Past President Geoff Booth addressed the 29th of July meeting of the Rotary Club of Pinjarra with some history of Dirk Hartog Island which he had the pleasure of visiting recently.
In some respects, members were thinking that Geoff's presentation would be of his fishing trip... which he assures us was wonderful.
However, the meeting was pleasantly surprised that Geoff talked about the history of Dirk Hartog Island. The Island is located to the north of Steep Point, which is the western-most point of the Australian mainland.
Dirk Hartog Island is an island off the Gascoyne coast of Western Australia, within the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. It is about 80 kilometres long and between 3 and 15 kilometres wide and is Western Australia's largest and most western island. It covers an area of 620 square kilometres  and is approximately 850 kilometres north of Perth. It was named after Dirk Hartog, a Dutch sea captain, who first encountered the Western Australian coastline close to the 26th parallel of Latitude, which runs through the island, on 25 October 1616. The names of senior people on board, including Hartog's, were inscribed with the date on a pewter plate and nailed to a post. After leaving the island, Hartog continued his voyage north-east along the mainland coast. Hartog gave the Australian mainland one of its earliest known names, as Eendractsland, which he named after his ship Eendracht, meaning "concord".
In 1697 the Dutch captain Willem de Vlamingh landed on the island and discovered Hartog's plate. He replaced it with one of his own, which included a copy of Hartog's inscription, and took the original plate home to Amsterdam, where it is still kept in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. 
On 28 March 1772, Breton navigator Louis Aleno de St Aloüarn landed on the island and became the first European to formally take possession of Western Australia in the name of French king Louis XV. This involved a ceremony (which took place on 30 March) during which one or more bottles were buried on the island. One bottle was recorded as containing an annexation document and a coin. In 1998 a bottle cap made of lead with an écu coin set in it, was first discovered at Turtle Bay. This triggered a broader search by a team from the Western Australian Museum. On 1 April 1998, an intact bottle bearing a lead cap identical to the one recovered earlier, also with a coin set in it, was unearthed. No trace of an annexation document has yet been found.
In 1801 the island was visited by a French expedition aboard the Naturaliste led by Captain Emmanuel Hamelin. This expedition found de Vlamingh's plate almost buried in the sand, its post having rotted away. The Captain ordered that it be re-erected in its original position. In 1818 the Uranie with French explorer Louis de Freycinet, who had been an officer in Hamelin's 1801 crew, sent a boat ashore to recover de Vlamingh's plate. It eventually arrived in Paris, only to be lost for over a century. It was found in 1940 and returned to Australia in 1947, where it can now be seen in the Western Australian Maritime Museum in Fremantle, Western Australia. The Baudin expedition left also a plaque at the island at 16 July 1801.
In 1869, Francis Louis von Bibra was granted a lease on the island. Von Bibra established sheep on the island and traded guano from its bays. The leasehold for the island was acquired by the Withnell brothers from Messrs Moore and Meade in 1907. The island was regarded as an ideal place for a sheep station as there was no danger of rabbit invasion. In 1909 it was carrying a flock of about 12,000 sheep and produced approximately 400 bales of wool. The property was still owned by John and James Withnell, the children of John and Emma Withnell who were early settlers in the Pilbara. The brothers had estimated the area of the island to be 156,000 acres (631 km2). By 1910 the flock size was 14,200.
Perth Lord Mayor Sir Thomas Wardle purchased the island as a private retreat for his family in about 1969 and later retired there, becoming a semi-recluse with his wife. Apart from the pastoral homestead, the island later returned to government ownership and became part of the Shark Bay Marine Park. It is now run as an eco-tourism resort and maintained by Wardle's grandson, Kieran Wardle.
The island consists mostly of scrub-covered sand dunes. At times it has been used as a sheep station and supported 20,000 head of sheep at one stage. The island is now Dirk Hartog Island National Park and sheep have been removed. To the east it is bounded by the Shark Bay Marine Park, and it is part of Shark Bay World Heritage Area. A small area is leased to the Wardle family who run it as a tourism destination. The region is widely used for recreational fishing.
Dirk Hartog Island is an important nesting site for loggerhead sea turtle, with green turtles and loggerhead turtles both nesting on the beaches. It is also home for the endemic subspecies of the white-winged fairy-wren. Quoin Bluff, mid-way along the eastern side of the island, holds an important pied cormorant nesting colony which, along with Freycinet Island some 80 km (50 mi) to the south-east, forms the Quoin Bluff and Freycinet Island Important Bird Area, identified as such by Bird-Life International.
In October 2018, at the end of a 20-year project, the island was declared free of feral cats, goats and sheep, paving the way for the reintroduction of 11 native animals, most of which had disappeared following a century and a half of pastoral activity and predation.The Return to 1616 environmental reconstruction project involves returning nine native species confirmed to have once been present on the island: the western barred bandicoot, burrowing bettong, Shark Bay mouse, greater stick-nest rat, western thick-billed grass wren, brush-trailed bettong, heath mouse, desert mouse, mulgara, dibbler and chuditch. Two additional mammal species that are thought likely to have once been present on the island, the rufous hare-wallaby and banded hare-wallaby, are also included in the faunal reconstruction, and were the first to be returned following the eradication of feral cats in September 2017.
The western barred bandicoot and the dibbler were returned in October 2019. Proof that dibblers were reproducing on the island was established in June 2021.
Geoff noted that camping on the island was a terrific experience, although in future he would probably stay in a nice bed at Denham, and travel to the fishing grounds daily.
David Caldwell thanked Geoff for his talk on behalf of the gathering.