Fast Facts about Albany
Geography, population and the weather
- Albany’s coordinates are: 35°01′22″S 117°52′53″E.
- Albany’s geographical area is 89.8sq km with a population of 36,042 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, June 2010).
- The Great Southern covers an area of 40,000sq km and has a population of 59,412 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, June 2010).
- Albany’s approximate population density is 8.4 people per sq km.
Compare these figures to the following and you will get an idea of the space enjoyed in this part of the world.
- Perth 314 people per sq km
- Sydney 377 people per sq km
- Melbourne 529.9 people per sq km
- London 5,100 people per sq km over an area of 1,623sq km
- Mumbai 29,650 people per sq km over an area of 484sq km
Albany has a Mediterranean climate characterized by warm to hot, dry summers and mild to cool, wet winters.
Albany's shoreline is sometimes referred to as the Rainbow Coast, an appropriate title given the significant frequency of days with both sun and drizzle or showers.
July is generally Albany’s wettest month, with a long-term average of 144mm (5.67 in), whilst rain in excess of 0.2 millimetres (0.01 in) occurs on two days out of every three during an average winter. The driest month is February with a mean of about 22.9 mm (0.90 in).
Albany received a record amount of rain on November 20, 2008 when violent storms swept across the Great Southern. The city was flooded after 113.8 mm (4.48 in) of rain fell in 24-hours, the highest amount since records began in 1877.
- Albany’s wettest month on record was June 1920 when 292.8 millimetres (11.5 in) fell, whilst February 1879 remains the city’s only recorded month without rain.
King George Sound is the large ocean inlet which surrounds Albany. It covers an area of 110sqm (42mi2) and varies in depth from 10m (33ft) to 35m (115ft). The sound is bordered by the mainland to the north, Vancouver Peninsula on the west and by Bald Head and Flinders Peninsula to the south. Although the sound is open water to the east, the waters are partially protected by Breaksea and Michaelmas Islands. The sound also has two harbours located within it - Princess Royal Harbour and Oyster Harbour. Before Fremantle Harbour opened in 1897, Princess Royal was Western Australia's only deep-water port for around 70 years.
Some significant people and historical events
Before Europeans settled in Albany, Indigenous Menang Noongar people lived in the area they called Kinjarling (the place of rain) for at least 20,000 years.
On September 27, 1791, English explorer Captain George Vancouver entered and named King George Sound after the reigning monarch, King George III of Great Britain and Ireland. Although he acknowledged the prior ownership of the land by the Menang Noongar people, the area which later became known as Albany, was where Vancouver took possession of New Holland for the British Crown. His act proved premature as annexation of the west was not granted until 35 years later.
In July 1801, Captain Matthew Flinders sailed into King George Sound on the sloop HMS Investigator and anchored there for a month during his circumnagivation of Australia. Although the Indigenous people indicated they did not want Europeans visiting their campsites, amicable relations prevailed and trading occurred. The Aboriginals called the white men Djanga, “the spirits returned from the dead land of Kurrenup, the land beneath the Goomber Wardarn (sea) in the direction of the setting sun.” Flinders was so taken by the aborginals’ cordiality that he ordered his soldiers to perform a special parade for them.
In February 1803, French explorer Nicolas Baudin arrived at King George Sound aboard Le Geographe to rendezvous with navigator Louis de Freycinet aboard the Casuarina before further exploration of the West Australian coastline.During the course of their stay the ship's naturalist, Francois Peron, collected 1060 unrecorded species of shellfish and a large number of starfish from the sound.
In 1818, British Admiral Phillip Parker King, on instructions from the Admiralty to discover whether there was a river “likely to lead to an interior navigation into this great continent”, sailed into King George Sound aboard the ship HMS Mermaid. Local Menang Noongar people assisted his crew with food gathering.
- On Christmas Day, 1826, Major Edmund Lockyer aboard the brig Amity, took possession of King George Sound for the British Crown on the orders of Governor Darling. On nearby Michaelmas Island he was signalled by an Aboriginal man, who had been abducted and marooned by American sealers. The group of eight sealers led by a man called Bailey, had also killed another Aborginal and abducted their women. Randall, another sealer from Tasmania, had also been abducting Aboriginal women and was arrested by Lockyer. The Aboriginals apparently expressed anger at Europeans cutting down trees, but Lockyer chose not to intervene.
Albany became the first European settlement in WA, founded on January 21, 1827 by Major Edmund Lockyer, who named the military outpost on King George Sound, Frederickstown, in honour of Prince Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany. The prince was the second son of King George III and had died at the age of 63 on January 5 that year. His military shortcomings were highlighted in the nursery rhyme “The Grand Old Duke of York”.
First Governor and Commander in-Chief of Western Australia Admiral Sir James Stirling visited Frederickstown in 1831 and renamed it Albany shortly afterwards.
The Old Farm, Strawberry Hill on Middleton Road was the first farm to be established in WA. It is also the former home of Albany’s first Government Resident, Sir Richard Spencer who emigrated with his wife and nine children from Lyme Regis, Dorset, England in 1833.
Naturalist Charles Darwin visited Albany’s King George Sound onboard the Beagle in March 1836 during his outward-bound voyage from Australia. He spent eight days in Albany and while in town visited Sir Richard Spencer at the Old Farm.
In 1842, Albany’s population was 213 – 141 males and 72 females.
In 1848, HMS Acheron arrived in King George Sound – the first steam ship to visit Albany.
St John’s Anglican Church on York Street was the first church in WA to be consecrated.
Patrick Taylor Cottage, off Duke Street, was the second private residence built on gazetted land in Albany and is the oldest surviving residence in WA, built circa 1832.
Explorer Edward John Eyre staggered into Albany on July 7, 1841, after spending almost a year traversing the coastline between Streaky Bay on South Australia's west coast and King George Sound, a distance of more than 1,932km.
Parade Street, close to the city’s CBD is the oldest residential street in WA and the site of an early claypit, the clay from which was used to make bricks for the town's convict gaol.
British MP Sir George Baden-Powell, who’s famous brother Robert founded the world Scouts movement, wanted Albany to withdraw from the rest of WA so Britain could build a naval base there in the 1880s.
Albany has links with at least two known suspects in the Whitechapel Jack the Ripper murders of 1888. The first being Queen Victoria’s grandson, Prince Albert Victor, who as a 17-year-old naval cadet spent three weeks in Albany in 1881 after his ship HMS Bacchante was damaged during a storm. The other suspect was the mass murderer Francis Bailey Deeming, who on March 12, 1892 spent a night in Albany’s Convict Gaol before being transported to Melbourne for trial and subsequent execution.
As a prince and naval cadet, the future King George V celebrated his 16th birthday at a ball held at the Resident Magistrate’s quarters (now the Residency Museum) on June 3rd, 1881. He wrote of Albany “The sense of freedom and the splendid dryness of the air are most delicious”. He returned twice more to Albany on April 30, 1901 and July 20, 1901 when an unexpected gale forced his ship the Ophir into King George Sound.
Author and poet Henry Lawson resided in Albany for six months in 1890/91. He lived in Victoria House, on upper York Street, close to the site of the present day Albany Public Library. While living in town, Lawson had some of his writing published in the Albany Advertiser newspaper. He wrote of the town; "Albany will never change much - it is a pretty town, but vague. It seems to exist only in a far-away-on-the-horizon sort of way; I like it all the better for that.”
- American writer Mark Twain visited Albany briefly in January 1896, whilst on a world tour raising money through public appearances. Although only in town long enough to collect his news, his journal paints a clear picture of late Victorian Albany. “Desolate looking rocks and scarred hills. Plenty of ships arriving now - rushing to the new goldfields. The papers are full of wonderful tales of the sort always to be heard in connection with new gold diggings. A sample: a youth staked out a claim for £5; no takers. He stuck to it 14 days, starving, then struck it rich and sold out for £10,000”.
Thirty-eight ships carrying the Anzac forces to Egypt for training before the Battle of Gallipoli, assembled in King George Sound in late October 1914. The flotilla departed on November 1, 1914. In 1918 Anglican chaplain, Padre Arthur Ernest White, who served as chaplain with the 44th Battalion AIF, celebrated a requiem mass for the war dead at St John’s Anglican Church. Legend has it that after the service, he led his congregation to the peak of Mt Clarence and held a short ceremony there. White conducted an Anzac dawn service at the peak of Mt Clarence, on April 25, 1930, later entering details of the ceremony into the register of St John’s Anglican Church as “the first dawn service in Australia”. A dawn service has been held there ever since.
Albany was the site of Greenpeace’s first non-violent demonstration in Australia, when together with the Whale and Dolphin Coalition its members began protesting around Cheynes Beach Whaling Station on August 28, 1977. For three weeks protesters placed themselves between the harpoons of three whale chasers and sperm whales up to 30 miles offshore. There were two near misses with harpoons but no injuries. By the end of the campaign, opposition to whaling was widespread and the station finally closed on November 21, 1978, the day after it harpooned its last whale, a female sperm. The Whale and Dolphin Coalition morphed into Greenpeace Australia with animal rights campaigner Richard Jones registering the entity and Sydney journalist Jodi Adams becoming Greenpeace Australia's first coordinator. The organisation's first assets included a Zodiac inflatable boat from the Albany campaign. At the time, the politicians and business leaders who defended whaling, saying it was all about jobs did nothing for the 100 Albany workers who were left jobless. The anti-whaling campaigners took the jobs issue seriously and advocated whale-watching tourism as an alternative source of employment. This is now a thriving industry and the jewel in the crown is top tourist attraction Whale World, which operates on the site of the old whaling station.
The Albany Classic is one of only two round-the-houses motor racing events still in existence in Australia. Every year, usually during the first weekend of June, crowds line the streets to witness vintage cars zoom around a 1.5km track circuit in the city’s CBD. Albany first experienced motor racing in 1936 with the 'WA 50 Mile T.T. Car Race'. This was run over a four-mile circuit and the first round the houses style race in Australia.
Internationally acclaimed author Tim Winton lived spent three of his formative years in Albany - 1972 to 1975. Both TV series of his Lockie Leonard books (first aired by the Nine Network in Australia) were filmed in and around Albany and include many local people as extras.
- Musical sisters Donna Simpson and Vikki Thorn were born and raised in Albany. As a duo called Colours, they performed cover songs in the city’s pubs. Josh Cunningham joined the sisters after a gig in Broome and upon retuning to Albany the trio became The Waifs.