My most recent trip was a road trip through Western Australia, from Perth to Exmouth. After a first stop at the Pinnacles desert and its limestone formation, it was now time to pay a visit to the oldest form of life on earth: the stromatolites.
The first time I came across the concept of stromatolites was while reading Bill Bryson’s Down Under in the beautiful Togian islands. Their existence (and the great Bryson humor) spiked my interest but soon was left forgotten in the bottom of my bucket list. Until now!
The stromatolites are cyanobacteria that trap sediment thus forming the structures we can observe in Hamelin Pool (Source: Australian Government Department of the Environment). Shark Bay’s water is so saline that they create the perfect conditions for these organisms to thrive in. These stromatolites are representatives of the organisms that populated the Earth 3,500 million years ago!
The way to Shark Bay
After spending the night at Geraldton, we headed towards Shark Bay, roughly 300Km to the north. The scenery is beautiful but quickly becomes tedious as the landscape hardly changes in this long, long road. The occasional sign with the typical Australian fauna distracts us and generates photo opportunities that allow us to stretch our legs and break the body stiffness caused by spending so much time in a car.
When we finally reach Hamelin pool a realization dawns on me: I’m stepping into the Shark Bay World Heritage Area and about to see a living fossil!
The stromatolites in Shark Bay
Crossing the dune that separates us from our goal we are led to an apparently normal beach. The blue landscape is broken by a wooden pier that ends in a diamond shape loop. Cormorants are standing on a tree branch that is clearly out of tune with the scenery. Rocks sprout in the water. But these are not rocks; these are stromatolites, living fossils and the oldest organisms on earth. I spend time appreciating this wonder of nature, trying to capture the moment with my camera – but how can you capture the past? When I finally leave, I feel like a speck of dust in the great span of life of this little rock we call Earth.
Hope you enjoy the pictures and share your thoughts in the comment section below!