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Walga Rock
Walganna Rock, Walgahna Rock
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Highest point
Naming
English translation Blood that comes from the Kangaroo
Geography
Country Australia
State Western Australia
Region Mid West
Shire Shire of Cue
Geology
Mountain type Granite whaleback
Type of rock K-feldspar porphyritic monzogranite

Walga Rock, also known as Walgahna Rock and Walganna Rock, is a granite monolith situated about 48 kilometres (30 mi) west of Cue, Western Australia. It is one of the largest granite monoliths in Australia.

Of profound cultural significance to Aboriginal people, the Wajarri elders are the acknowledged traditional owners. An extensive gallery of Aboriginal art exists within a cave in Walga Rock.

Painting

A painting of what appeared at first glance to be a sailing ship appears superimposed over some of the earlier works and underneath there are lines of writing that while resembling a Cyrillic or Arabic script have not been identified. While the Indigenous gallery is in itself remarkable, there has been a great deal of speculation about the painting, especially considering it is located 325 kilometres (202 mi) from the coast. It has been argued that it was drawn by survivors of the heavily armed three-masted Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, commonly abbreviated to VOC) ships  Batavia or  Zuiddorp; or that it represents a "contact painting" by Indigenous Australians who saw a ship on the coast and then moved inland.

Those believing the images represents a VOC ship, are of the opinion the middle (or main) mast of the three shown in the Walga Rock/Walganha Rock image had broken and fallen overboard. Ratlines (to enable the crew to scale the rigging), and some stays (holding the masts vertical) are depicted and seven gunports are evident along the hull.

SS Xantho?

Of the two-masted colonial steamships operating in the north-west of Australia, SS Xantho owned by the controversial pearler and pastoralist Charles Edward Broadhurst was of such import as the State's first coastal steamer (see following) it is a likely possibility as the inspiration for the Walga Rock painting. It is also possible that the Walga Rock "gunports" may not be false at all, rather they are square or rectangular scuttles (port holes) that can be opened like a gunport. These often appeared on ferries designed to operate in sheltered waters and were opened for the comfort of its passengers when travelling in calm waters and when it got too hot below decks. When SS Xantho was built in 1848 as a ferry, reference was made in its contract to it being similar to the PS Loch Lomond which is known to have rectangular ventilation ports. Research conducted by mid-west historian Stan Gratte, based on interviews conducted with "old Cue residents" and local station identities the Morgan brothers, shows that the Walga Rock painting was produced around 1917 at the time when Sammy "Malay", also known as Sammy Hassan, is recorded as having arrived there from Shark Bay. Apparently a "Malay" (the name generally but incorrectly describing indentured labourers who came to the north west from the islands north of Australia), Sammy Hassan remained camped at Sammy Well outstation on the north east end of Dirk Hartog Island before leaving the Bay to join Wajarri people at a well near Walga Rock. As Shark Bay legend has Sammy "Malay" dying from a shark bite at his outcamp "Sammy Well" and anthropologist Esmée Webb disputes the Sammy "Malay" connection, more research is required, however.

Either way it is possible that Sammy Hassan was one of many hundreds of indentured "Malay" pearl divers who were transported to north west Australia in the early 1870s. Of these, 140 boys aged between 12–14 were transported on the SS Xantho from Batavia, for example. Some were abandoned by Broadhurst at Geraldton when SS Xantho sank in 1872 and many others suffered a similar fate three years later in Shark Bay.

While there are many examples of Indigenous art depicting vessels on the Western Australian coast, including others showing what appears to be the SS Xantho and possibly another steamer at Inthanoona Station east of Cossack, the Walga Rock painting is one of the most inland examples.

Recently Malaysian visitors to the Shipwreck Museum in Fremantle advised they felt the four lines underneath the Walghana ship could represent Jawi (a Malay-Arabic script). Recent research into that possibility has not established a link, however.

  • Bigourdan, N., & McCarthy, M., 2007. Aboriginal watercraft depictions in Australia: on land and underwater? Bulletin of the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology, 31: 1-10.
  • Gunn, R. G. et al. (1997)_Walga Rock (Walganha) : a Wajarri rock art and Dreaming site in the Murchison Basin, Western Australia : WA Register of Aboriginal sites no. P249 / a report to the Yamaji Language Centre, Geraldton and the Australian Heritage Commission, Perth ; by R.G. Gunn, R.E. Webb and D.E. Marmion. Geraldton, W.A. : Yamaji Language Centre.
  • Hussey, B.M.J. (2003) Ferals at Walga Rock.(regarding feral animals) Western Australian naturalist, Vol.24, no.2 (30 Dec. 2003), p. 115-117
  • Jenkinson, Charles.(2004) Site returned. Wilgie Mia and Walga Rock handed over to their traditional owners - the custodianship of the Wajarri Tribal Elders. Geraldton guardian, 19 Nov. 2004, p. 13
  • Laud, Peter.(2001) Rock art under study. Destinations, Mar/Apr. 2001, p. 8-9,
  • McCarthy, M., 2000. "Iron and steamship archaeology:success and failure on the SS Xantho". Kluwer/Plenum. p. 60-1.
  • McCarthy, M., 2007. Sammy Well. In Green, J., (ed.) "Report on the 2006 Western Australian Museum, Department of Maritime Archaeology, Cape Inscription National Heritage Listing Archaeological Survey". Report—Department of Maritime Archaeology Western Australian Museum, No. 223 Special Publication No. 10, Australian National Centre of Excellence for Maritime Archaeology: 195-202. Available in PDF form. http://wamuseum.com.au/collections/maritime/march/DHI-site/index.html
  • Playford, P., 1996, "Carpet of Silver: the wreck of the Zuytdorp". UWA Press, Nedlands.WA.
  • Webb, R. E. and Gunn, R.G.(1999) Walga Rock. Part 2 : preliminery artefact analysis, detailed art recording : Western Australian Register of Aboriginal Sites no. P249 / second report to the Yamaji Language Centre, Geraldton and the Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra. East Perth, W.A. : Distributed by the Heritage Council of W.A.
  • Webb, R. E. (2003) Management work undertaken at Walganha (Walga Rock), an Aboriginal rock-art site, near Cue, Western Australia / a report to the Heritage Assistance & Projects Section, Department of Environment & Heritage, Canberra, ACT, Thoo Thoo Warninha Aboriginal Corporation, Cue, WA, and the Shire of Cue . East Perth, W.A. Distributed by the Heritage Council of W.A..
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