Curtin University at Hamelin Station Reserve

on 28 Apr 2016 

Hamelin Pool is indeed one of the most phenomenal places on the planet. I recently had the pleasure of being able to share some of my favourite localities with students from Curtin University. For me it was an incredible experience to be able to share my knowledge of Hamelin Pool with a group of keen, smart students who were keen to learn and thoroughly enjoyed the wonder of the region.

Over the past two decades Curtin University has run an annual field trip for Applied Geology Students to the Shark Bay region. During the trip students examine the geology of the southern Carnarvon Basin. This year the participating students spent time at Hamelin Station Reserve.

Day one was spent exploring Carbla Point, a well-known stromatolite locality on the eastern coastline of Hamelin Pool. Students examined the hinterland geology, coquina ridges, microbial mats throughout various tidal zones, and the Point’s abundant stromatolites. Here the students waded out into deeper waters in a track that was cut through the stromatolites some time in the early 1900s. The track was used by camels to bring bales of wool out to lighters in deeper water for transport. Once in deeper waters, the students could snorkel over subtidal stromatolites (an experience only for those with appropriate permits).   Although the water was a bit chilly for some of the swimmers, most could not believe their eyes at the wonder of the stromatolites and didn’t want to leave the Pool, even when the sun began to set!

The field trip included a day on the beautiful Peron Peninsula with several stops along the way. The students enjoyed Shell Beach in L’Haridon Bight, Red Bluff Bay near Monkey Mia, Goulet Bluff, and the local town of Denham where they enjoyed some local seafood for lunch – the highlight of the trip for some of the students!

Another day was spent with me at Hamelin Pool exploring the tourist boardwalk, coquina quarry, and importantly the Booldah Province in the southwestern margin of the Pool. At Booldah the students were able to derive maps based on their observations, and create a generalised cross section from the hinterland geology all the way down to the subtidal zone. The students found this to be a fascinating and satisfying experience.

The stromatolites have very different morphologies at the various locations visited: Carbla Point, Flagpole Landing (the boardwalk), and Booldah. One of the main objectives of the trip was to think about what the different stromatolite shapes could tell us about the environment of formation and to understand that there are boundaries for how far we could extrapolate mapping information.

I cannot speak highly enough of the students who were respectful of the delicate environment, intrigued and excited by what they were learning. They had insightful questions that got my mind churning!  My only hope is that the students walked away with a new appreciation for this actively accreting stromatolite environment and that they had as great a time as I did. Fingers crossed that this trip will continue for decades to come!