After 5 weeks working in Broome, and a little R&R at Cape Leveque, it was time to go back to work. I was working for Greg Irvine in Broome, and he asked if I would like to spend some time on a cattle station completing a project for them. So we called in to Anna Plains Station, about 2.5hrs drive south of Broome. After scoping out the job and sending off a list of parts to be delivered, I had two days of free time, so naturally, we headed for the beach.
The station lies at the northern end of Eighty Mile Beach, and very few people ever visit the beach this far north. We had been told that shell collecting at Eighty Mile was sporadic, and you had to be early to beat the grey nomads….. A short drive through the station revealed an enormous stretch of untouched beach, without another soul in sight. For the shell collectors in our family, namely Leisl, Rosa and Karen, this was a touch of paradise. We had thought that we may find the odd larger shell scattered among the small samples. How wrong that assumption soon proved to be.
The beach was littered with large Conch, Baylor and many other types of shell. Within an hour we had three large bags full of huge shells, and more than we could carry. Anything smaller than 7cm was discarded as ‘too small.’ It did not take long to become fussy and some exceptional specimens were collected. They have since been boxed up and mailed to Karen's sister in Cairns for safe keeping. Lets hope they retained some of their original shape during the journey.
We followed some bush directions along the stations tracks and discovered the northern end of the property terminates at ?? Point. Here we discovered that someone had been fishing, caught some sharks and had discarded the carcasses on the beach. Needing to stay upwind of the stench, we began exploring along the cape itself. Leisl and Karen were keen to get back to the beach and explore for more shells to add the their collection. Rosa, Connor and I headed out onto the rocks to take some photos of the formations and reflections at low tide.
Rosa slipped in some mud and landed heavily into an oyster bed, generating some large cuts on her hands and knees. We quickly headed back to the beach and found Karen and the girls. A little cleaning and covering and it was decided to head for the station, on the double. The staff were excellent, but no-one had medical experience, so we continued to the nearest medical centre at Bidyadnaga for some anti-biotics and large bandaids. They glued Rosa’s wounds together and applied a special bandage that would wear off as it healed the wounds.
One of the station staff showed me around a little, taking in some of the sights of the property, and told me some of its history, which was very interesting.
When the Australian and British Governments set up the Woomera Training Area in SA, during the cold war, they would often release rockets across the continent and into the Indian Ocean to test their capabilities. What they lacked at the time was somewhere near the coast to track the rockets as they passed overhead, and report back to Woomera. They needed somewhere where very few people would be affected and where the landscape would suit their requirements. Once the location was scoped out, construction began on a small town with all the required infrastructure. Roads, buildings, water storage, sewage treatment and a runway were all completed. As the cold was threat diminished, the town was no longer required, so the buildings were sold off for scrap and everything else was decommissioned.
As we drove around the property, we discovered all that remains of the town is the concrete slabs of the buildings, and the posts of the water tank. The artesian bore feed into two large tanks (an excellent spot to relax on chilly nights) before feeding the bore drain system which waters the cattle. Evidence of the road system is amazing, as you drive through narrow, but dead straight, tracks which are all perpendicular to each other. The airport runway is something else though.
We drove into the bush and suddenly came upon the airport apron, used to park planes for loading, unloading, refuelling and the like. In front of that was a large runway, which we began to drive down. To imagine the size of this, small aircraft pilots use this to land on today. Then we reached a T intersection onto the runway itself, the section we just drove was the taxi area. The official runway is 2.7km long and about 100m wide. It is cambered correctly, and the soil preparation was so good, that it can still be used today. It looks large enough to land a commercial flight on.
That’s the Troopy at the other end of the runway!
For those in the know, this suddenly felt like driving around the set of a Matthew Reilly novel.
Anna Plains was an excellent spot to spend a few days, and owner John Stokes was very hospitable toward us. After completing the project, we left to follow our noses south, into more West Australian adventures.