Sunday, February 26, 2017

experiencing esperance

Today we are in Esperance.

If the name does not immediately sound familiar, don't worry. That was my first response when I saw the name on the ship's itinerary.

And having spent the past two hours on shore, I am not certain I can tell you much more than a few words about the experience of visiting.

That is partly due to the size of the town. Even though it is the only port in southeastern West Australia, it is quite small. Under 10,000 people.

In the 1960s, experiments began to turn the local infertile soil into productive farmland. And the experiment worked.  Almost 2 million tons of grain pass through its port each year. Along with just under 6 million tons of iron ore. In that respect, Esperance is rather typical of Australia's reliance on selling commodities.

But one of its main sources of income are people just like me -- tourists. Both national and foreign. Esperance is known for its beaches that provide excellent swimming, surfing, and scuba diving.

And that is what we had planned. A day at the beach. The weather had other ideas.

We arrived in port to a few drizzly rain drops. That was not the problem, though. I can swim in the ocean when it is raining. I do it frequently in Mexico.

The problem was the temperature. We had left weather in Perth that had flirted with 100 degrees. Here it was 65. That is hardly pleasant beach weather. At least, for swimming.

Nancy decided to stay on board the ship. Roy and I took a quick spin through town. And a pleasant town it is. In the same way that most small English-speaking towns are.

There is good reason Jefferson imbued the American yeomanry with all of the basic civic virtues. It is one reason small town America is held in high esteem.

Esperance has that same feel of honor. Memorials to the dead who fought for Australia in the terrible wars of the twentieth century. Civic lodges. Pristine streets and parks. Cleanliness may not be next to godliness, but it certainly does evidence internal character.

As it turns out, the outside world does know Esperance as the result of a very famous event in 1979. When space lab made its final entry into Earth's atmosphere, its landfall was right here.

The town, being a tidy place, immediately fined NASA $500 for littering. NASA refused payment doing its best Robert Goodloe Harper impression: "millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute." A California radio show host came to the rescue by raising money and paying the fine -- forever becoming a hero to the people of Esperance. (I know. It sounds like something I would make up. But this one really happened. Remember the leson for my 1 April essay.)

In itself, the town was not worth the stop. At least, not in this weather. But it was nice to stretch my legs and to see a bit of the virtue of small town Australia.  

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