The Kimberley is an ancient landscape which has a rich history of exploration to the area. One of the most interesting historical features of the Kimberley is the ‘Mermaid’ boab tree, located in Careening Bay. The carving on its bark, which is still well and truly visible today, is evidence of early European visits to the area and it continues to receive regular visitors who are interested in the history of the Kimberley.
Kimberley Tour

The HMC Mermaid in the Kimberley

The race was on between European countries in the early 1800’s to set off by ship to discover new lands and England was eager to make discoveries of its own. England had already had success with Captain Mathew Flinders successfully circumnavigating Australia and to build on the success of Captain Flinders, Captain Phillip Parker King successfully petitioned for a ship so he could complete a survey of the western coast from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Northwest Cape. He went on to complete two successful voyages aboard the HMC Mermaid and the charts completed by Captain Parker King during his time surveying the coast form the basis of many modern maps. However, on the third trip in 1820, the vessel began to take on water.
In an attempt to make the necessary repairs, Captain Parker King purposely ran the ship aground at high tide on a sandy beach which was the modern-day Careening Bay. The crew melted down metal salvaged from a shipwreck in an attempt to repair their vessel and after ten days of working on repairs, they were able to re-float the ship. In September 1820, while repairs were being carried out on the Mermaid, the ship’s carpenter found a boab tree close to the beach and carved “HMC Mermaid 1820” into the trunk.

Take on a mud crab

Although not as spectacular a catch as a Barramundi, mud crabs are well worth the effort thanks to the amount of meat on offer in their massive claws. Mud crabs are mostly found around estuaries and tidal mangroves so drop some crab pots and see what happens. Remember, handle with care – mud crabs have some serious claws. Also, be mindful of the environment so don’t try hooking crabs directly out of the mud unless you’re with an experienced guide.

Visiting the ‘Mermaid’ boab tree

200 years later, it’s incredible that the carving inscribed onto the boab tree by the crew of the Mermaid is still able to be seen today. Due to its remote location in what is now known as Careening Bay, the tree is only accessible by boat or helicopter but is well worth the visit during your next trip to the Kimberley. Interestingly, the crew of the Mermaid noted that the tree seemed to be diseased due to unusual shape of boab trees which Europeans were not used to. The site is now National Heritage listed and the boab tree has grown to an impressive 12 metres wide.
When you choose a Kimberley cruise with Ocean Dream Charters, we take you to visit many of the incredible historical sights on offer so you can learn more about the rich history of the area. We provide a number of varying itineraries which can be customised for private charters depending on your interests.
For more information about Kimberley cruises, contact Ocean Dream Charters today on 1300 944 727.

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