Oh what a night! | Western Australia
We might have been in the banquet hall at the University Club of Western Australia… but we really weren’t.
Because we may have gathered for dinner around the world at the West Travel Club, but we have reached the whole world.
For three hours, between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., our 150 guests immersed themselves, in food, music and stories, in places to visit with our partner in the evening, the Australian expedition cruise company Aurora Expeditions.
We have dived in Ireland and Tasmania. Route
We explored the islands of the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetlands, off the Scottish coast. In the Gulf of Corryvreckan, strong Atlantic currents, a strange underwater topography and an intense tidal course create one of the largest and most dangerous eddies in the world – water that turns at 8 knots, waves over 9 m and a roar that you can hear 15 km away. In the Shetlands we are at the southern tip of Greenland to the west and Bergen in Norway to the east.
We excavated soupy in the Gulf of California; the Sea of Cortez. It was the first “Hope Spot” for Mission Blue, a global conservation coalition of over 200 organizations.
In the spring of 1940, a year after John Steinbeck had published The Grapes of Wrath with enormous success, he boarded a ship called The Western Flyer, to spend six weeks in the Gulf, writing his reactions – alongside the biologist. Sailor Ed Ricketts, who was writing about science by studying marine life. It is surely the most renowned literary collaboration between a great novelist and a great scientist (albeit eccentric).
Their written work was, of course, two sides of the same coin. A verse and a chorus. And Steinbeck was also published, in its own right, under the title The Log from the Sea of Cortez, mixing poetic description and personal reaction, with the philosophical thought that flows from it. He writes about his wonder at the interconnectedness of the world – for it is the best that travel can do for us. This is why we travel; from darkness to light; be educated and enlightened.
Marine biologist, oceanographer and conservationist Dr. Sylvia Earle has a special connection to the Gulf of California. Sylvia was the first female chief scientist of the
First publication of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Time magazine
“Hero of the Planet” and Aurora Expeditions have not only named their new ship for her, the Sylvia Earle, but welcome her aboard.
We then left Ushuaia, at the southern tip of South America, to cross the Drake Passage to observe penguins in Antarctica, in a spectacular monochrome world. This world of creamy white, yellow white, honey white, gray white, blue white and white-white. This world where large snowflakes sway for the first time like feathers, soft as down – but within minutes, driven by an icy wind, are dragged down almost horizontally, glued to jackets, rubber dinghies, even penguins – everything in their path.
And we went to the tropics, under and over water to Raja Ampat in West Papua. It is a massively biodiverse marine habitat, with 1,500 types of fish. On earth, in this Garden of Eden, there are what the first European chroniclers called “the birds of God” – the birds of paradise.
The Aurora Expeditions, launched by Australian adventurer Greg Mortimer, are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. And, in an extraordinary turnaround, Aurora quickly developed an innovative new set of adventure cruise itineraries for the Coral Coast, Ningaloo, South West Edge, Kimberley, Kangaroo Island, Tasmania, Strait Islands. Bass, Antarctica.
Their flagship, the Greg Mortimer, averages 132 passengers and is fitted with the Ulstein X-BOW – an inverted bow design that has been used on over 100 commercial shipping vessels. Fuel consumption is drastically reduced, up to 60 percent, and the vessel is fitted with Rolls Royce dynamic stabilizers.
Their new ship, Sylvia Earle, has the same features, but with a few refinements.
The period 2022-2023 marks the highest number of trips Aurora Expeditions have made in an Antarctic season, with 26 departures.
At our round-the-world dinner we were joined by Steve McLaughlin, Aurora’s Asia Pacific Sales Manager, who has 30 years of expedition cruise experience, Amelya Gray takes care of the expeditions WA, and Annabel Carol.
Chef Costa Simatos, University Club of Western Australia.
Irish soda bread served with Tasmanian butter.
The first course was from Baja California and the Gulf of California (the Sea or Cortez). Shrimp taco, pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole and tortilla, with a mini Caesar salad in a glass. If the Mexican influence of taco and seafood, guacamole and tortilla goes without saying, it must be explained that Caesar salad is said to have been invented by restaurateur César Cardini in Tijuana, Baja California, in 1924.
The second course was from Scotland. Roasted sausage, creamy “clapshot” and melted onion sauce. Clapshot is a dish of mashed rutabaga and potatoes. For centuries in Orkney, seaweed has been used as a fertilizer for fine potatoes and still is. The fresh seaweed left by the spring tides was carried in crofts in creels on the back bent by the work, enhancing the flavor of these potatoes. Locally, potatoes are called ‘tatties’ and rutabagas or rutabagas are called ‘neeps’ and the two are boiled together in equal proportions, mixed with butter, mashed and served as a clapshot.
Our third course was from Antarctica. Grilled Patagonian toothfish, sesame rice balls, miso and mushroom consomme. By fishing for Patagonian toothfish, now also sold as Glacier 51, West Australians have helped create a highly managed and monitored sustainable fishery.
Our fourth course took us to Raja Ampat in West Papua. Banana and caramelized pineapple sago pudding with toasted coconut. Sago is a starch extracted from the spongy pith of palm trees and produced by a laborious process of opening the bark, extracting and crushing it that can take up to five days. It is a staple food of the Papuans.
WA HAPPY PLACES DINNER
We have another performance dinner in September. The date needs to be confirmed, but it will feature a menu, music and stories set in Western Australia.
And they will all be “happy places” as we partner with the WA Association of Local Governments, which is championing a Happy Places campaign.
Be the first to know by signing up for our free weekly eTravel digital edition. AT westtravelclub.com.au/join, we simply ask for your first name, last name and e-mail address.
All events and tours are launched first in eTravel, but news from our WA Happy Places dinner will, of course, also be on these pages.