It was a long day of driving as we headed south from Coral Bay to Hamelin Pools for the next night.  Although Coral Bay was nice, it was nice to get out of there, mainly due to the company at the campground.  It was jam packed, overpriced, under serviced, and had salt water coming out of the taps…so having a shower to wash the salt water off was futile, and washing our dishes and brushing our teeth with salt water was not great.  In fact, we are all feeling a bit parched since the amount of salt that was in the water.

But it had a great playground, a jumping pillow, and a pool.  And the kids loved that.  Other than the giant game of king of the mountain on the jumping pillow where it was like an all out WWF wrestling match.  Wilson came home the first night after a young kid, “three years old” as was announced by Wilson, had punched him in the stomach.  King of the mountain, Aussie style.

(YouTube Video Link to Fun Killer Dad Explaining Symbiotic Relationships to the Kids With Sexual Overtones:

Because we were trying to get down to the southwestern corner in the next couple of days, meant that the drives were long.  Like 6 or 7 hours long.  And we were trying to hit places where we hadn’t hit on the way up.  And the campgrounds had to have pools.  And if we were lucky, a playground too.  A lot of requirements that narrowed the campground search down pretty quickly when we got to the booking stage.  But, all in all, we were able to find campgrounds that had either, or both, of these requirements somewhere where we were going.  We pulled out of the campground as the “business in the front and party in the back” families were playing UFC king of the hill on the jumping pillow, and we hit the road to head south.

Wilson doing his math in MathMammoth and Lulu working on her Great Lessons

The road we were travelling was one that we had been on before, so there wasn’t a lot of new scenery that we were coming across, so there was some reading, blogging, photo editing, and of course homework being done.  That is a bonus of having the RV, as there was a table in the kitchen with seat belts that the kids could sit at and do homework while we drove.

While the kids did homework, Deb and I got to enjoy a pot of joe.

Wilson was working on estimation, fractions, decimals, and some algebra…and Lulu was tackling long division and bigger multiplication questions using MathMammoth workbooks we bought online according to their grade level as suggested by their teachers back home.  Lulu isn’t a big fan of me being a teacher, and both kids in fact prefer Deb to be their teacher.  I have a hard time dumbing it down to a grade 5 and 7 level when trying to explain algebraic equations, and don’t get me started on science or physics…that’s when I really get going…

Wilson was getting annoyed with my teaching so he moved to the front. Ok, maybe he was a bit car sick too…but largely he wanted to get away from me.

We are trying to follow what their respective classrooms are doing back home so it isn’t a complete shock when they get back.  Thank goodness we had the amazing Dave (his name will remain anonymous so others can’t steal him while we are gone!) “math helper” for the kids before we left!

Looking at the map, we had covered a lot of ground!

On the drive down, Deb stopped and dropped me off on the side of the road to take a picture of what she thinks represents Australia to her…. quintessential Australia.

She then went down and turned around down the road… ”Just be back in a sec”.   So, I trudged through the brush at the side of the road, hoping there were no snakes hiding in the grass.   Click, click, and Deb drove by eventually tooting her horn….but she didn’t stop.  She crosses the bridge over the dry river, which supposedly never has water in it, and keeps going.  Ok…..what now…..

The “river” that the bridged crossed was dry. I don’t think it had been wet since the Jurassic period.

Eventually she stops at a side street, and I walked over to where she had pulled over to wait for me.  I got in and she had the service manual for the camper out.  Not a good sign.  Supposedly, an error message came on after she dropped me off and she didn’t know what it meant.  She turned the vehicle off and it was no longer there.  So, not sure what to make of this….should we go to the service station?  Could we keep going?  Well, if it wasn’t there anymore, it couldn’t be that serious…despite the fact that the manual said that such an error could cause the vehicle to skid uncontrollably and could result in an accident.  I guess we will see if it does or not…

We drove through Canarvon, which we had stayed at on the way up (it had the great space museum), and stopped at the grocery store and some road side stalls that we knew were really good.

Nothing beats fresh fruits and veggies when you know your friends back home are eating stuff from California or Chile.

We pushed on further south until we got to our final destination in Hamelin Pools.  The campground is operated by a very nice couple, the husband kept himself busy with ground maintenance and everything outside of the café kitchen, while the wife did the cooking and looked like she enjoyed sun tanning while her husband was busy running around.  The campground, even though it looked rustic and barebones, was actually very lovely.

We had the place to ourselves!

We got to our final destination, Hamelin Pools, in the late afternoon which is quaintly located in the middle of nowhere.  However, it is a very important part of our world’s history for a couple of reasons.  You would never have guessed it when you rolled in.

First off, when we drove down the road that ended at a campground that was dotted with small eucalyptus trees and old buildings.  These buildings were part of the Western Australia telecommunications system which helped transmit telegraphs up and down the coast, with the messages being relayed in small, remote outposts like this.  In its hayday, there were a whopping 21 people living here!

This telegraph station used Morse code as the primary language, and incoming messages would come in batches of 15-20 at a particular time in the day.  The operator would then take these messages, which he or she had written down or memorized (which was one operators claim to fame….a telegraphic memory…hahah) and then sent it along to the next relay station up the coast.

The kitchen at the communications station

Of course, over time, Morse code was replaced by operator assisted telephones, which was replaced by direct dialing, which was then replaced by cell phones and the internet.  That staff of 21 dwindled to a mere few, and then eventually the Hamelin Bay post was turned into a campground and tourist attraction.

How dry was it? Well, apparently people had tried to swim here in the past, but didn’t realize there wasn’t any water. So, they had to put a sign.

Ok, the second reason was that this location is one of a few areas where shell bricks were harvested over time.

It is also one of the few locations where there is a preserved area of well-formed stromatolites.  (If you remember back to my post on Cervantes, there were stromatolites there too).  These are slowly growing rock formations that are built over years….like billions of years….by our earliest ancestors, the cyanobacteria that started to grow in hypersalinated pools of water that existed in our world after the big bang.   Yes, THE big bang.

Here is your, brief science lesson that has led to me being labelled as “fun killer dad” (as the kids have so lovingly named me because I tend to make a lesson out of everything…”the world is a school, so you better learn from it” is something that I like to say).  Ok….the cyanobacteria live in a harsh hypersaline environment, which means that not much else lives in the water with them in these pools, so they can live and grow unobstructed.  They start forming bacterial colonies under the sand that is sometimes covered with water, depending on the tides and depending how far the bacteria live from the edge of the water.

The cyanobacteria live in microbial mats (literal mats of a bunch of bacteria that live happily together…symbiotically if you want the scientific name…) which are covered in slime.  During the day, these bacteria convert carbon dioxide into carbon and oxygen molecules.  The carbon then combines with calcium in the water at the end of the working day and they lay down a layer of calcium carbonate, whereas the oxygen gets released into the air.

Cyanobacteria and a stromatolite growing in an aquarium. Look at the tiny bubbles which are a result of the oxygenation process that these little creatures perform.

So, here is the cool thing (at least to me…I got an eye roll from both kids) is that when the world was just but a wee thing, the troposphere (the atmosphere we live in) was made up of gases rich in nitrogen and sulphur.  So, when the cyanobacteria showed up, they converted this into oxygen, which made it more hospitable for us to live in.

Sometimes balancing along the boardwalk is more fun than school…

Over time, with an increase in oxygen, the bacteria could move closer to shore, and plant species such as algae started to grow.  And then as more oxygen became available, stromatolites and plants started to grow at the waters edge.  Then the plants kept marching inland, and then the cyanobacteria stopped there until it figured out how to grow some legs so it could crawl up on shore to become the dinosaurs.  Cool, eh?!  Told ya so!  Fun killer dad wins again!

The last cool thing about this spot was that the hypersaline environment allowed only a few kinds of sea faring mammals to grow and thrive…one of them being the Fragum Cockle.  This tiny shell is similar to the shell beach we encountered outside of Shark’s Bay, but since these shells and animals didn’t have many, if any, predators, they grew in large numbers and over time gravity compacted them together actually forming a cement like shell-rock compound.  They mined this for local buildings and actually used stone cutter saws (yes, manual saws like we would see lumberjacks use in the olden days) to cut out bricks for local buildings.  Talk about hard work!

The best seats in the house for the sunset and star show.

Another last thing that I was pretty excited about, was the fact that there is virtually no light pollution out in Hamelin Pools.  Largely owing to the lack of civilization other than the owners of the campground and the transients, er tourists, that stay at the park.  That can only mean one thing, which is awesome nighttime photography.  The bonus was that it was a moonless night, which meant that the stars were front and centre stage.

I did my own art class lessons by watching some YouTube videos on how to take pictures of the stars during the drive that day and then went out to put what I had learned into practice.  The results were pretty stunning if I do say so myself, and I hope that I can have the opportunity to do it more.

There is something about setting up your camera and pointing it toward the sky where you see a few stars in the sky, and then you look at the picture which reveals so many more that you cannot see.

The way you take pictures of stars is to keep the shutter open for a very long time, like 25 to 30 seconds long.  So, the light from those very little stars that our eyes cannot register get captured on the film.  Or the digital sensor…forgot, new age photography.

I was walking around in the dark, making sure that I looked where I stepped to ensure that there were no snakes or spiders in my path!  I love taking photographs, and much to our family’s chagrin, will do close to anything to get a great shot or get the shot that I want.  (Thank you to my family for their patience and understanding!).

Neat little gizmo in the shower!

Off to bed, and then up tomorrow for another long drive down south to Margaret River, one of the best wine regions in Australia!   Big reds and yummy chardonnays here we come!!

Everything is bigger in Australia!