A fascinating look at historic Geraldton

So here we are, in Geraldton where we’ve spent the past few days catching up with Corey’s Aunt and cousin, getting our car serviced, catching up on well overdue blog posts (limited phone range has made it sooooo hard!) and immersing ourselves in the history of a prolific shipwreck coastline.

I had in my mind that Geraldton was quite a small town but was quite surprised to discover that it’s really a regional hub with most of the major chain stores and retail amenity that we have back home.  But what I’ve loved the most about Geraldton is its fascinating shipwreck history!

I had very vague knowledge about the HMAS Sydney being sunk by the HSK Kormoran during the second world war. I also had heard about the Batavia in that it was a significant shipwreck, but I didn’t realise that it was wrecked off the Abrolhos Islands near Geraldton. So much of our time here has been spent getting some insight into this very fascinating history.

After we arrived at the Belair Gardens Caravan Park (fabulous staff and service, FYI), we met up with Corey’s family at the park down at the Geraldton Foreshore and allowed the kids to play.  On sunset, we all headed for home but at the last minute, we decided to go up to the HMAS Sydney Memorial which sits atop a hill looking over the ocean to watch the sunset. We had never seen a memorial so well done than this one.

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A domed roof made up of seagulls is known as the Dome of Souls with the seagulls representing the sailors. An alter sits underneath it with a replica propellor sitting on top of stone cut and transferred from all seven states and territories to represent the make up of the sailors origin.

The pool of remembrance and was created to honour the 60th anniversary of the HMAS Sydney going missing in 2001, seven years before they actually found the wreck.

The waiting woman was quite moving and from a distance looked like a real person looking out to sea. She represents all the people who were waiting for news of the HMAS Sydney; decades and decades of waiting.

It was such a beautiful memorial and all the names of the sailors are etched onto the walls of marble.  For those who aren’t aware of the history behind the HMAS Sydney, mightn’t know that it is the most catastrophic loss of life in Australian maritime history with all 645 sailors aboard the ship killed.  Involved in an engagement with a German cruiser called the Kormoran (who was masquerading as a merchant ship), both ships were damaged and sank. Only 81 of the 399 on board the Kormoran were killed, which has resulted in controversy over the years as to what really happened given the Germans survivors didn’t give truthful accounts when captured and interrogated and there were no Australian survivors able to verify any claims.  What is surprising is that neither wreck was located until 2008!

Our visit to the Geraldton Museum was able to fill a lot of gaps about the history of the HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran as well as the many more shipwrecks which litter the coast both along the mainland and near the archipelago. The display relating to the Batavia, and the ridiculously intriguing story of mutiny was extremely well done and given the whole experience was free, we had an awesome morning exploring the history of Geraldton.  The replica longboat was based on the longboat on the Batavia that had 48 men on board in search of water – this search party ultimately ended up sailing 1500 nautical miles to Jakarta!  But we reckon it would have been pretty squishy in there!

As much as we had enjoyed our time here, our stay in Geraldton was unfortunately  extended, thanks to a dodgy power steering belt adjuster thingy (yep, that’s all official Holden terminology!), so the car will be going into Holden tomorrow to hopefully get fixed before lunch so we can continue up the coast to Tamala Station – I’m hearing the Snapper is biting up there and I really want Corey to catch me one for dinner!

Do you enjoy checking out the local museums when you visit new places? Have you ever delved into shipwreck history before? (you should!!!)

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