Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Swimming with seahorses at Watson's Bay Baths


Seahorses like hanging out at Watson's Bay Baths.  Their natural home is seagrass but over the years they have taken a liking to the pool's shark nets. Scuba diver Dave Thomas says they prefer them because it gets them off the ground and away from predators.

"And they can't chase things down, so they rely on food coming to them. They love hanging in the nets while things go past," he said in an article in The Sydney Morning Herald

Photo from Underwater Australasia
In 2010 Mr Thomas was involved in temporarily removing the colony of White's seahorses from the nets while the baths were rebuilt. During the construction phase the seahorses, which were named after John White, surgeon-general to the First Fleet, were put on seagrasses. When the work was finished they gravitated back to the new nets that were designed with the seahorses in mind.


Visiting the baths last week I found that the seahorses have a very nice new home with one of the best views in Sydney.  While Watsons Bay was established as a fishing village way back in 1788, the baths had a later beginning. Their life began in 1905 when Vaucluse Council built a shark-proof enclosure to allow safe bathing. Over the years the pool has undergone a number of repairs and upgrades with major work carried out in 1927, 1965, 1975, and most recently in 2010. 


The latest renovation includes a new Olympic-size swimming area with two floating turning boards or sunbathing pontoons, wider new boardwalks and improved seating. The focus of the new, improved pool is on entering the water via ladders and ramps in the deep end so that there is a reduced need to walk over the seagrass in the shallow area. 


Other features include a deep water access ramp for wheelchairs, which is said to be a first for a tidal harbour pool in Australia. Two fully immersible wheelchairs are also available for public use.


If you tire of exploring this expansive salt water space, you can retreat to one of the seats near the entry which are shaded by the shapely trees above. In the pool's early days patrons paid admission of two pence a swim or one shilling a week. Today the pool is free; just open the gate and walk in.


Woollahra Council spent more than $2 million improving this lovely tidal pool. Money well spent, I would say. I think the seahorses would agree.

10 comments:

  1. So did you spot any of the little critters on your visit? Great story!

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    1. Thanks Jen. We were in Watson's Bay for Bruce's birthday lunch so we didn't get to have a swim this time - but will take the goggles and go looking for seahorses in the nets next time.

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  2. That pool is going to be perfect for my kids. They love playing on water but I am afraid to bring them near the pool. That kind of pool is going to be very safe for them to use.

    Vinyl Pool

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  3. Hi Therese,

    Great concept for a blog, would you be up for doing an interview? I work for Antiview, a Australia-based website launching in March. Our content is based on the idea of learning about things from what they are not, so our interviews use negatively-framed questions, ie "What isn't important to consider when looking for a good place to swim?"

    We are happy to do the interview either over the phone or via email, and obviously would be happy to promote your blogs. Could not find contact details for you on the website, but our email is antiview.net@gmail.com if you are interested.

    Cheers,
    Max Opray

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  4. Thanks Max. I will be in touch via email. Cheers Therese

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  5. My grandfather use to run Watsons Bay Baths, Alf Vockler.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. My grandfather worked for Alf Vockler as a swimming instructor for under 12s http://kirrawee.net/images/WatsonsBay.JPG

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  6. Thanks for leaving a comment. Would love to talk to you at some stage about your memories of the baths and your grandfather.

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  7. What era did he work there Mike? I'm sure the baths are full of stories. Must return this summer for a swim.

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