THE OUTBACK AND SO FORTH – Thursday, 1 March

The Apple Store in Perth opens at nine o’clock and we’re there. I sprang into action earlier and went and got us coffee and banana bread from a relaxed neighborhood place, one big, leafy patio with dogs and toddlers running amok. The young woman took my name as ‘Barb’ even though I repeated it twice. Why do I always default to ‘Bob’ when under the slightest stress?

Clothed and fed, we’re off to the Apple Store. The question is – Am I adequately caffeinated to negotiate big city streets while driving on the erroneous side of the road? After a couple of parking fails, we dump the thing in a lot, bickering all the way. The Apple Stores are daunting; they feel like some techie’s vision of heaven, clean and white and harmonious. They have us line up in the center of the room next to an over-micced instructor giving arcane instructions to a tableful of rapt nerds. We get to see a technician almost immediately. The software problem I thought I had turns out to be a hardware one. I am assured that if I leave the laptop, it’ll be fixed by the time we come back through Perth in a week. And here is where I sing the praises of Apple Care. I don’t always add this warranty to a new computer purchase, but this time I did. A $1,200AUD bullet dodged. Our return trip to Fremantle is much more relaxed.

Chips follow fish as logically as DC follows AC. Thus nourished, we embrace the two museums that Fremantle has to offer – the Maritime Museum and the Shipwreck Museum. Because Perth lies a ways up the Swan River, Fremantle served as its roughneck port. The Maritime Museum showcases all the forms of marine activity in Fremantle’s history – naval, fishing, transportation, sport: while the Shipwreck Museum tells tales of centuries of disasters along the west coast of Australia. My hope of inspecting the HMS Ovens, an Oberon class submarine, is dashed due to its arbitrary closure. It sits impassively in ‘dry dock’ behind the Maritime Museum, looking exceedingly formidable. Someday, I will see the inside of das boot.

While the Maritime Museum is a sleek, white modern structure with sweeping nautical lines, the Shipwreck Museum is contained within a reconfigured 19th century warehouse of golden limestone. Its centerpiece is the enormous, blackened stern section of the Batavia, which fills an open room three-stories high, while against the eastern wall stands a large sandstone portico that had been part of its cargo. The Batavia, carrying a treasury in silver for the Dutch East India Company, had gone down off the west coast in 1629. The wreck was discovered in the late 1960s and salvaged in the 70s. She foundered on her maiden voyage and subsequently became famous on account of the mutiny and massacre that took place among the survivors. This incredible story was recorded in diaries and court records, which detail abandonment, starvation, savagery, and heroism. Gripping can’t fully encompass the drama of this tale, roughly contemporaneous with the founding of the Massachusetts Bay colony.

The museum displays artifacts of many other maritime disasters, notably the enormous engine recovered from the steamship, SS Xantho, which sank in 1872. It’s the only known example of the earliest mass-produced high-speed, high-pressure engines. The thing looks like new and evidently can still be made to turn over. We are amazed how quickly the afternoon has passed. As we’re poking through the gift shop, a fictional account of the Batavia’s story catches Ali’s eye. Maybe this will ease her sunburn.

Strategic lie-downs and showers are a prelude to the terrific meal at Bread in Common. We are introduced to a savory, dry garnish called Dukkah. Walking home, the moon is full and shines through the superstructure of the Ferris Wheel of the city park.

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