Just as we finished packing up our tent ahead of strong winds and rain at Coral Bay, we noticed a huge crack across the car windscreen. We’d had the tent fly attached to the roof rack to give us some shade while we were camped, so hadn’t driven it anywhere. Or looked at it, obviously! A stone chip near the bonnet must have been affected by the big temperature ranges for the three days and nights, and inched its way halfway across the glass. This meant a two night stopover in the next town, Carnarvon, while the windscreen came up from Geraldton. We wimped out with the rain and the wind and checked into a motel.
Of such delays are opportunities made…
Carnarvon perches on the coast at the mouth of the Gascoyne, a wide brown river – brown, because there’s no water in it. With an average rainfall of about 8 inches, I guess it doesn’t flow all that often. The population of around 4500 supports mining (mainly salt), fishing, agriculture and tourism. It grows 80% – 80%!! – of WA’s fruit and vegetables which is hard to believe when you’ve driven across thousands of kms of dusty dry Pilbara to get here. (Their bananas are wonderful) Carnarvon was also the home of the Tracking Station and OTC Satellite Earth Station. It was an important part of the manned space missions in the 60s and 70s, and very involved in the first manned moon landing. Proof that parts of Australia are truly the end of the earth, the space base was the last communications contact for spacecraft departing Earth’s orbit. On the flip side, it was the first to hear from them when they came back. It was dismantled some years ago, and replaced by the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum, full of memorabilia, scientific information, and antique computer gear you wouldn’t think would print you a shopping list, let alone help man walk on the moon. It’s very interesting, and really should not be missed!
Space and scientific frontiers aside, Carnarvon has a lot of history. It used to boast the longest jetty anywhere, stretching out across the mangrove mud flats, loading wool onto ships until road transport finished the shipping industry. Below is a wool wagon, which brought bales to the narrow gauge trains that trundled out on the mile long jetty to where the ships waited in deep water.