Every so often, on the footpaths of Albany, there’s a colourful mosaic tile set into the pavement. Crafted by local school children in a project for the millennium, the tiles are markers along the Amity Heritage Trail. They guide walkers on tour of the old city, past the replica Brig Amity, which brought the first settlers to the area, the old convict Gaol where the ghosts of past prisoners are said to wander, and churches and cottages built as the town began to flourish.
The Brig Amity replica
Wesley Church Manse, 1903
Patrick Taylor’s cottage, oldest home in WA, 1832
Women’s Rest Centre, 1908
St John’s Anglican Church, 1841
Not far from town, at the Albany Wind Farm on Frenchman’s Bay Road, there are more mosaics. The tiles along the Wind Farm Walk depict the seasonal calendar of the Noongar people, who first populated this land. Six annual seasons, based on the weather cycle, dictated the types of food which became available during the year.
From the earliest inhabitants and the first settlers to the residents of today, these tiles tell the story of Albany – small pieces jigsawed together to create a big picture.
On November 1, 1914 a flotilla of ships sailed out of King George Sound bound for the other side of the world. Little did the excited young men aboard know that, for many of them, these final views of Albany would be the last of Australia they would ever see. They were volunteers in the Australian Imperial Force and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and they were destined to become the first ANZACS. A memorial on Mt Clarence overlooks the harbour from which these young men departed.
Apex Drive winds up from the harbour through the Avenue of Honour. Huge old gum trees, each with a plaque in memory of a soldier who never returned, line both sides of the road.
From the car park a flight of steps leads to the summit of Mt Clarence. Along the way are story boards featuring quotes by soldiers who recorded their thoughts as they entered the conflict.
The memorial is dedicated to the Desert Mounted Corps, including the famous Light Horse Brigades, who served in Egypt, Palestine and Syria. As well as Australians and New Zealanders, the Corps was made up of British, Indian and French mounted units. The bronze statue on top of a granite plinth depicts an Australian soldier helping his New Zealand comrade whose horse has been injured.
The lookout near the memorial bears the name of the Reverend Arthur White, who led the first ever Anzac Day Dawn Service in Albany in 1930.
It’s now 100 years since those eager young soldiers left Albany but their memory lives on at Mt Clarence and around Australia in the tradition of the Dawn Service each 25 April.
From the lookout at Mt Clarence there is nothing but 4000 km of Southern Ocean between the city of Albany and the Antarctic, but it wasn’t always that way. This part of the Australian coast was once joined to Antarctica as part of the supercontinent Gondwana. When the continent finally broke up 45 million years ago the rugged coastline of the south of Western Australia was formed.
Not all of the coast is rocky though. The waters of King George Sound and Princess Royal Harbour are deep and calm, and form the only natural harbour between Shark Bay in the north of Western Australia and Port Phillip Bay in Victoria. Ships have been sheltering here since the 17th century.
Along the coast past Frenchman’s Bay the land becomes rocky and barren. The granite cliffs have been eroded by wind and water since the breakup of Gondwana. Waves pound against the Natural Arch and the tide surges into the Gap with relentless force.
Look down if you dare but hold on tightly. It’s always windy and people have been blown over the edge by unexpected wind gusts in the past.
The energy of the wind has been harnessed further along the coast at the Albany Wind Farm. Located on the cliffs 80 metres above the sea are 18 wind turbines. The wind is strong enough to turn the turbines for almost all of the year, generating enough clean electricity to provide 80% of Albany’s power.
The graceful turbines stand like watchful giants, looking out over the land and the ocean. What would Don Quixote have thought if he could see them?