Esperance is a town located on the Bay of Isles and the Southern Ocean in the south of Western Australia. It is a port, an agricultural center and (more recently due to its great coastal scenery, its beaches, its national parks and its fishing) a holiday destination.
A Little History
The area was first "discovered" by Dutch navigators (for example, Pieter Van Nuyts in 1627) French navigators (such as Bruni D'Entrecasteaux in 1792 who was searching for La Perouse, another French navigator who had disappeared). The area was named, Esperance, after one of D'Entrecasteaux's ships, LEsperance (French, "hope").
In 1841 English explorer John Eyre and his Aboriginal companion Wylie were suffering from starvation and exposure while trying to cross the Great Australian Bight and the Nullabor Plain when, miraculously, they were rescued by Captain Rossiter, the commander of a French whaling ship, at a bay not far from modern-day Esperance. Eyre named the bay Rossiter Bay in honor of his rescuer.
It was only in 1863 that the area was settled by whites when the Dempster brothers trekked into the area with 500 sheep and 200 horses. The Dempsters were granted grazing leases in the place where Esperance now is and they prospered. (Dempster Street, Esperance, recalls their memory.) More graziers established successful operations in the area.
In the 1890 gold rushes Esperance served as a port for the arrival of miners and the export of gold.
From the early 20th century the Western Australian government promoted the development of a cereal growing industry in Esperance. However, this was only marginally successful due to the poor soils in the area. After World War II research revealed that the local salty soil was missing phosphorous, copper and zinc trace elements. When these were added to the soil, it became much more fertile. Local wheat farms boomed and Esperance boomed too, as an agricultural center.
In 1979 a NASA Skylab space station disintegrated in the skies over Esperance and left debris all over the surrounding landscape.
Places to See and Visit
Esperance Municipal Museum
Esperance Municipal Museum, open daily, has local history memorabilia, such as early tools, machinery (including a blacksmiths forge) and furniture (including a piano from the 1820s). It has a exhibit on shipwrecks (such as that of the Sanko Harvest), a section on the pirate Black Jack Anderson, and, finally, a large display on the United States space shuttle, Skylab, which came crashing down to earth at Esperance in 1979.
The museum also has a gallery, an arts and crafts center (called "Craft Village") and a cafe.
The original Dempster homestead cannot be visited (as it is privately occupied) but viewed from the street.
The waters of the Pink Lake come from salt-tolerant algae which live there, known as Dunalella salina.
Nearby Islands and National Parks
The Recherche Archipelago (also known as the Bay of Isles and as the Archipelago of the Recherche), just off the coast from the city of Esperance, is made up of more than 100 islands with white sandy islands, set amid turquoise seas. The islands are occupied by colonies of penguins and fur seals, many kinds of water birds, and feral goats. Tours are available from 2 hour tours amongst the islands, through to longer and even overnight tours, staying at Woody Island, a wildlife sanctuary.
Cape Le Grand National Park
Located 48 km southeast of Esperance, Cape Le Grand National Park offers wonderful coastal scenery, along with fauna and, during the months of September, October and November, wildflowers in bloom.
Cape Arid National Park
Located 125 km from Esperance, Cape Arid National Park offers more great coastal scenery and fauna. It is best explored by 4 wheel drive.