Introducing Shark Bay.
Gathagudu is the Aboriginal people’s traditional name for Shark Bay, meaning 2 waters. Shark Bay is the traditional home of 3 Aboriginal groups: the Malgana, Nhanda, and Inggarda people. The Nhanda and Malgana tribes dwelt in the region long before Europeans first set foot on its soil. The southern end of the Bay, near the Zuytdorp Cliffs, is Nhanda land, and the eastern shore is Inggarda land while much of the remaining area is Malgana land. Ancient artefacts have been found at numerous sites. Descendants of these original inhabitants still live in the area and are active in the preservation of the people’s history and fishing skills as well as more contemporary methods within the Shark Bay fishing industry.
History of Shark Bay
The first white man to arrive on Australian soil was the Dutch trading-ship Captain Dirk Hartog, on October 25th 1616, 152 years before the famous voyage of Captain Cook. He landed on an island at Cape Inscription, which is now his namesake. An inscribed pewter plate was nailed onto a post to record his landing. 81 years later his countryman and contemporary, William de Vlamingh visited the site and on replacing the pewter plate with one of his own, returned the original to Holland.
The plate left by William de Vlamingh was in turn found in 1801 by members of Nicolas Baudin’s French expedition. Baron Emanuel Hamelin, the skipper of the Naturaliste, decided that it would be sacrilege to remove the plate from the place where it had remained for more than a century. Consequently he nailed it to a new post, again putting it in place in the rock cleft.
Louis de Freycinet, one of Hamlin’s junior officers, was dismayed by his commander’s decision to leave the Vlamingh plate, believing that its proper place would be in a French museum. Consequently, 17 years later, after he had gained command of his own ship, Freycinet returned to Cape Inscription, recovered the plate, and took it to Paris. The famous plate was eventually returned to Australia by the French Government in 1947.
Another famous person to land near Cape Inscription was the British navigator and naturalist William Dampier. He went ashore in 1699 at a place now known as Dampier Landing. At this place Dampier made the first scientific collection of Australian plants, which is still preserved at Oxford University.