Whaling Station Horror

Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Sunday, November 18, 2012

Continuing with the tree theme, just outside Denmark we wandered through the Valley of the Giants. This famous area derives its name from the large red tingle trees which are found there and the walk meanders around, and sometimes through, the old trees. This is the only place where the red tingle tree is found. This buttressed, rough barked tree can live over 400 years and grows up to 75 metres in height, and with a girth of up to 26 metres. While tingle trees are often hollowed out by fire and fungal attack, their robust structure allows them to continue growing. Not sure how true it is, but we were told that the tree had developed a self defense mechanism (particularly in the hollowed out interiors) that has it storing water near the surface to minimize the damage of fires? If there's anything cool about trees, than the really cool thing about these giant tingles is that their origins can be traced back 65 million years to the super continent Gondwana when Australia was joined with what are now Africa, India, Antarctic and South America. Any tree with an Antarctic ancestry has to be a wow!! Mixed in with these massive trees were more of the 90 metre tall karri trees and a number of jarrah trees that, at 40 metres high, seemed positively tiny compared to their cousins. You couldn't help but feel insignificant wandering through this Valley of the Giants.

Trying to even things up we made our way to a Tree Top Canopy Walk which was a great way to get a birds eye view of this unique forest. A much safer construction than the rebar steps up a karri tree that we had done earlier, and at 40 metres above ground it gave us a bit of a controlled thrill. The big highlight had to be a park guide we hooked up with who had obviously mastered the art of Outback storytelling. In addition to a tremendous knowledge of local flora and fauna that was likely gained through a lifetime in the surrounding bush country, she had an endless stream of stories to add colour to her descriptions. When someone got her talking about close encounters with snakes, it was clear that she had a book of tall tales in her that just need to be written down. For some reason we lost DH half way through the forest walk as she fixated on on a spider that dates back to the age of the dinosaur and weaves a veil instead of a web??

A couple of nights in Albany allowed us time to explore the site of the last whaling station in Australia. For DH even touring a closed facility like this was a crisis of conscience. I've always subscribed to the theory that people need to see and understand symbols like these to minimize the chances of re-occurrence (in 1986, a moratorium on the commercial whaling industry was put in place to replenish whale populations that had been hunted to the verge of extinction- even with these conservation efforts, seven of the 13 great whales remain endangered... and, unbelievably, there's always the chance that the moratorium gets lifted). Judging the whaling industry against today's standards can be very unfair and the presentations at the Cheynes Beach Whaling Station try to balance the horrific results of the industry against the individual bravery and toughness required to be a whaler in the very worst of working conditions. It was a very worthwhile and thought provoking visit. You would hope that mankind has learned a valued lesson from the near extermination of one of the most awe inspiring of natures creatures but as we peruse the news from home, it would seem that the very sensible decision of Toronto City Council (how often can you say that) to ban shark fin sales in the city has been overturned by an increasingly meddlesome judiciary. This should be a question of speed and not jurisdiction?? My rant for the day.

Having been conceived of as a penal colony, most towns in Australia have a historic jail/prison/gaol and Albany is no different. It was probably the highlight of our walking tour through town- largely because it once housed mass murderer Frederick Bailey Deeming who claimed to be Jack The Ripper (although many doubted his 'confessions').
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