On Wednesday we went on the live lobster factory tour at the Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative. We got there nice and early, well before the 9:30 am start time. As we waited, I took a few shots of my surroundings:
Throughout this post I will be writing about lobsters – even though the beasties are commonly referred to as crayfish here in Western Australia (in fact, Jac ate half a crayfish at lunch that day). For marketing purposes, as we were told during the tour, they are officially called Western Rock Lobsters, because the term “crayfish” can refer to something completely different – crawfish, or what we call “marron” over here. The lobsters/Western Rock Lobsters processed at the factory we went to are actually these saltwater beasties also known as spiny lobsters. Hopefully that clears up any confusion.
Okay, I should’ve taken better notes, but I didn’t. So I’m afraid my explanations/descriptions of these photos may be somewhat vague if not inaccurate. I will do my best not to make boo-boos but please remember I’m not an expert on the processing of live lobsters. I guess you’ll just have to go on a live lobster tour if you really want to know the details. :) Okay, let us begin. When we got there, a lobster boat had just pulled up with a fresh load of lobsters. These guys are unloading the booty fresh from that boat.
The lobsters are tipped out of the crates onto conveyor belts where they are sorted according to colour and size as required. Jac and I were most fascinated to learn that the colour of the lobster shells can range from a very dark red to a pinkish colour. There are seven grades (A-G), determined by weight. Depending on their grading and the specific requirements of overseas clients, they may shipped all over the world as live lobsters or blast frozen or as sashimi grade raw lobster. A certain proportion of the lobsters (most often the smaller ones) will not be kept alive, but will be sent to a different factory where they will be processed and shipped as cooked lobsters. We were told there is no tour of the cooked lobster factory because it’s reportedly too dangerous for casual observers to be wandering around. When I heard this I immediately had images in my head of a fisherman-hero version of The Fugitive (instead of a doctor-hero), and the final chase scene being set in an excitingly hazardous cooked lobster factory. Heheheh.
After watching this initial lobster sorting process, our tour guide Anne took us into a special room where she talked a little more about lobsters and showed us a video (the music on the video was “The Theme from Local Hero” and “We are Australian” – which made me feel very patriotic somehow). She also gave us lobster recipe pamphlets. She told us that frozen cooked whole lobsters and lobster shishkebabs were available for purchase at the end of the tour. She then directed us back downstairs for the next stage of the tour, in which we would learn “How to determine the sex of a western rock lobster”.
I took more photos while waiting for everyone to assemble for the next stage. This was the creepy crab that watched us from an aquarium downstairs.
The female has extra pleopods under her tail, which are used to carry eggs. As the male doesn’t carry eggs, he doesn’t have as many pleopods under his tail.
The female also has an extra little claw on her fifth pair of walking legs (counting from the front to the back), which is used to groom her eggs. Male rock lobsters do not have this claw at all.
She said we were all welcome to hold one or both of the lobsters and pose for photographs. Jac and I didn’t really feel like doing that, so while the other tourists posed with the lobsters, I once again took a couple of photos of our surroundings.
I took a couple of final photos in the factory before the end of the tour. Here are more live lobsters awaiting their fate. Friends and family, have a look in Flickr to see Jac and me posing in the daggy shower-cap-like hats we were given to wear while on the tour. If you were already wearing a hat you didn’t need to wear one of the disposable shower cap hats (basically you just needed to wear some sort of hat while on the premises, as well as closed-in shoes).
All in all, I thought the tour was pretty interesting. We paid $5.00 each. Later towards the end of our holiday when we were in Dongara we discovered that there’s a lobster tour at the Kailis factory which asks for a gold coin donation, so there you go! But I’m happy we went on this tour – it was good fun, and I’m more than happy to support West Australian industry/business. And I now know how to sex a western rock lobster. Hee hee.
After the tour, we drove to the Batavia Marina to have a walk and a look around. There wasn’t much to see really.
We had to wait until noon before we were allowed to place our lunch order at the bar. At noon it seemed a whole bunch of people had been waiting to place their orders. EDIT (whoooops, forgot this bit): But hey, we were in a pub, so it was easy enough to have a drink or two while waiting. This was Jac’s Beez Neez beer (yeah, but served in a Redback glass), and her tomato juice chaser.
We waited for a while for our garlic bread (three pieces for $5.00) to appear, but it was well worth it. It was chewy on the edges, soft in the middle and hot and buttery, just how I like it. There’s something I really like about cafe-style garlic bread.
As we munched on the garlic bread, we were driven crazy by the amazing aroma of the seafood crepe that had arrived at an adjacent table. But luckily the time between garlic bread and mains wasn’t as long as the time between ordering and garlic bread. :) Jac had ordered the Reef & Beef ($32.00) – grilled Harvey beef with steak fries, a salad garnish and red wine jus, served with half a local crayfish (the menu said crayfish, but of course it was half a western rock lobster) topped with hollandaise sauce. Yeah – the lobster tour created a lobster craving, just like how I walked out of the cinema after watching Super Size Me craving McDonalds. Did any of you have the same experience?
Here’s a close-up of Jac’s steak. She enjoyed the steak and the red wine jus, but she was annoyed that the steak was served on top of the pile of fries which were in turn sitting in the pool of jus, resulting in soggy rather than crispy fries. I was rather impressed by the fat steak knife Jac was given to use. As it turned out her medium-rare steak was lovely and tender, so the big knife wasn’t really necessary. Still, I thought it was a very cool knife.
I chose the Batavia Selection ($24.00), described on the menu as “local fresh snapper grilled and served with chips and salad garnish”. The fish was lightly dusted in lemon pepper and was pretty tasty, though I must say I’ve eaten much tastier fish (actually, I ate a much nicer, fresher-tasting piece of fish later during our holiday when we were in Dongara, which I will tell you about shortly). I too suffered soggy chips – a result of the fish being served on top of the chips. I suppose chefs serve meat/fish on top of chips because they think it makes for better presentation but sometimes I wish they’d just do the basic no-frills no-style un-cheffy thing and serve the chips next to the meat/fish.
All in all, it was a pleasant lunch. At the Freemasons, you also have the option of ordering one of their special Stonegrill meals, where your food is served and cooked at your table on a heated stone. Perhaps next time we’re in Geraldton, if that’s still on offer we’ll give it a go.
The Freemasons Hotel is located at 79 Marine Terrace, Geraldton, just off the mall.
After lunch we walked around the shops for a while – Jac bought a pair of new thongs from a surf shop and new shorts. We then headed back to our unit, making a stop on the way at the HMAS Sydney Memorial. I’ll leave you to click on this link to read for yourself what and who the Memorial was built in memory of. It was very sad reading the names of the 645 men who perished at sea. These are some of the photos I took of the Memorial.
That evening, after another beach walk, I had more chicken and salad for dinner, followed by a cuppa and a slice of rich Big Sister brand fruit cake. While Jac studied our big Geraldton map, I downloaded the day’s photos to my laptop. I had a little routine every evening after dinner during which I would download photos to the laptop and then recharge the camera’s battery. But I had no internet access. Every second day I burned the photos to cd, just in case something happened to the laptop. Yeah, I’m ultra-paranoid. As we sat there, Jac looking at the map, me looking at the laptop screen, we made plans to drive to the Greenough River Mouth the next day to try our hand at fishing. Jac had gone fishing before, years ago, with her dad. I’d never been fishing before but had always wanted to. Her brother had given us a couple of fishing rods, and we had been to the tackle shop and picked up some berley, bait, spare hooks and Fisheries Department publications on species, size and bag limits. We’d even been practising our knots. I wish I’d paid more attention to knot-tying when I was a Brownie! So how did our fishing go? I’m afraid you’ll have to stay tuned to find out. Mwahahahaha.