Albany Coast, Torndirrup Peninsula

In many places, the face that this corner of Western Australia presents to the sea is a hard one—great walls of ancient granite and even older gneisses.

The oldest rocks, the gneisses, pre-date almost all life on Earth. Scientists estimate that these rocks were formed between 1300 and 1600 million years ago, shaped by incredibly high pressure and temperatures. The granite, on the other hand, was formed when the Australia and Antarctica tectonic plates collided about 1160 million years ago. The collision caused such immense friction that the Earth’s crust, between the two continents, melted and rose slowly, cooling into the masses of granite visible through this area today.

The Gap and Natural Bridge, in Torndirrup National Park on the Torndirrup Peninsula, is considered an ideal place to view this astonishingly ancient rock. This area was one of Western Australia’s first national parks, set aside in 1918. It took it’s name from an Aboriginal group that lived on and near the peninsula. The area is as rich in wildlife and botanical specimens as any other in this region, but it is the rocks here that are most remarkable.

I’m always delighted by impressive statistics, but here, it was the beauty and drama of the location that captivated me. Wind and waves both beat relentlessly against this geological fortress, but the walls hold, though they are wonderfully carved in places by the endless attack.

I read later that when the Bridge eventually collapses, it will form another wave trap like the Gap. I have encountered two different collapsed natural bridges in Australia since my stroll out onto the Bridge at Torndirrup, one of which collapsed only shortly before my visit, but of course the possibility of collapse didn’t even occur to me on the day I visited the dramatic, windy coast near Albany.

If you read the story of Jimmy Newhills in my book, you may have wondered how unlikely his survival was. The photos below show Jimmy Newhills Inlet and the nearby Gap, and I think the contrast illustrates why it was reasonable for everyone to assume Newhills could not survive the storm. After all, most of the peninsula looks like the Gap, not the inlet.

Jimmy Newhills Inlet

Jimmy Newhills Inlet

The Gap

The Gap

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Filed under Australia, Book, Geography, History, Science, Travel

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