After leaving Port Augusta yesterday, our route took us through some very uninteresting arid country as we drove south down the Eyre Peninsula to our most distant destination on this trip – Port Lincoln. I set the cruise control to 110 km nearly all the way and steered down this highway, stopping at just a few points of interest.
Entering Whyalla, we came across the dry-docked HMAS Whyalla. She was the first ship ever built here. As ship J153, she was a corvette (mine sweeper) and one of sixty similar ships commissioned by the navy in WW2. HMAS Whyalla served in New Guinea and the Pacific and finally in Japan..
Whyalla is also famous for its steelworks. They are the only manufacturer of rail tracks in Australia. Iron ore is mined in the Middleback Range, to the north, to feed these steelworks. They occupy a 1,000 ha site on the shore of False Bay, Spencer Gulf and they are the largest employer in the town..
The steelworks were first established in 1937 as a plant for the production of pig-iron for sale or use at other BHP plants. A shipyard was also constructed, designed to aid the British Commonwealth’s efforts in World War II. After the war, the steelworks and shipyards continued to produce a range of products including rail track and maritime vessels for commercial use. When the shipyards eventually closed, Whyalla was plunged it into an economic recession, and 1,800 workers made redundant. In 1982, the steelworks employed 1,600 people, down from a peak of around 6,000 in the 1960s The steelworks is now owned by Liberty House Group, who purchased Arrium in September 2017 Arrium was previously known as OneSteel, and was spun off from BHP in 2000. Liberty House is a British industrial and metals company founded in the United Kingdom in 1992 by industrialist Sanjeev Gupta
One of our best finds in Whyalla was the ‘Harvey Norman’ store that sold, amongst other electronic things – DRONES!. I lashed out to buy a new one, a DJI Mavic Air 2. This is an updated version of my old one and I’m glad that I was able to get it setup last night to take to Whalers Way today. It is much quieter than my old drone and I takes 43 mega pixel photos instead of the old one’s 10 mp. I also found today that the compass doesn’t need be re callibrated every time that I move position – a great improvement.
Painted silos are popping up everywhere. We found one in the town of Cowell that depicts a local man who keeps camels. He has a very important role each Christmas in the town’s festive celebrations.
The second silo was at Tumby Bay. It shows two local aboriginal kids jumping off the local pier on a hot summer’s day.
Tumby Bay struck us as a very nice little town. There were some lovely homes along the esplanade that fronted the bay and the entire town looked clean, tidy and well kept. It had a couple of magnificent old pubs that would be worthy of some form of architectural protection, if they don’t have them already.
Port Lincoln was over 330 km from Port Augusta and with our shopping and sight seeing, we didn’t reach there until late afternoon. My birthday dinner at Port Augusta turned out to be something of a flop but we made up for it last night with a delicious fisherman’s platter. I don’t know how much of the seafood was caught locally but this town has the biggest fishing fleet in all of Australia.
Today, we spent most of our time driving around Whalers Way. This area has a very basic road around the very tip of the Eyre Peninsula. It is all on private land so we had to buy an entry permit at the Visitors Information Centre and pay a deposit for the key to the entrance gate. This wildlife reserve offers some of the most spectacular, accessible and dramatic coastal views in the state of South Australia. It is an explorer’s delight with high cliffs, blowholes, crevasses, caves and golden beaches.
The entire area is desolate and barren. It gets its name from a nearby old whaling station that briefly operated in the mid 1800s. I was glad that I had my new drone as it enabled me to take some photos from positions that I would not otherwise have been able to reach. Here are some of them.
We had lunch, complete with a glass of chilled wine, in a very desolate picnic area along the road. This was the only piece of infrastructure in the area. It wasn’t very beautiful, but at least it had a picnic table.
The roads here are very rough and we had to travel slowly for most of the way. It wasn’t quite a 4WD road but it helped to have a little more clearance than a normal car.The property owner has a penchant for posting signs at various points. The message on this one was quite clear.
Back in Port Lincoln, we returned the key to the Visitors Information Centre and reclaimed our $20 deposit. We then drove around to the marina and wharf to check out the local fishing fleet. The prawn fishing boats had just returned and were unloading at the dock.
I spoke with a couple of security officers at the port where a ship was unloading fertiliser, and was surprised to find that Tuna is now farmed, rather than caught in the wild. I think this is cheating! Apparently, Port Lincoln has more millionaires per capita than any other city in Australia. That’s because high quality tuna returns ridiculous amounts of money in the fish markets in Japan. This year, a single bluefin tuna sold for 193.2 million yen ($A1.8 million) in the first auction of the new year at Tokyo’s Toyosu fish market. It was the second highest price on record.
If there is a silo artist looking for a new canvas, the enormous silos at Port Lincoln are available. Forget painting local heroes or wildlife, these silos are large enought to hold paintings of the history of mankind. You could fit the entire twelve stations of the cross on them multiple times. Built in 1959, these 47 metre grain silos store wheat & barley from Eyre Peninsula’s harvest until loaded on to bulk grain carriers at a rate of 1500 tonnes per hour.
Port Lincoln is a successful commercial centre which is economically driven by the grain-handling facilities; the canning and fish processing works; lambs, wool and beef, fertiliser production and, in recent times, the vast wealth which has been made as a result of tuna farming for the Japanese market. There are now tuna farms, kingfish farms, mussel farms, abalone farms, oyster farms and even seahorse farms in the area. In the 1830s it was considered as a possible state capital. Only the lack of a reliable water supply prevented it from becoming the capital of South Australia.