AUSTRALIA'S LAST CALL - FREMANTLE
Updated: Mar 27
DAY 73 - 25 MARCH 2023 (SHIP'S date)
AT SEA-ENROUTE TO PORT LOUIS MAURITIUS
Queen Mary 2 World Centenary Voyage
102 days, 31 ports, 18 countries.
Ellen Frazer-Jameson reporting from Queen Mary 2
Queen Mary 2's Australian Finale:
Fremantle, Western Australia, the largest state in Australia
Victoria Quay overlooks Fremantle Harbour, Western Australia’s largest working port and departure point for ferries to Rottnest Island and river cruises to Perth. It is the location of the Maritime Museum and HMAS Ovens Submarine which is open to the public.
The city’s High Street showcases Victorian houses that were built 100 years ago, and these have been preserved. The port’s old commercial centre on Cliff Street is lined with Colonial buildings.
Fremantle Harbour features a bronze statue of CY O’Connor, paying tribute to the Chief Engineer for Western Australia who created the harbour by blasting and dredging rock and sand at the mouth of the Swan river. The corner of High and Market Street marks the entrance to one of the largest single places to be permanently included in the State Register of Heritage Places with 250 buildings and it is one of the best preserved and most intact towns built during the 19th century gold boom era in Australia.
An Esplanade borders the city’s major parkland. In 1827 the colony of Perth and Fremantle was settled by free men but two years later convicts arrived to undertake the construction of a permanent community.
Gold was discovered in the area in 1890 and an expansion of the city began that developed into sprawling suburbs which over time have laid claim to being the most elongated city in the world. The first governor was Captain Sterling and tributes to his name remain all over the city. A Kangaroo paw features on the State flag.
King’s Park occupies 1,000 acres along the Swan River, This parkland features a combination of cultivated botanical gardens and wild, native bush that is home to a variety of plants, wildflowers and free-flying birds. A Treetop Walk looks down on majestic, towering trees including peppermint groves, eucalyptus trees and Norfolk Pines. One hundred Norfolk Island Pines planted in 1908, form part of Fremantle’s iconic skyline.
The city of Perth is inland to the port of Fremantle and is a modern, vibrant city full of leafy shopping malls, designer boutiques, department and speciality stores. Landmark buildings include the Bell Tower which proudly rings out with the 22 bells donated by Saint Martin in the Fields church in London. In another tribute to London, a Peter Pan statue in the parkland is a replica of the one in Kensington Gardens, London, which features the Princess Diana memorial fountain. One of the most unique and unmissable sights in the city centre is the green glass tower designed to depict a swan with its wings gracefully folded sailing elegantly on the river.
Convicts and the history of Australia go hand in hand and a visit to the Fremantle Prison is a popular attraction. Fremantle Prison is the largest convict-built structure in Western Australia and the most intact convict establishment in the nation. A selection of tours are available offering opportunities to see what it is like to “Do Time” and spent time, ‘Locked Up”.
Decommissioned as a maximum-security gaol in 1991, the Prison was continuously used as a place of incarnation for almost 140 years. It appears on the UNESCO World Heritage list along with ten other convict sites. Stories are traditionally told that the inmates were not real criminals but according to popular folklore in Australia, “poor people who stole a loaf of bread” and were transported from England.
The oldest public building in Western Australia is the Round House, which opened in 1831. Primarily a gaol for colonial and aboriginal prisoners, this prison was the scene of the first public execution of a European settler, a 15-year-old boy named John Gavin who was convicted of murder.
During our travels, a grade school teacher who acted as a tour guide gave her explanation of the paradox of those born in Australia. “In the 50s and 60s, there was much shame attached to the convict past of those Australia born. Now it is seen as a badge of honour to have a convict ancestor. Finally, school children are being taught about their homeland with history that is not focused solely on the Aboriginal past and the motherland, England.”
Talking of Australian pride, there is one major event legend which lives forever in the Aussie memory. 1983 – the year Australia won the world yachting race, the America’s Cup. America held the title for 133 years prior to Australia’s historic win. The challenge was sponsor by businessman and entrepreneur Alan Bond and after the 1983 win, he launched a massive attempt, headquartered at Fremantle Yacht Club, which was built specifically, to again challenge the holders of the America’s Cup. The spectacular win proved to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience but the lion-killer legend is celebrated in the yachting world and though out Australian sporting history.
The Maritime heritage of the area lives on in the Shipwrecks Museum, which features relics from ships wrecked along Western Australia’s treacherous coast and Fishing Boat Harbour where Sardine Jetty is the departure point for Jet Boat Adventures and Whale Watching Cruises.
Living within close proximity to the river and the ocean, Fremantle and Perth residents are enthusiastic seafarers and it is said that at least one in every three people own a boat for fishing or recreation. The city hosts a series of annual festivals including the Benediction of the Fleet; the Sardine Festival and the Chili Festival.
Australians love their seafronts and Cottesloe Beach is a well-known artistically-minded seaside town that hosts art and culture festivals with statues and sculptures erected along the busy, family beach front.
A popular restaurant overlooking the beach, The India China House restaurant, is currently undergoing renovations and a name change. The discreet shrubbery covered restaurant has become known as the place chosen by the friends and family of Hollywood movie star, Heath Ledger, who played The Joker in the Batman first Batman film and the Dark Knight , to host a celebration of his life. Wearing surfing gear and carrying surf boards, the attendees paid tribute to the superstar actor who passed away in 2008 aged 28 years of an accidental overdose. Heath Ledger lived and worked in Hollywood, but the Super Hero’s heart was forever in his homeland, Western Australia.
Queen Mary 2 was berthed for her last port of call in Australia, in Freemantle, and as her passengers returned to the mother ship, a perfect example of the Aussie spirit could be seen.
In the gateway to this busy commercial port with hundreds of containers destined for global destinations, there is one small family house. The lady owner refused all offers from the port to buy the land on which her home stood and relocate her outside the port.She insisted she would not move – and forced the port authorities to build around her. The view from her lounge windows is of coloured metal containers as far as the eye can see. It may seem unusual but the story is that for her it represents, Home Sweet Home.
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It's a seven-day sail from Perth to Mauritius, East Africa. Mauritius, an Indian Ocean island nation, is known for its beaches, lagoons and reefs. The mountainous interior includes Black River Gorges National Park, with rainforests, waterfalls, hiking trails and wildlife like the flying fox. Capital Port Louis has sites such as the Champs de Mars horse track, Eureka plantation house and 18th-century Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens.
Happy Sailing... Ellen
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Current position of Queen Mary 2: Under way from Fremantle (Perth) to Port Louis
Departure was 3 d 2 hrs 49 min ago. (at 22:00 h local time)
Arrival will be in 4 d 12 hrs 11 min. (at 08:00 h local time)
Traveled distance since Fremantle (Perth): 1,326.84 nm (2,457.30 km)
Remaining distance to Port Louis: 1,903.19 nm (3,524.70 km)
Photo of the day (from the archives of JD Schwartz)
Further updates will be posted as soon as we get them from Ellen onboard Queen Mary 2.