Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Stromatolites at Hamelin Pools in Shark Bay, Western Australia

Oldest living things on earth
Whilst they’re about as interesting to watch as a mime version of Dances With Wolves, stromatolites are fascinating.
Made up of single cell organisms called cyanobacteria, they have been around for 3.5 billion years. In fact, they are the oldest living things on earth, and without them, we probably wouldn’t be here.

Creating oxygen
Stromatolites have played a huge part in creating an atmosphere that we can survive in. They create oxygen as a waste product, and without that, we’d quite frankly be long gone.
Until 1956, scientists thought they no longer existed. Fossilised examples had been found in old rocks, but none still alive.

Hamelin Pools at Shark Bay
That was the year that millions of living stromatolites were found in the Hamelin Pools of Shark Bay in Western Australia. More have since been found in the Bahamas, but the extremely salty water of Hamelin Pools has allowed this ancient life to survive undetected.

World Heritage-listed
They are the main reason that Shark Bay is World Heritage-listed, and whilst they don’t exactly entertain, such history has an incredibly mesmerising quality.

Getting to Shark Bay
A viewing platform, board walk and information about the Hamelin Pools stromatolites can be found 105km from Denham in Shark Bay. Denham is 842km north of Perth, Australia and Hamelin Pools is on the way. Try the Shark Bay office of the Department of Conservation And Land Management to find out more.

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