Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

View of harbour from the lobster factory

Purging of the rock lobsters

HMAS Sydney Memorial

View through the dome on the Memorial

View over Geraldton

A beach at Geraldton


The camp site had been chosen in advance from the Big 4 brochure as it was by the beach. This time it transpired we were looking at a building site when sunning ourselves outside the van. The camp was in a stage of transition with a number of extra en-suite cabins being built. Other vans were at the front under protective covers from the sun; our van was too big so was on a site further back. At least the workers finished at tea time and we did not need an alarm in the mornings.

On the morrow we would take the live lobster tour at the Fisherman's Co-op which was established in 1951, so we walked along the beach to the harbour to check the walking time to make sure we were not late. The front area of Geraldton is soon to be developed. The railway line has been moved to allow this and the town council seem to be quite forward looking; housing developments being at the rear.

Geraldton is much smaller than Perth but easily the largest town to the north of Perth and destined to grow much bigger. It is home to a multi million dollar Rock Lobster industry and also exports a lot of grain each year. I had mixed feelings about visiting Geraldton. Three weeks ago there were many television adverts encouraging people to visit Geraldton on Australia day for the vast firework display and festivities. At the same time the newspapers, TV and Radio, were reporting on the 30 plus mob of adolescents who had viciously beaten up two people who were visiting the town. However we decided to try Geraldton for our selves.

Caught lobsters are graded into size and colour and kept in large numbers, (it's the way they like to live), in tanks for a minimum of two weeks with temperature controlled sea water passing through. They are not fed but can drink as much as they like. There is no distress and no weight loss and the process is to purge them so that the insides are clean. Most will end up on plates in Japan. America only wants the tails, Taiwan wants the heads, and other countries have fads as to the colour of shell.

The tour did not get off to a good start. A boat was seen approaching the harbour, "It might be one of ours", said our excellent enthusiastic guide; and it was. It pulled up at the dock and unloaded two crates of rock lobster. The lobsters were tipped onto a conveyor belt and inspected before dropping into a tub of fresh water where the ones at the top burst into activity, leaping into the air but dropping back into the tub. This surprised me until Sylvia pointed out we were witnessing mass murder.

A lobster in fresh water drowns. Our guide informed this is the most humane way of killing a lobster and I suppose the others, after transportation to Japan in temperature controlled fridges, will suffer the same fate. An order for cooked lobster had been received this morning so the next ones in, our lobsters, would soon be on the way round the harbour to the cook house. The Fishermen's Co-op is by far the largest lobster operator and responds instantly to orders of fresh or cooked lobster. I did not take any more pictures; our experience had developed a shadow. The video of lobsters and their lives was very interesting and the industry is well regulated to ensure no young or pregnant lobsters are taken, and no over fishing.

Our next task was to seek out a tyre specialist and on learning our van tyres were wearing ok, we just opted for the advice of having the front moved to the back and vice versa. Apparently this should be done every 10,000 kilometres, (6,250 miles). We also called at a caravan sales park and bought a spare regulator. Remember New Year when the regulator gummed up, well the repair is still going well but we were advised to get a spare.

Lunch was eaten and we then headed for the HMAS Sydney memorial. We keep hearing of this boat which was built at Newcastle and eventually sold to Australia where it became a sort of talisman. After a number of good successes, on its way back from transporting troops in 1941, it checked up on a disguised German Raider. Both ships sank. German surviving sailors reported HMAS Sydney as last being seen blazing on the horizon. The ship has never been found and all onboard perished.

The memorial is on a high hill, the dome roof is 645 doves representing all of the ships company who are named in alphabetical order on tabloids. Looking out to sea is a bronze statue of a woman waiting for her loved one to return. The front of the prow is also represented and this can be seen from many miles away. Down at the tourist office we learned the museum, an apparent must, closed at 4pm; it was now 3.50pm.

A ten minute walk to the centre of town was hot and pleasant and the shopping centre was quite compact. When returning we called at a bar which had seemed inviting and inside was a man from our lobster tour who we had also said hello to at the memorial. On the basis of fate, he joined us and we swapped travellers tails.

Next morning, after leaving the camp site we visited 'Separation Point' because a sign said it was there. It was a nice view but no information as to why it had got its name, so for now this will have to be a Geraldton mystery. The museum was new and very interesting and a lot of thought and planning had gone into its conception. It is run by volunteers so we did not mind it shutting at 4pm last night.

The history of this area was very interesting and of course covered the big influence aborigines have had. A room was given over to information and pictures of HMAS Sydney and there were many relics from the wreck of the Batavia, a Dutch ship from which this area of coast gets its name. A 50 minute film of the story of the Batavia was very well done and told the story of the mutiny, the ship wreck and the massacre by the bad men of many of the survivors. At the end the main baddy had his hands chopped off before they hung him. The main two henchmen were let off the hanging but marooned on the main land and never heard of again; good to see a happy ending.

Marooned in 1641, Loos and Pelgrom were given instructions to acquaint themselves with the indigenous people and report on the hidden riches of this newly discovered continent. A case is being made that these two men constitute the first settlement in Australia, just up the road where we will be travelling. This happened 141 years before Captain Cook landed at Botany Bay. The discovery of the wreck of the Batavia by local fishermen in 1961 helped decide where the two were marooned. Informed logic places the first settlement at the mouth of the Hutt River and not further up the coast at Red Bluff where it was first thought. Because they were mutineers, even these two were convicts.

Geraldton museum is worth a visit, there is no charge but a donation is expected; we also bought a DVD of old Australian country songs so singing, on we go.

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