Our departing point: Fremantle, WA

by Hannah Dawson

Photos/Figures: Viviane Menezes

Fremantle (or Freo to the locals) is a major port city (and suburb of Perth) located at the mouth of the Swan River in Western Australia. It was founded by European settlers in 1829 at which time it was known as the Swan River Colony. Before European settlers came, this area was known to the Whadjuk Noongar people (the traditional custodians of Fremantle, Perth and the surrounding area) as Walyalup, meaning place of the Woylie. 

Although not founded as a penal colony, the Swan River settlement elected to become one in 1849 to address the labour shortage in the colony. The first boatload carrying 75 convicts arrived in 1850 and was followed by 42 more shipments of convicts over the next 18 years. These convicts went on to construct many colonial sandstone buildings which remain well preserved in Fremantle today. In fact, Fremantle is renowned for its well-preserved architectural heritage. Many of the buildings built by convicts are now state heritage listed including the Fremantle Arts Centre, the Round House (initially built as a gaol) and the old Fremantle Prison. Yes, you heard right, the convicts shipped to Freo went on to build the prison that they would later be housed in. Today the old Fremantle Prison (no longer in use!) is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site (part of the Australian Convict Sites) and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Fremantle.

 Fremantle Markets

In addition to being a major port city, Fremantle is now the Arts and Culture hub of Perth. Street musicians and entertainers can be found busking outside the Fremantle Markets on any open day. It is famous to locals for its ‘Cappuccino Strip’, a series of alfresco style cafes and restaurants that line the main road through Freo.

The Fishing Boat Harbour has become a tourist precinct, with a mixture of microbreweries, restaurants and some of Australia's largest (and best!) fish and chip shops. It is also home to the original Little Creatures Brewery, which occupies a former boat shed come crocodile farm come brewery. Distinct and very tall Norfolk Island pines, planted between 1898 and 1901, can be seen in Esplanade Park (opposite that aforementioned brewery).

Here are some other slightly irrelevant, somewhat random but none the less interesting facts about our starting location. Fremantle is the namesake of our predictable sea breeze, the Fremantle Doctor (or the Freo Doctor) which starts blowing consistently every afternoon. If you’re ever visiting Perth, it’s recommended to head to the beach in the mornings to avoid this afternoon sea breeze! For the sport fans out there, Freo is home of the Fremantle Dockers, one of the two rival Western Australian Football teams (Australian Rules Football that is!). During the footy season you’ll find many fans dressed in the purple and white colours of the Dockers. Bon Scott, lead singer of the Australian rock band AC/DC, grew up in Fremantle. After his death in 1980 his ashes were interred in Fremantle Cemetery and his grave site has since become a cultural landmark. Perth is the most isolated capital city in Australia with the nearest capital city located 2,700km away (Adelaide). But don’t let that fool you, it’s a beautiful place, located on the banks of the Swan River with stunning beaches just minutes away. It’s also home to one of the largest inner city (and I mean smack bang right in prime city real estate) botanic gardens/nature reserves (Kings Park) in the world. Kings Park, has terrific city and river views and is well worth a visit if you’re ever in town.

Much of the coast of Western Australia is blessed with comparatively warm water, thanks to the Leeuwin Current which flows south along the Western Australia coastline bringing warm water from Indonesia. The Leeuwin is unique in that it is the only subtropical boundary current, located on the eastern side of an ocean basin, that flows poleward instead of equator ward. 

 Surface Currents in the South Indian Ocean (Menezes et al, 2013)

LC: Leeuwin Current
EGC: Eastern Gyral Current
SICC: South Indian Countercurrent
EMC: East Madagascar Current
SEC: South Equatorial Current
AgC: Agulhas Current 

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