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Did you say strobelite?

AUSTRALIA | Monday, 27 August 2007 | Views [840]

The stromatolites in Hamelin Pool

The stromatolites in Hamelin Pool

Like in Black Sheep’s old hip-hop song – Strobelite Honey? No? Stromatolites? The origin of life on earth? And they still exist? Those are the kind of arguments that easily convince me to make a detour, especially since this one’s on the way to Monkey Mia anyway. A detour to a place called Hamelin Pool, after Baron Jacques Félix Emmanuel Hamelin, captain of Le Naturaliste, the other ship of the 1801 Baudin expedition.

Hamelin Pool has the particularity of being a hyper-saline bay. Protected from the effect of the tide by a massive sand bar named the Fauré Sill, the bay became super-salty through natural evaporation. In such conditions, only a few species survive, and thrive since they have basically no predators. Among them, a unicellular cyanobacteria who first appeared on Earth some 3,5 billion years ago, when the atmosphere was poisonous. They build what looks like dead corals at first, but are in fact “living stones”, the stromatolites. Those bacteria are quite sticky. They trap and bind sediments together, forming craggy towers or spongy mats, depending a lot on the level and movement of the water.

I think the most incredible thing I learnt from my visit to Hamelin Pool is that stromatolites are creating oxygen. Over a two billion years period of time, stromatolite colonies raised the oxygen level to 20% of all atmospheric gazes, thus allowing air-breathing life forms to develop. In other words, if not for those weird rocks in the water, we may not be here. How about a mind-blowing revelation? Well, I don’t know about you, but that did it for me.

To see more pictures of Shark Bay, click here

Tags: ambassador van, sightseeing

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