Monday, August 10, 2015

Geraldton 6-7 August

We only spent one whole day in Geraldton so we didn't sample many of its delights. It did have a few surprises though. We had no idea of its population before we arrived and had made a guesstimate of between 5000 and 10000. How wrong we were! It is probably closer to 40 000, and actually has suburbs. It is a combination of a port city where crayfish, or lobsters, are a big industry, and a rural service centre selling tractors and other farm equipment. The surrounding countryside is mainly pastures such as wheat. It is unusual for us to see wheat grown within sight of the ocean.

Fish and chips at the waterfront with the waiting flock of seagulls anticipating scraps

Geraldton has many museums and a proud history but the memorial to HMAS Sydney II is a dominant feature. We took a guided tour which was very informative as it explained all the symbolism embedded in its structure. The Sydney was sunk on 19 November 1941, with a total loss of all 645 men on board. The wreck of the Sydney has only been located within the last 10 years.
The memorial is located in Geraldton because that was where many of the men spent their last shore leave before departing. It has several components: a circular dome composed of 645 seagulls. Sailors believe that seagulls represent the souls of lost seamen. There is a stele, which represents the prow of the ship and a bronze statue of a waiting woman, symbolising those who waited in vain for the ship's return. A black granite memorial wall lists all of the seamen who were on board. A final component was added after the ship was found. It shows the West Australian coastline and marks the spot where the wreck lies.
The dome with 645 seagulls
The stele and the waiting woman
The final piece of the memorial indicating the position of the wreck
The bronze of the waiting woman and the tour guide
The volunteer guide who presented all the information did an excellent job of interpreting this very moving memorial. He said there is often someone in the tour group with a personal association with the ship and on our tour this was also the case. The uncle of one of our group went down with the ship.

After lunch of fish and chips on the rejuvenated waterfront we decided to visit the abandoned village of Greenough, now owned and restored by the National Trust. Until about the 1930s it was an active village, but it's location on flood prone land led to the occupants relocating. All the buildings that remain are built of stone and have been well restored. The two churches are still in active use, and the village store has been converted into a coffee shop and gift shop. Quite incongruously there is a small herd of llamas or alpacas grazing in the village.
The Catholic Church and presbytery

David studying exam questions
The requisites for setting up a school in 1870
The schoolhouse
Holding forth in court
The police station and courthouse
Intoning from the pulpit in the Anglican Church
The interior of the Catholic Church
Alpacas in the village
The surrounding countryside is all still lush green farmland. I don't know whether it is usually so green, as there has been quite a lot of rain recently. There are many stone buildings of the period scattered throughout the district, some still in use and others decaying. One of the surprising features of the area is "the leaning trees of Greenough". As the area is so windy it burns off growth on the southern windward side causing the trere hees to lean and grow horizontally. It seems to affect only a particular species of West Australian river gum. I don't like to claim they are unique but they certainly are very unusual. 

The Leaning Trees of Greenough

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