Day 85-87 BIG… Jetty and whales

Busselton has a jetty. It’s a long jetty. 1836 metres to be precise. That’s a long jetty. I think that’s all there is to Busselton. A jetty. But it is a good jetty. I like jetties and Busselton has a long one.

Apparently the length of the Busselton Jetty also makes it very difficult to navigate without getting lost. Why else would the little tourist train, which runs visitors out to the under water observatory at the end, have a Navman GPS unit firmly attached to the windscreen? ‘No not left, and not right, I said straight ahead!’, is what I didn’t have to shout in order to get out to the end of the Busselton Jetty. The driver simply followed the GPS… and the train tracks.

The pylons supporting the jetty provide over a thousand square metres of surface area on which life may flourish. More than a hectare of space, which has provided a home for all manner of marine life from barnacles, corals and crabs to resident schools of fish. The schools of fish even periodically attract bigger fish, of the more aggressive bitey variety, which is why our young guide hadn’t been outside to clean the underwater observatory viewing windows of late. A whole marine eco system called into existence by the construction of a very long jetty. Of course years ago the jetty helped put something of a dent in another forest eco system just inland from Busselton as it played an important part in exporting timber to England. But we won’t go there.

1.8 km out into the turquoise waters of Geographe Bay we descended level by level to the sea floor eight metres below viewing windows on the underwater world as we went. The jetty pylons looked like an underwater forest with each tree covered in it’s own vertical coral reef. Quite spectacular even if visibility was not what it can be.

Having seen the best of Busselton (that may not be true, I am afraid I hadn’t done sufficient homework) it was off to Yallingup, a little collection of houses and a caravan park perched on the western slopes of Cape Naturaliste as it falls steeply into the Indian Ocean. Yallingup means ‘place of love’ and I loved it. It was gutsy and raw with large rolling swells making their way in from an inky blue sea towards a rocky reef, beach and sea cliffs. A surfers paradise and a surf watchers heaven. That’s it we are moving to Yallingup!

After a good nights sleep to get over my bout of over enthusiasm (I am afraid this is an affliction from which I suffer regular and incurable bouts) we set about the business of ticking off the nearly never ending list of things to see in this tiny corner of the country. We visited the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse constructed in 1903. Great place to work is was back then, only one four hour shift a day. Of course that was four hours inside the unventilated lighthouse breathing kerosene fumes after which if you didn’t knock off you would be dead. But the best part of the job would have to have been cleaning the lighthouses mercury bath.

156 kg of mercury is still used to this day to lubricate the rotating lead crystal magnifying lens which weighs 5 tonne! Back in ye olden days the kerosene would get into the mercury bearing and it had to be filtered out. ‘Junior! Where is Junior!’. The youngest member of staff would have to filter the mercury with his bare hands using an old piece of stocking!

The five tonne lead crystal magnifying lens is the original installed back in 1903. It has only suffered one piece of damage from a lighthouse keeper who totally lost it when told he was being reassigned. He took his revenge on the lens by laying into it with hammer and steel capped boots. I bet it was the same guy that had to clean the mercury. Poor bugger.

After watching a pod of whales from Bunker Bay we decided the next day we would take whale watching cruise. There are just so many around at the moment we decided our chances of a close encounter were never going to be better. It is quite a thrill getting up close to these gentle giants, to hear them suck air in through their blow holes and the effortlessly glide underneath the waves. We saw some good tail fin action up close but unfortunately the whales close to our boat weren’t in the mood for breaching when it suited us. Cest la ve and bon voyage and safe travels to them we say. It kind of makes me feel all is not lost with the world that there are more of these critters cruising our coast than there have been for decades. Perhaps there are other trends it is not to late to reverse as well.

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