Not many World Heritage areas can make the claim of having their fortunes being built from a pile of poo, but the colourful and interesting history of Shark Bay and Dirk Hartog Island traces its roots back to the harvesting and trade of guano, or the accumulated excrement of seabirds and bats!
We’ve recently updated our Camps Australia Wide App with more sites, and dump points for you in this amazing corner of Australia.
First settled by Europeans in the 1850s, Dirk Hartog Island was the site of the first recorded European landing on Australian soil. Dutch Captain Dirk Hartog, announcing his arrival on October 25, 1616 by nailing an inscribed plate to a wooden post at the site now known as Cape Inscription.
A Peruvian monopoly on guano made it an extremely valuable resource; its discovery was a boon for this remote and harsh frontier and was one of the states earliest commercial exports.
Mining started in 1850 at Egg Island off the east coast of Dirk Hartog Island with the pace quickly accelerating, stripping at least 13 islands of this sought after resource. The Western Australian Government became so anxious to protect this valuable commodity; they established a garrison at Quoin Bluff on the island in 1850.
With the advent of chemical fertiliser in the early 1900’s the local industries shifted to pearling and pastoralism, with the Island becoming a major sheep station for several decades.
In 1969, Perth’s Lord Mayor Sir Thomas Wardle purchased the Island as a private retreat for his family. The island was passed down through the family line until 2009 when the Island was handed back to the people of Western Australia and the ecological restoration project “Return to 1616” was initiated.
It is now run as an eco-tourism resort and fisherman’s haven, maintained by Wardle’s grandson, Kieran Wardle. The island was cleared of all feral species and sheep and is now considered an ‘ark’ for endangered species, with the aim to return the island to it’s natural and pristine, pre-colonial state.
With the Island being so remote and rugged, planning ahead is vital when visiting this breathtaking environment. The Island accommodates all classes of travellers, with half day 4WD adventures, Eco Lodge suites and several beach and cliff top camps scattered around the Island for the more seasoned 4WD adventurists!
So if you like to get off the beaten track and enjoy digging deep into the earliest days of Australia’s frontier history, then it might be time to pack the 4WD and make the journey to Australia’s most western point.
For more information on Dirk Hartog Island, check out Site 469 and 470 in the Camps 10 guide, search for Dirk Hartog in the Camps App or visit www.dirkhartogisland.com for additional information and bookings portal.
Thanks to Stephanie Lopaten for these beautiful images! See more on Instagram: @stephanielopaten