When we left Margaret River, instead of taking the most direct route to Augusta, we drove down the Caves Road; so named because the limestone coast along this short stretch contains several hundred caves. Only six of them are open to the public. Each is unique in its own right, but we chose to visit only one – Jewel Cave.
The legend of its existence was talked about since the early 1800s, but its exact location had been lost. In January 1957, it was rediscovered. In 1958, with government and private funding, they designed and constructed the pathways, bridges, and stairways required for the viewing public. It is a beautiful cave with all the stalactites and stalagmites, columns, and curtains one would expect. One feature that we found particularly fascinating was “straws” – hollow tubes with diameters of fractions of an inch. Most eventually close up and become stalactites, but some seem to defy gravity by growing sideways at odd angles and curves.
In our continuing quest to find Australia’s “farthest” coastal features, we arrived at Cape Leeuwin, the farthest southwest point on the continent and the intersection of two major oceans: the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean (aka, Antarctic Ocean). It was named for the Dutch ship Leeuwin which visited the area in 1622.
As is so often common, it wasn’t until a number of ships were wrecked and lives were lost in the shallow, rocky waters off Cape Leeuwin that the government recognized the need for a lighthouse. Up and running by 1896, it is still a major factor in the safety of ships traveling to Australia’s eastern ports. It also serves as an important weather station providing continuous observational weather records dating back nearly to the opening of the lighthouse.
Today it is fully automated and, with the grounds and keepers’ cottages, serves as a major tourist attraction. One house serves at the Visitor Centre, museum, and gift shop. The other two are being renovated and we don’t know how they will be used when complete. A self-guided tour is provided with individual audio guides that give descriptions of each of the 16 stops. The thirty-minute tour of the lighthouse itself is so popular that we were advised to sign up for the timeslot we wanted the day before.
Water was supplied for the builders of the lighthouse and later to the keepers’ cottages by a waterwheel and pump located a ways down the hill. Water was carried by flume from a spring nearby to turn the waterwheel and provide the water pumped up the hill. The wheel revolved activating a ram pump which piped water to the lighthouse. The wheel is now so encrusted with calcified lime that it no longer operates, but water, provided by an electric pump, still flows over it to keep it from drying and cracking.
In our posting from Margaret River, we mentioned there are a number of cow statues around the area as part of a public art event, “Cow Parade.” The Cape has its version named “Moorine Marauder.” It has a pirate hook for one front leg, a patch over one eye, and numerous earrings; is sitting looking through a telescope; and has a parrot on its head.