Join us as we head north along the Western Australia coast, stopping in at interesting ports along the way and finally arriving in Geraldton, making final preparation for crossing of the Indian Ocean.Read More
Markets, Prisons and Miscellany
We could have left this day, but it's a Friday and it's the beginning of a new passage – Fremantle to Cape Town. You know how we are about leaving on a Friday. No worries … we had plenty to do. It was market day in Fremantle.
According to their website, this market was built in 1897 and has been operating ever since. It has undergone a few changes since then, but it maintains its allure as a marketplace and meeting place. We caught an early bus to get the best choice of produce. What a great selection and at good prices, too.
The place was alive with vendors, hawking their wares. Beyond the freshies, we saw everything from boomerangs, to emu oil, to native American Indian headdresses (???). People milled around and tasted and bought. It was an eclectic mix, for sure.
We replenished our energy along Henderson Street aka Cappucciono Strip with a flat white and a fresh croissant, then headed up the street to check out the Scots Church and the Norfolk Hotel … both integral parts of this historic Fremantle precinct. The Norfolk Hotel looked particularly inviting, but what caught our attention even more was the portrait of Dame Dorothy Margaret Tangney painted on the side of the building. Tangney was an Australian politician and the first female in the Australian senate among other things. Her portrait is part of Fremantle's public art collection.
Next we headed up the hill to Fremantle Prison. No one there to visit … it's a tourist attraction nowadays … and the most intact convict establishment in Australia. According to their website, Fremantle Prison was built by convicts as their own barracks between 1852 and 1859 using limestone quarried on site. It remained in continual use until 1991.
For 136 years, this prison was a place of hangings, floggings, dramatic convict escapes and prisoner riots. Inmates included imperial convicts, colonial prisoners, enemy aliens, prisoners of war and maximum-security detainees. The last flogging occurred in 1962 and the last hanging in 1964. Australia abolished the death penalty in 1984. Fremantle Prison is now a World Heritage Site.
A myriad of tours are available including night tours and a tunnel tour under the prison. Unfortunately, all the interesting tours were booked full when we arrived, so we wandered around the Gatehouse area, saw what we could see and then escaped to freedom in search of public art. We found plenty on Fremantle's streets and squares including a xylophone on the High Street Mall. David couldn't resist playing me a tune.
And then there's the miscellany that we discovered on our walk about town. A tower of colorful, almond-flavored macarons … a Perth Monopoly game … free didgeridoo lessons … a wonderful kangaroo head hat to try on. Fremantle is a place you could explore for many more days and still not discover all it has to offer. Three days was just a taste.
WA Maritime Museum and Shipwrecks Gallery
Quite honestly, when it comes to maritime museums, we've visited so many, we're pretty jaded. We've been there and seen that and really, what more could we see that would impress us? And then we visited the Western Australian Maritime Museum. In a word … WOW! This world class, thoughtfully laid out, gem of a museum is outstanding and we relished every minute we were there.
The day was off and on rainy, but who cared? We were mesmerized as soon as we walked through the doors. A hard working seaport like Fremantle, with so much maritime history, is the perfect setting for this museum. There was so much to see … we delved right in.
Probably, the most striking aspect of the museum is the unique way in which every aspect of Fremantle's boating and shipping history is displayed. There are real boats in each gallery … some are suspended in the air, some invite you aboard, some allow an inside look and the HMAS Ovens, an Oberon class Australian submarine, is parked along side the museum in an historic WWII sub slipway.
There was a gallery devoted to cargo … whale oil, sheep, coal, immigrants. One gallery displayed whale memorabilia while another featured the actual racing yacht, Australia II, winner of the America's Cup in 1983. Pearl diving boats, fishing boats, crab and lobster boats, Swan River boats, military boats, canoes, an Indonesia pinisi … all presented so interestingly, it was hard not to read every line and then ponder and check out each detail. Even if you don't like boats, you'd enjoy the history and cultural components of the displays.
Jon Sanders' boat, Parry Endeavor, hangs precariously mid-air, bow dug into the sea as Sanders grasps the mast anticipating the 100' (30m) following wave about to crash down around him. We shuddered as we read the explanatory placard. Sanders, by the way, a Perth native, holds several world records including the first solo triple circumnavigation of the globe in 1987 which coincidentally is the longest distance ever sailed continuously by any vessel … 71,023 nautical miles. That's pretty much how many nautical miles we've sailed total in the last 15 years.
The megamouth shark, an extremely rare deepwater shark, was a surprise as we peered into the portholes of a large tank. I had to include this pic. You can do more research yourself on this one.
We spent the entire morning at the museum, stopped for a coffee and walked over to the Shipwreck Galleries as an afterthought. The galleries are housed in a restored 1850's warehouse building. We were bedazzled once again as we entered a whole new world.
Hundreds upon hundreds of relics from shipwrecks along Western Australia's coastline were displayed. Pieces of porcelain and china, Spanish coins, Dutch canons dating back as early as the17th century.
One gallery highlighted old charts and followed the journeys of some of the early Dutch explorers who visited Australia's western coast.
The museum's gem, however, is in a dimly-lit gallery and displays the original timbers from the hull of the Dutch East India Company's ship, Batavia, built in Amsterdam in 1628 and shipwrecked on her maiden voyage in what now known as the Abrolhos Islands.
The subsequent mutiny and massacre that took place among the survivors is the subject of much conjecture and speculation. The skeletal remains of the of the murdered crew remains a grisly reminder of the events which occurred.
Amongst its other cargo, the Batavia carried stones which were intended to serve as a welcome arch for the city of Batavia (now Jakarta), headquarters for the Dutch East India Company in the Far East. A replica stone arch was built at the museum and it is stunning.
We left the Shipwreck Galleries, our minds bursting with new information and images of the past. What a fine, fine day!
And tomorrow? Our last day in Freo and we want to make it special. We're off to the Fremantle Markets … and maybe to the historic Fremantle Prison if we can fit it in midst re-fueling and re-provisioning.