Albany: A Nice Little Frontier Town
March 26, 2019, Albany, Australia — Welcome to Australia’s southernmost city, located in Western Australia (WA): Albany, population 30,000. (Remember, it’s ‘al-binny’ as in ‘gal-binny’.) Of WA’s 3 million inhabitants, 2.5 million live north of here in Perth... the rest are scattered around in this state that makes up about one third of the continent and could hold both Alaska and Texas.
Though sighted by an off-course Dutch East India Co. ship in 1622, the Hollanders sailed on by. They didn’t spot the coast again until 1627, when they dubbed it New Holland — and sailed on by again:
In 1826, when it looked like the French might make a claim on the region, England sent 19 soldiers, 23 convicts, crew, plus sheep and pigs, aboard the good ship Amity to settle and set up a military garrison to stave off the French, if need be. Hoping to farm for food, they found nothing but bush and sandy soil. The indigenous Aborigines helped them at first — like the Wampanoags and the Pilgrims. Good thing they’d brought those sheep and pigs. Eventually farmers built up their soil enough for certain crops.
Convicts starting arriving (not of their own volition) in 1850 (until 1868), but this wasn’t the rum bunch who’d been sent to Sydney and Tasmania in earlier blog posts — these were farmers, artisans and skilled laborers who just happened to have committed crimes punishable by deportation.
By mid-century, Albany’s deep water port was busy due to some 300 British, French and American whaling ships hunting on the Continental Shelf. In fact, the last operating whaling station was established in Albany in 1951 and operated until 1978, when whaling ended. By that time, the humpback whale was endangered, and 14.5 million sperm whale had been taken.
When gold was discovered in the 1880s, it became a jumping off port for prospectors going inland to try their luck. Gold mining has come and gone and come again in the area. CNBC reported on September 9, 2018: ‘Australia’s ABC News reported that an unexpected discovery of gold in Western Australia has delivered more than 15 million Australian dollars ($10.66 million) in value of the precious metal in just four days.’
Today the port handles containers of wood chips bound for Japan, silica, and grain for Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The population is too small to consume all the grain they raise. (What American beer company boasted, ‘We drink all we can... the rest we sell’?*) These are grain silos at the port. Decorated in 2018 by artists from New York City, they’re part of something called the Silo Trail.
First stop on my ‘included’ tour was the Albany Wind Farm, built in 2000. These 12 giant turbines provide 80% of the city’s power. They plan to investigate wave power next. As I wrote yesterday, this part of the world is into renewable energy.
The sky was full of mare’s tail clouds, and it was this blue — I have not doctored the color in any of the photos.
After a pleasant ride back along the shoreline of Princess Royal Harbor, we rode around town — which had a bit of a Wild West feel.
The Albany Convict Gaol was built by convicts in 1852 and served as a ‘convict labour hiring depot’ until 1876. Thereafter, it was the town gaol. Unlike most gaol’s throughout the country, Albany’s was based on the idea of rehabilitation. Besides being hired out to work for free settlers, convicts built streets, roads and buildings. The gaol closed in 1939, when the Public Works Department began using it for storage. It was taken over by the Albany Historical Society in the early 1960s.
There were ‘facilities’ for both men and women prisoners.
In the so-called Kitchen:
Funny story Number 1: Still inside the gaol, a Viking asked the tour guide, ‘Why do they have all that glass on top of the walls?’ Duh.
A rather good painting of the gaol complex...
Adjacent to the Gaol, the 1850 Residency building houses the Museum of the Great Southern, a very good local museum covering history of the indigenous Noongar people, of European settlers, fauna and flora, and various aspects of Albany’s World War I and II history.
Funny story Number 2: A Viking (right) asked our tour guide, ‘Where’s there a KFC? I am dying for fast food. I am so tired of all the food on the ship.’ He pointed her towards KFC, and a Hungry Jack’s and a McDonald’s. ‘As long as it’s fast food,’ she replied.
The Passepartout Albany Bureau yesterday, during Afternoon Tea. Tomorrow: Fremantle, the last stop before 8 days on the Indian Ocean.
*Utica Club #