to a rocky outcropping with waves crashing up against it.  The constant batter of the waves had clearly done their work grinding down the rock bit by bit over time.  There was a small stream that ran a few hundred meters from one side of the rock to the other.  It was orange in color and quite warm to the touch.  All around it were evaporated pools holding gallons and gallons of salt.  I noticed the smell of salt and algae right away.  It reminded me of my time in Yellowstone National Park taking cyanobacteria (Algae) samples.  It turns out the orange color was a algae mat with a nice green photosynthetic layer residing underneath.  It was a nostalgic moment for me bringing back memories of working in an algae lab back at the University of Oregon.

(Tyler Roberts)

(Tyler Roberts)

Although not quite the right shape, this cutout reminds me of Australia. (Adriana Weil)

The only goat I saw. (Adriana Weil)

(Tyler Roberts)

I am imagining the surface of Mars. (Tyler Roberts)

A delicious Pink Snapper courtesy of DEC ranger Chris. (Adriana Weil)

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