Dung RaidersGuano mining was the first known commercial activity in the Shark Bay area. During the 1800's it became a popular location for guano mining and guano
raiders. Being in such an isolated area of the State it was easy for foreign ships to take the guano
The Western Australian government, so concerned about the illegal guano trade in Shark Bay, sent
Lieutenant Helpman to investigate. Arriving on the colonial schooner Champion, Helpman noted both local and foreign
vessels anchored near the islands obviously mining guano deposits. The crews were collecting the droppings any
which way they could before storing it in the ships holds. Ships were arriving from as far away as England, having
heard of great guano deposits.Helpman estimated that there was at least 20,000 tons of accessible guano on the
islands, now that's a lot of droppings !. As a response to the illegal mining, a barrack was established near Quoin
Bluff and a fee per ton of guano was charged. The first authorised commercial mining of guano began in 1850.
Between 1867 - 1881, Francis Louis Bibra established a settlement on Dirk Hartog Island in order to harvest guano
from the islands. The guano industry virtually ceased in the 1900's due mainly to its over-exploitation of the
So What Is Guano ?The word guano originated from the Inca Civilisation, who were the first
known civilisation to use guano, and literally means "The droppings of seabirds". Today it can refer to both bat
and bird dung. The Inca used guano which was found on the coast of Peru for soil enriching (fertilizer). Why so
valuable? The bird dung is generally very high in phosphorite making it a valuable fertiliser especially in the
1800's when there was no commercial fertiliser available. It also became an essential agricultural product for
Facts About GuanoThe Chincha Islands in Peru became the number one place for Guano. In fact
the country's wealth centred around bird poop. The islands were literally metres deep in cormorant droppings.
Unfortunately for Peru no one wanted to work in the guano mining industry because it was horrible work and
extremely smelly. So the government invited unskilled Chinese labourers to do the dirty work (so to speak).
During the 1850's guano was in such demand, especially in Peru, ships had to wait up to 80 days
before being loaded up.
The guano trade declined rapidly during the 1860's as cheaper forms of fertilizers such as salitre
and nitrate of soda became readily available on the market.
Surely Not !You may have heard this story whilst surfing the net or you may even have been
told it. Though there is absolutely no proof this story is true I had to add it just for fun.
During the 16th and 17th century, long before the invention of commercial fertilisers, manure was
used. Manure was generally transported by large ships. To make it easier and a lot lighter ,the manure was usually
shipped dry. Unfortunately for some ships, sea water in the hold, would penetrate the dry bundles which were stored
there. This started the fermenting process and of course the by product, methane gas. Unsuspecting sailors checking
the hold with a lantern were normally blown to kingdom come, along with the ship. When the cause of these maritime
disasters were discovered, it became policy to stamp the bundles of manure with the words "Ship High in Transport".
This was later abbreviated to SHIT.