Dirk Hartog stats
Max length: 80 kilometres
Max width: 15 kilometres
Highest point: 188 metres
Whale season: July to October
The launching point for the island barge is around nine hours’ drive from either Geraldton (to the south) or Carnarvon (to the north).
“Look,” I shout excitedly, pointing at the same time. “Do you see the whale?”
There, just off Cape Inscription, the northern tip of Dirk Hartog Island, a humpback – no, two humpbacks – are cavorting, blowing vapour, slapping their tails and rolling to and fro.
My friends, who had arrived a few minutes earlier, look at me wearily.
“Yes, we see those whales … and those … and those … and those.”
It’s true. Scanning the sea, I realise it’s impossible not to see humpbacks patrolling the Indian Ocean, in pairs or even threesomes. Frequently huge splashes of water mark the spot where one of these behemoths had moments before launched itself out of the water.
We had come to Inscription Point and the island, on the outer side of Shark Bay 850 kilometres north of Perth, for its history. It’s Western Australia’s largest island and the nation’s most westerly point. It’s also the first place where evidence of European presence in Australia was left, when Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog made landfall in October 1616. He left an inscribed pewter plate at the site and sailed on. Today a replica of that plate is on display, along with one left by another Dutch explorer, Willem de Vlamingh, who visited the island in 1697.
So we’ve made the two-and-a-half-hour journey north from our base, the Dirk Hartog Island Eco Lodge, to see those pewter plates and stand as far west on this great continent as possible.