Up and out before 7am again – this time headed to Monkey Mia to see the wild dolphins being fed. Our early feeding visit was good – we saw the dolphins come in to visit and be fed. There are about 14 regular dolphins that visit at this point, but up to 30 will come in. Only females are fed – not males, and not calves. The calves need to learn to feed on their own, and the males are not encouraged since they don’t normally associate with the females and can get aggressive during mating time.
The feeding is well monitored and they only are fed about a quarter of their required intake which forces them to be less dependent on humans and still fish. We headed for 2nd breakfast to the local café – very nice coffee and scone and then to the dolphin centre and shop. As we were there, someone came in saying the dolphins were back….so back down to the beach.
The second visit was even better. There were lots less people to start off, and so we had a prime position. At first there were just 2, but then 2 more came in and eventually there were 6 as it was time to feed them. They were very playful and obviously inquisitive. They would put their head up and just watch us. Kyle was feeling very self conscious as Piccolo stared at him.
There were 3 generations of the same family. The young one was being weaned and the mother was having to ‘smack’ her daughter away to let her know that nursing was no longer available. But baby kept coming back and swimming circles around mom to try to get in – it was very entertaining and you can see a lot of similarities to humans. The oldest female there was 31 – and they generally live to mid 30’s so she is getting on in age. The youngest was born on Christmas day. The mother came in on Christmas eve still pregnant, skipped Christmas and was back with her new baby on Boxing day – proudly swimming back and forth showing her off. You certainly get the impression that they have us trained rather than the other way around – they have trained us to feed them…..
And the highlight for me – I was selected to hand feed them (I must have looked desperate). I got to get in the water right beside her and hand her a fish – which she very strongly secured in her mouth. Despite their gentle appearance and friendly nature, they can be very aggressive. You can sense that they truly can be quite dangerous if you happen to be a menu item in their diet!
On the drive home we passed the local golf course – very unique! This is the ‘green’ which gets sprayed with oil to keep the surface puttable. The whole course is desert. Between the extreme wind and course terrain, it must be quite a different game!
Monday afternoon we headed to the museum in Denham. The museum was not overly large, but was jam packed with information. Naturally, there was info on the dolphin history here – but that is the fairly recent history. There were also exhibits on the other wildlife in the area – which is extensive, the Eden project, and the history of the area, which is especially rich as the island nearby is where western civilization first set foot in Western Australia in 1616.
There was a computer based interactive map centre where you could access a timeline with select active years. You could call up the year you were interested in, see the map of the time (which were highly variable from pre 1616 through to current day). In another window, you had access to a series of clips on a variety of topics – aboriginal history, natural history, history of industries in the area, interviews with knowledge experts, wildlife topics and more. We monopolized these two centres for quite some time – lucky the place wasn’t too busy!!
Two other media centres were set at opposite ends of the museum where videos were constantly running – each one 1 ½ hours in length about consisting of short interviews on a very wide variety of topics. There was an interview with the aboriginal woman who had donated her shell collection to the museum – it was a very impressive collection which she had collected as a young girl and her grandmother had saved it for her to pass on to her children. She spoke of life as a young girl living near Shell Beach – her daily chores, trips into the outback with the grandparents, how she acquired the knowledge of her ancestors.
There were many such clips; all very interesting. They included:
- a couple who run Dirk Hartog Island. His family has run a sheep farm for several generations and he and his family continue to raise sheep, but also run a tourist centre for 14 people. They have occasional long term visitors – including 2 Canadian girls who (with permission) camped at one end of the island for 4 months studying a species of bird
- experts on dolphins – the history of how the Monkey Mia dolphins came to being such regular visitors.
- archaeologists studying the camps of the Zuytdorp survivors and how they first found the settled area, and the excavation of the site. This link also contains lots of interesting info on the shipwreck.
- studies of shipwrecks and the history of their finds – especially the Zuytdorp which was carrying a very rich silver cargo (much of which has been pillaged).
- The story of the bottle at right – left by a captain who was shipwrecked – there was originally notes inside, but the seal broke and the paper dissolved. The bottle was found after extensive searching with hightech equipement.
- marine biologists who spoke of the diversity of the area. This area is the southern most point for warm water fish, and the northern most waters for cold water fishes. As a result the biodiversity is extensive.
- how water is collected – aboriginals used to expand on the kangaroo scratches. The kangaroos would scratch an area where fresh water existed – the salt water would seep in also, but the fresh water floats on top. So they just siphoned off the top water. This same method was expanded on by the ranchers for their sheep and cattle. A windmill was connected (lots of wind here!) with a float and the fresh water was siphoned off for the animals. As wild goats became more plentiful, they would destroy the kangaroo scratches with their hooves (kangaroo have soft paws). In addition, the water stations for the sheep were then used by the wild roos and they stopped making scratches. Eden project has eliminated the ranches in the park, and kangaroo scratches are reappearing.
- Eden project (several clips) – the introduction of the fence across the peninsula has allowed the elimination of many of the foreign species. Foxes are mostly gone, rabbits also. Feral cats have been harder to eliminate since they only eat fresh meat (baits won’t work). Goats are also being eliminated. This has allowed several native endangered species to be reintroduced – with varying success (Cats still eliminated a couple of species)
- The waters of the area – hypersaline in the deepest areas, supersaline in the mid section which results in the cyanobacteria ability to survive to create the stromatolites and Shell beach existing.
There were also many other displays of shells, artefacts and more. We had a grand old time.
The local area is also a hotbed for pearls – black ones also. Walking back to our place we passed the ship at left which is a relic ship of the oystering days. At right is a sample of the many fishing boats also moored at the waterfront.
Then back to the ranch for din. We had tried to buy fish from the fish market (closed Easter Monday at noon), steak from the butcher (closed on Easter Monday), and ended up having a successful dinner of ravioli with roasted peppers and sauce.