Albany, Small Town Australia

Albany is a vibrant little community of about 30 000 people located on the southern tip of Western Australia.  It is built between three massive granite hills, being Mount Clarence (which you see in the backdrop of the picture above), Mount Melville and Mount Adelaide.

The town was founded in 1826, as the first European settlement in Western Australia.  This was three years before Perth came into existence.  It is shielded from the ocean by the King George Sound, a landmass which you can see partly in the below picture:

The Sound protects Middleton Beach (above) from the heavy ocean swell on this coast.  There is no significant landmass between the sound and the South Pole, so winds and waves can be very strong here.  Albany is on average at least ten degrees colder than Perth.  At the beginning of March, still very much summer in Perth, they already had some overnight freezing here.

Above you can see the view from Mount Clarence.  The monument was installed to remember ANZAC day.  This was the date, April 25th 1915, of the Australian and New Zealand’s army’s arrival on the coasts of the Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey.  It’s a highly respected public holiday in Australia.

Early this morning at about 4 AM, lots of people head out to King’s Park to remember and respect their armed forces.  For me that was just a wee bit too early.  After a long weekend, and getting some assignments in in time on Monday, I slept in.

Some more views from the hill:

Now, for those interested in geology.  Here’s where the fun part starts.  As Albany is located on the southern coast, it is one of those places where Gondwana (the ancient supercontinent) was ripped apart.  Below you can see one of the places where the landmasses split, and Antarctica started its departure south.  The little lines in the sky were two WWII style fighter planes which were stretching their wings.

Of course any rupture like this, combined with the forces of erosion often leads to spectacular scenery such as the natural bridge below.  On the left you can see someone standing on it, which generates a good idea of its size.  If you look at the lower left of the picture, you will see that the side rocks are wet in a distinct way – merely parts of them have been touched by water.  Due to the gusting winds coming in from the sea, waves are often blown below the bridge and onto the rocks.  This can actually be quite dangerous as people don’t expect it.

While the continental split happened between 160 and 80 million years ago, Antarctica is still moving further away from Australia at a speed of up to 5 centimeters per year.  This is in fact really fast, and is the stuff earthquakes are made from.  Interesting is that even now, pieces of land are being found in Antarctica that fit virtually exactly with some of the coastal areas in Australia.

Most of the rock material here is granite, which makes erosion a very slow process and explains why there isn’t that much beach here to begin with, but more this type of rocky coastline. Due to strong, gusting winds, there is not much vegetation and that which would grow remains very limited in height.

The granite is also the main cause of why building in Albany is in fact quite expensive.  You can’t dig your way into the ground to start building up foundations, but you actually need to blast out the granite first.  On the way over I noticed that some homes were built on poles.  Normally that would be done out of fear for flooding, but in this case it may well be the “cheaper” way of building a base foundation.

Not very far from Albany is a place called the “Valley of the Giants”.  This refers to the size of the trees growing there (40-70meters).  While these trees are of the same species as seen elsewhere in Australia, forest fires and human buildup tend to overrun forests quite quickly.  Therefor you have a lot of “new forest” – places that are usually quite low, not so dense in vegetation or dense in very low vegetation, that have overgrown burned down or agrarian areas.  This valley contains a lot of “old forest”; many of the trees above are 400+ years old.  These are usually Red and Yellow tingle trees, common for the southern hemisphere.  You also find them in Africa, for example.

You can walk through the treetops, with great views over the surrounding valley.

Above you can see what the town of Albany really looks like.  Albany is well known in Perth as a great place to retire.  Summer is a lot cooler, while winter does not really carry the same type of “coldness” that we know in Europe.  As such, it’s a very popular area for European immigrants.  However, house prices have gone up significantly over the last few years as the spread of the city is limited by its surrounding hills.

On the way back to Perth, the little town of Walpole (500 inhabitants).  Above you can see the local barber’s shop.  Most houses in the town looked a lot like this one, so it’s a good example.  Well, euhm, everything except for the tourist office below.

If you every want to go and live in this town, you can take ownership of the flourishing diner for a mere 100 000 AU$ (approx 60 000 EUR).  This is one of the main tourist entry paths to Albany, so it may be a good investment.


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