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Tuesday, February 18: Day 302 – I’ve Seen the Light

We did not have GPS nor did we think to download a map. We had to navigate old school and actually use the map and decide which way was North.

We passed a sign that said Dead Finish Wheelchair Access. At first, I thought that it might be a graveyard but it was what we would call a Dead End.

Hamelin Bay Stingrays

There were a lot of people at Hamelin Bay in order to catch a view of the stingrays that are known to congregate here.

People got very close despite the lethal barb on the tail. Remember Steve Irwin! This is the closest that Rob got.

Leeuwin Lighthouse

There is a lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin. It has all the original workings. There are 176 steps to the top according to Bruce, our guide, who has been giving lighthouse tours for nine years. Rob confirmed the number of steps.

The Light Between the Oceans is the name of a book and movie. We had hoped to see it but were unable to download. Cape Leeuwin is the point where the warmer Indian Ocean meets the cooler Southern Ocean.

The Cape of Leeuwin joins Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope as being some of the most dangerous waters in the world.

The Southern Ocean

The Indian Ocean

(Lightships or lightvessels function like a lighthouse but are located on a ship. They aren’t used anymore but may have originated during Roman times. The Romans are said to have floated rafts with fires.)

The English navigator Matthew Flinders who is credited with circumnavigating Australia started here on the Investigator. He reached and named Cape Leeuwin on 6 December 1801, and proceeded to make a survey along the southern coast of the Australian mainland.

Flinders named Cape Leeuwin after the first known ship to have visited the area, the Leeuwin (“Lioness”), a Dutch vessel that charted some of the nearby coastline in 1622.

Cape Leeuwin is the most south-westerly mainland point of the Australian continent.

The lighthouse was started in 1895, and it took 300 men one year to build the stone structure.

It has the biggest double lens in the world.

Lighthouse workers worked four hours on and four hours off. Before electricity, the light used kerosene. The kerosene was transported to the top during a shift change in five-gallon containers. Tourists at a shift change had to carry kerosene.

Here is a picture of the kerosene air vents.

The lighthouse is 127 feet high with a 22-foot foundation below ground. In winds of 62 miles/hour, the lighthouse moves only ½ inch.

The highest wind ever recorded was 110 miles/hour with golf-ball-sized hail. A tour guide had a group of tourists and they braced themselves inside the lighthouse to wait it out. He said that it was the most scared that he has ever been. Bruce said that it is probably because he is a Kiwi (from New Zealand).

Eagle Heritage

We drove to see a live presentation of birds of prey that have been rescued. The presentation was very informative. Rob waits for the demonstration to begin.

First we saw a Barn Owl named Ivy. Her face has a disk which allows her to have 3D hearing as opposed to our 2D hearing.

The barn owl can “see” in total darkness and uses UV light. She can see a urine trail that is characteristic of rodents. She can also follow perfume in the same way. She can hover 20 feet above the ground and hear animals below ground. A barn owl makes no sound in flight.

The barn owl can move her head 355 degrees faster than we can blink so it will appear like her head goes all the way around.

An owl eats 1,000 mice per year. A snake eats 100 mice per year. Considering how quickly mice reproduce, barn owls are superior in keeping mice under control.

The owl’s eyesight is so acute that they can see the individual beats of the wings of a housefly. And if she looks directly in our eyes, she can see the rods and cones in the back of our eyes.

In order to minimize stress, don’t touch them or move quickly. Owls and other birds of prey face the breeze in order for a quick takeoff. Rob and I both were able to hold Ivy on a gloved hand.

Owls are carnivores but mostly eat diseased, dead, or genetically inferior animals. They are necessary in controlling vermin.

Black Kites

Black kites are really gray, but the tail is black.

It is the only bird of prey that gathers in groups. They eat insects out of the air and mice on the ground.

When you see a bird panting, it is getting hot. Like dogs, they don’t have sweat glands.

Kites are known to start fires. They will take a twig of fire from one place and drop it in a dry spot and start a new fire. This makes the insects flee and the kites are ready for the feast. They are not very popular with the firefighters.

Boranup Forest Viewpoint

We drove through forests of the tall Karri trees. This view went on as far as you could see.

I saw our first kangaroo and won. Here is picture proof.

Cape Naturalist Lighthouse

In 1903 there were three lighthousekeepers who lived here with their families. After automation, the last keepers left in 1994.

Even though this lighthouse is shorter than the lighthouse that we saw this morning at Cape Leeuwin, it stands higher above sea level at 328 feet.

The lighthouse was very isolated and the closest town was Dunsboro. The families would get supplies every two weeks. There were no medical or emergency services. They got electricity in 1978.

Indigenous people called Wadandi inhabited this cape to cape region. Wadandi means people of the saltwater and have existed for 50,000 to 65,000 years making it the longest living culture on earth.

There is a man named Josh who teaches visitors these ancient ways of life.

Koomal Dreaming

The Wadandi name for this area is Kwirreejeenungup which means place of beautiful scenery.

We see lots of place names ending with up. Up means “place of”.

In 1801, the French navigator Nicolas Baudin stopped here on May 30 during his exploration of Australia while mapping the coastline. Baudin named the bay they found Geographe Bay, after his flagship, Géographe. Later, the cape was named after the expedition’s second ship, Naturaliste.

This area was important for the transport of the Jarrah tree which was used for furniture, railway ties, and roads in England. The boats would sail west up the west coast of Africa.

The glass is made from the same glass used in chandeliers. One can see this lighthouse 28 miles away at the horizon. Each lighthouse has a unique frequency. This one has two lights: one light followed by darkness of 2½ seconds, then another light followed by 10 seconds of darkness. This information remains posted on each nautical map.

Most lighthouse keepers come from a military background. They were not permitted to sit during their shift.

Four hour shifts were to mitigate the exposure to kerosene. The dangers of mercury were virtually unknown at that time, but there were many reports of lighthouse keepers going mad. They thought that it was from isolation. Mercury was used as a base for the light to rotate more smoothly.

On a personal note: I have left behind both my hat and my swimsuit. I may have won the kangaroo challenge, but I ultimately lost critical items of clothing!!!

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