How many people get to live their dreams? I am..........!

This is my story from the time when Capt'n John and I first decided to sail around the big block, to circumnavigate this great land of ours, AUSTRALIA.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Three Months Sailing the West Coast of Australia

Three Months Sailing the West Coast of Australia
28th July - 4th October 2013
The coastline south of Exmouth
Beaches, exotic marine life, national reserves and the bluest ocean you’ll see anywhere in the world, can all be found along Australia's Western Coast.
We had to sail round many oil & gas rigs
on our passage down the west coast
Western Australia (WA) is Australia's largest state (area: 2,525,500sqkm) is isolated by desert from most of Australia's population and eastern states cities. This enhances the feeling that Western Australia is somehow different from the rest of Australia, almost a separate country. Western Australia has the Indian Ocean to the west, the Southern Ocean to the south, the Timor Sea to the north and to the east South Australia and the Northern Territory. The state extends l62l km east to west and 2391km north to south.
Rough times at sea
Sailing down the west coast of Western Australia provided MrJ and I with a real cross section of conditions from 40-50knot gale winds lasting for days to hundreds of nautical miles of motor sailing while heading into light to rough conditions. We left Broome on the 28th July 2013 and arrived in Princess Royal Harbour at Albany on the 4th October 2013.
We were told to be in Geraldton by mid Aug early Sept to keep with the easterly weather but the weather didn’t know that and we got mostly SW weather. Hence the runners and waiting out at places. Than catch the SWerlies around the bottom before the SEerlies came back in, and that really didn't happen either.
Anchorage at 80 Mile Beach
The occasional flat calm seas enabled us to day hop at times; anchoring in three places off 80 Mile beach with a high tidal range and long shoaling meant that AR had to sit up to four miles from the shore.
There were times when fear and apprehension descended as we sailed through this wild coastline, sometime sailing through the night making runner after runner to catch the right weather windows. Then relief would kick in like a drug once we had settled in a calm anchorage with white sandy beach and crystal clear blue water. Making a runner on a short weather window we encountered very rough sea conditions two days out of Exmouth when leaving a great protected anchorage behind the reef at Mauds Landing. We had to bypass much of the Ningaloo Reef area because of the rough conditions. Some of the anchorages behind the reef would have been relatively calm in slight to moderate condition but in rough conditions it was risky business getting in and out of the narrow reef openings with the heavy swells crashing over the reef.
Sailing down the Ningaloo Reef with yacht Banyandah
Overcast weather, windy weather and glassy calm weather all make moving about in coral areas hazardous because of the difficulty in seeing into the water. In conditions of glassy calm water in the Abrolhos; bombies are sometimes detectable because of a faint ruffle on the surface above them. Usually the browner in colour the bombie is, the shallower the water above it is.
Big swells sailing into Geraldton
In another runner into Geraldton from the Abrolhos Islands we encountered big swells and rode them all the way in. Then there was the sense of adventure sailing this wild coast to find beautiful places that very few people have every ventured to. To sail into, to tread where the ancient mariner once discovered this land we now call Australia.

The history of Western Australia dates back more than 40,000 years to the original inhabitants, the Australian Aboriginals, making Australia one of the oldest lands on Earth. The Aborigines lived a nomadic existence, moving within fairly well-defined geographic regions as they followed the seasons and food sources. Many Aboriginal groups Shark Bay have strong cultural connections to the sea. There is good evidence that they and other groups fished and traveled over the water by boats. It is possible the Chinese and Arabs visited Australian shores in the l5th Century, perhaps earlier, as there were trading operations on nearby islands. Interesting argument has been put that the Portuguese had explored at least the east coast of the continent south to Victoria and the west coast down to King Sound by 1522. The Dauphin chart, if correct it is the first known chart of the coast.
Model of the Batavia with part of the actual hull which is
kept in the marina's Museum at Fremantle
European explorers came much later with the first recorded European visitors in Western Australia's history were the Dutch in the 1600s. Many of these visitors were sailors, employed by the Dutch East India Company, who regularly used the strong westerly winds to power their boats across the Indian Ocean to Dutch-colonized Indonesian ports, such as Batavia (now Jakarta). It is the Dutch who are credited with first exploring our coast and producing charts that are recognizable precursors of the ones we use today. They gave names to many of the coastal features. Dirk Hartog, a Dutch trader, discovered the west coast in 1616 and Thyssen accidentally found the south coast and explored east of Cape Leeuwin in 1626, giving it a reasonable report. The wreck of the Batavia is to be found in the Abrolhos Islands. You can read about the ship Batavia here
Vlamingh visited Rottnest and the Swan River in 1696 exploring about 10nm up the Swan River by boat and surveyed this area. He then headed north and discovered on Cape Inscription, at the north end of Dirk Hartog Island, a pewter plate left by Hartog in 1616. He replaced this with a plate on which he inscribed not only Hartog's words but some of his own. The French found and removed the plate in 1819.
Englishman William Dampier made contact with the coast in 1688 in the Cygnet and, although he was not a very effective cartographer, his report stimulated interest by the French and English.
An early mariner's chart of  Australia
1801, Mathew Flinders came with his great surveying skills in the Investigator and surveyed  the south coast. Flinders met up with the Frenchman Baudin who in 1801 and 1803 made a detailed survey of the west coast. Baudin's expedition spent over four years on the Australian coast and arguably made the greatest contribution which resulted in over one hundred and eighty coastal features being given French names. Phillip Parker King, an Australian and son of a former governor of NSW was given the task of filling in the gaps left by Matthew Flinders in the exploration of the Australian coastline. And so now, with the improvement of charting the great western Australian coast was open to many more others to explore, like ourselves.

Shipwrecks dot the entire WA coastline
South of Broome the coastline did not vary that much, from miles of rolling sand dunes to low rocky headlands and cliff faces but only a few off lying island groups. Added to the scenery were numerous turtles, dugongs, sea birds and literally hundreds of whales all the way down the coast. At White Banks in the Houtman Abrolhos Archipelago, moored with another boat, Banyandah from Tasmania, we encountered our first sea lions.

Six species of marine turtle are found in WA waters, the Green, Hawksbill, Flatback, Loggerhead, Leatherback, and Olive Ridley. The first four species nest on WA beaches.
The blue-ringed octopus occurs along most of the coast and is highly poisonous. Shell collectors sometimes pick one up when it is hiding inside a shell. Some cone shells can inject a paralysing toxin by means of a dart; a few of the larger species have a fatal sting. This kept my shell collecting to a very minimum and MrJ was happy.
There are more than 50 species of venomous sea snakes out there and many sharks occur along the entire coast, although attacks are rare. We saw very few or they were just hiding!
Whales are intelligent and sensitive mammals.
When playing whales leap out of the sea
The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) has certain rules for safe whale-watching.
“Only approach a whale (or a group of whales) from a direction parallel or 300m ahead and allow the whales to approach you. Do not separate what may be members of a tightly knit family group. When 300m reduce the speed of your vessel to a slow speed consistent with no wake. If you intend stopping the engine, allow it to idle for a few minutes before switching off. Whales become alarmed at sudden noises or at the sudden stopping of a noise. One hundred metres is the closest vessels may come to a whale, unless they are research vessels. If the animal approaches the vessel more closely, put the engine in neutral and avoid engaging the propellers until it has moved off. Relatively small yachts have sunk or suffered severe damage after hitting a whale. So perhaps the preferred manoeuvre is to stay well clear at all times! Swimming with whales is prohibited. It may cause stress to the animal and is dangerous for people, as a tail or fluke slap can render a swimmer unconscious.”
A Humpback Whale alongside the boat
This is not always the case when sailing at sea and many a time we have changed tack to avoid a whale or many whales travel the west coast. And I wish that someone would tell the whales the rules.
The whales can be seen coming south with their young from August to October. The humpback whales are the fifth largest of the great whales and can grow up to 19m and weigh 40 tonnes. They are black with white underneath and sides. The underside of the tail fluke is white with black patterns by which each whale can be identified.
We have had many a whale or more pop up beside the boat and even dive under the boat as we sailed along. This can be very frightening especially if you do not see where they come up. And then there is the night sail which we did try not to do but could not be avoided along this wild coast. I hoped that all the whales had found a nice little cove to retire to at night but know that this was not true.
Whales pop up right beside your boat
Bottle-nose dolphin

The common dolphin and the bottle-nose dolphin can be seen all along the Western Australian coast. They are a tourist attraction at Monkey Mia (Shark Bay), Bunbury and Cockburn Sound (Rockingham). We had many dolphins come and visit many times, to ride our bow wave for hours and then to disappear into the deep blue sea.

Sea lion on White Banks
Houtman Abrolhos Archipelago 

Australian sea lions were once hunted for their fur and meat but have been protected since 1892. They can be seen from islands off the southwest coast as far north as the Houtman Abrolhos and are among the worlds rarest of seals species. Unlike other seals, which breed annually, sea lions breed every 17.5 months, breeding at different times at different islands. Their coats vary in colour but are usually combinations of tans, cream and brown.

Anchorage at Monkey Mia
We had been ashore when the storm approached.

Some estuarine and marine areas are protected.  Ningaloo Reef, which extends from Bundegi just north of Exmouth around North West Cape and south to Red Bluff, the Montebello Islands (SW of Dampier), Shark Bay and Monkey Mia, Houtman Abrolhos Archipelago (NW of Geraldton) and Rottnest Island (out from Fremantle) are all Marine Park that we had the privilege of being able to visit. Moorings for recreational vessels have been provided and maintained in several of these locations.
There was also the sense of adventure and a feeling of being an explorer when we crossed a couple of more things of out Bucket List. The personal achievements like rounding Australia’s furthest most western point, Steep Point is the westernmost point of the Australian mainland, and the most SW point at Cape Leeuwin where by rounding this point it took MrJ, me and AR into the great Southern Ocean.

The fishermen on Steep Point.
We were back on the ocean side.
After anchoring off Monkey Mia in crystal clear blue water with pristine white sandy beaches but we had been getting strong wind and rain squalls that had kept us onboard for most of our stay (this was the main weather pattern for most of the west coast), we had anchored in Sunday Bay on the southern side of Dirk Hartog Island on the inside of Shark Bay; in a patch of good holding sand between all the seagrass. We were waiting with yacht Banyandah, waiting out for another weather window to get us further south. Two days later we were ready to make our move out through the narrow opening between Dirk Hartog Island and Steep Point on the mainland, out into big rolling swells that crashed on the shore creating a rebound against all other incoming waves steeping the seas. It was called Steep Point for other reason, the steep cliffs surrounding, but I know it for the steep seas. Two days later we are anchored at Pigeon Island in the Houtman Abrolhos group.
The fishing huts on Pigeon Island, Wallabi IslandsHoutman Abrolhos Archipelago
Diving to free the anchor in gale winds.
Than there was the time we go caught out anchored at Rottnest Island, when we had picked up a mooring line with our anchor and had to get a diver out to free the anchor. It was blowing a gale and we so did want to be in Freemantle. Mind you we ended up being stuck in Fremantle at the Fremantle Sailing Club for three weekswe were playing that old waiting game again, waiting for the 30-40knt rainy weather to clear to give us a good window to sail south. Maybe stuck is too strong a word as our stay with the sailing club and visits to Fremantle and Perth turned out to be quite lovely and interesting.

The Fremantle Sailing Club fingers.

Sundowners on AR with the SICYC "westies" members.
Race day at the FSC

with some helfp from Glen & Nigel

and we even got some work done

Dress of the day.
The further south we sailed the colder it became
even though we were heading into summer
The time became right to sail out; with one quick overnight stop at Bunbury we were once again on another two night runner this time it would takes MrJ and me around the bottom corner of Cape Leeuwin and on to Albany.
We had company on our passages around the bottom of WA
My track around Cape Leeuwin at night.

I was doing my usual midnight to dawn night watch when we rounded the cape. It felt good – I was on the helm, keeping out wide to avoid the rocky reef islands in the darkness. It was dark, very cold and wet from the sea spray with sails reefed, a fresh W breeze blowing and a big rolling 3mt swell to push AR around the corner. At 0215h heading down the western coast off Cape Leeuwin - 34’27.291S – 114’59.576E and into the Southern Ocean – there was only another 100n/m to Albany.

Here we go - sliding down the face of the big swell and on into the Southern Ocean.........................

Monday, 4 November 2013

Stop Over in Broome

Stop Over in Broome
16th - 27th July 2013

The Anchorage:
Cable Beach to the left and the anchorage in front -  taken from Gantheaume Point
ALANA ROSE spent twelve night moored off the Gantheaume Point Beach out from the town of Broome. Towards the northern part of this very long sandy beach is known as Cable Beach where a lot of the big resorts are situated.
Gantheaume Point

Gantheaume Point is located approximately 6 km from town features some amazing rock formations; this is a scenic area with red cliffs and turquoise water. In the sandstone at the water's edge petrified dinosaur footprints over 130 million years old can be seen at a very low tide but for the benefit of visitors a plaster cast of the tracks has been embedded at the top of the cliff.
the cement prints are in the same colour as the rock/sand

Throughout our stay we were to experience mainly SE - E - NE winds which came off the land. We were lucky to be tucked in behind Gantheaume Point with a coral reef that extends out to seaward but there was a constant running swell from out to sea which produced some surf wave action on the shore, this surf action made for an interesting time getting ashore or launching your dinghy to get off the beach.

the sand dunes behind the beach
Torba Queen

I don't think I would like to have been in the anchorage in anything from the NW - W - SW and I do believe that most of the boats would disappear around the corner into the Roebuck Bay under those conditions.
There were many boat mostly moored; we had been fortunate enough to get a free mooring from a fella (Stephen Nasso) that we had met at Prudhoe Island in the Kimberley. Some transient boats had chosen to anchor and seemed to have had a good hold. Some of these boat we knew already and many other we were to meet over our time in this anchorage.

The Beach:
the sun sets across the beach and the people enjoy
they come home from the sea

Claimed to be one of the most stunning beaches in the world with 22 kilometres of pristine white sand, low lying sand dunes and clear turquoise water which  is a safe swimming hole free from Crocs (that's because all the Sharks ate them - I hear you say....!!!)

and party in boats
they are beach sun lovers
with time to relax

and time to walk
On a sunny day, especially on weekends, the Gantheaume Point end of the beach is where it all happens. Not really, but I did see that a great number of people with their cars (regular and 4X4's) and umbrellas descended onto the long shoaling beach. The only exception was when there was a big moon high tide and then there was practically no beach at all. The tidal range was big, it was over 9mts at the full moon tide on the 24th & 25th July 2013, making the beach shoal out for what seemed like mile when having to drag a dinghy up or down. Our dinghy does have big wheels but it was still a hell of a long way for poor old MrJ, the workhorse of this duo. Tourists embark from this beach to do the sunset cruises.
Up the other end at Cable Beach all the tourists flock to enjoy a dip in the sea or lazy about in the sun on the sand. A popular tourist attraction on Cable Beach is taking a sunset camel ride. 
The beach was a good meeting place for everyone and a great location to watch the beautiful sunsets.
The Town of Broome:

Broome is now a modern town, a popular holiday destination that has an interesting history. Broome was once a town in which lanes lined with noodle stalls and opium dens, and the slum dwellings of hawkers and prostitutes were more reminiscent of Asia than Australia; and where pearl shell mattered more than human life.
Places of interest:
Chinatown was once the bustling hub of pearl sheds, bawdy saloons, billiard rooms and Chinese eateries. You can now find pearl showrooms, a variety of retail outlets and sidewalk cafes adding a 20th Century touch to the town.

Cultured Pearling Monument: Mr. Tokuichi Kuribayashi, originally from Nippon Pearl Company, Tokyo, Mr. Hiroshi Iwaki and Keith Francis Dureau from Pearl Prop. Ltd. were pioneers in the cultured pearl industry in Broome. The three life-size statues are now on display on the grassed area of Carnarvon Street in Chinatown.

Hard Hat Diver: This life size statue of the Hard Hat Pearl Diver adjacent to the Cultured Pearling Monument in Chinatown was erected in 1999 to pay tribute to the role that the Hard Hat Diver played in establishing Broome as the centre of the world's pearling industry in the early 1900's. These early Pearl Divers came from diverse cultural backgrounds, and this resulted in Broome being exempted from the White Australia Policy, making the town a pioneer of multiculturalism in Australia. Around 50 of these divers along with many of their ancestors still reside in Broome today.

Sun Pictures: Officially opened in 1916; it is believed to be the oldest operating open-air picture garden in the world and is open for the public to view its history. This unique indoor/outdoor theatre has withstood the ravages of war, cyclones and king tides. Housed in the foyer is an excellent display of movie memorabilia. Located in Chinatown the theatre is operating and current movies are shown every night.

Pearl Luggers : On Dampier Terrace we admired two of the last surviving perfectly restored Pearl Luggers, the Sam Male and the DMcD, and a heritage listed Old Pearler’s Quarters in which we saw more than 140 years of Broome's unique maritime heritage taking an historical journey through the life and times of the pearl divers.

Streeter’s Jetty was the original jetty for the pearling luggers based in Broome. The jetty is still used to support vessels for modern day pearling and the occasional lugger. It is located on Dampier Terrace, at the end of Short Street.

my Staircase

Staircase to the Moon: This natural phenomenon is caused by a full moon rising over the exposed mudflats of Roebuck Bay at extremely low tides, creating a beautiful optical illusion of a staircase reaching to the moon. Occurs March to October for 3 nights every month.
We did not get to experience this phenomenon being 6ks away anchored off Gantheaume Point Beach, but I did get a lot of sunset shots.
(not quite the Staircase to the Moon that is seen over the mudflat in town - still, it is a pretty sight across the sea)

MrJ and the old Courthouse building

Courthouse and Courthouse Markets are located on the corner of Frederick and Hamersley streets. Built in distinctive "Broomestyle" architecture, the courthouse was the original Cable House, where the Broome end of the oceanic telegraph cable terminated. This is where the popular Courthouse Markets are held on Saturday mornings from 8am - 1pm all year.
The relaxed atmosphere, shady trees and lawn areas make the Courthouse Markets the ideal place for visitors and locals to mix and sample the quality and range of products available from the local area. Products include fresh produce, photography, honey, preserves, indigenous and contemporary art, many hand-crafts, clothing, jewellery and a diverse range of freshly cooked food. Buskers entertain the crowds with music and performance.

Deep Water Port located at the end of Port Drive is Broome's water link to the world. Built to replace the old jetty near Town Beach, this massive structure can accommodate large cargo and cruise ships at any tide (which can run 10 metres!) The wharf is a popular fishing spot and is open to the public except during cargo operations.

Roebuck Hotel or as the locals call it, the Roey, was originally built by E.W. Streeter in 1880 to provide incentive for the pearling fleet to stay in Broome. It has always been a focal point of social gathering. In 1904 the hotel was destroyed by fire and rebuilt. Mrs Nightingall purchased the hotel in 1955 and made extensive renovations, including the addition of pre-made bedrooms transported by semi-trailer from Perth.

In 1973 the hotel changes hands again, purchased by the Swan Brewery and continued to be popular amongst young people. The modern day hookah divers along with the burgeoning oil and gas riggers provided many hearty evenings in the shell grit beer garden. A notable Broome identity purchased the hotel in the late 80’s and made a number of extensions and renovations and in the early 2000’s purchase of the local nightclub at the end of Dampier Terrace.

Broome Staircase Designs has been operating in Broome for twelve year. The artist and designer of all the beautiful peal jewellery is Julia Prynne, her inspiration being the Staircase to the Moon. This amazing even takes place at the foreshores of Broome at only a couple of times a year. Each piece of their Staircase Collection is designed and made exclusively by Broome Staircase Designs for their showroom in Brome and will not be found anywhere else in the world. The shop is situated in the Information Centre building.
MrJ and I went along to one of their very informative Pearl Information Talks. The pearling industry is talked about, the pearl culture and life is discuss and was shown to us through active displays. All customers’ names were put in a container and one name was drawn out at the end of the talk/display enabling this person to win the actual pearl that had been prised form a fresh shell. I didn’t win but MrJ did buy me an early birthday present.
Did you know that there are several ways to grade a pearl? The Lustre of a pearl is perhaps the most important feature of all.  This is the outside orient of the pearl or the thickness that you can see. The lustre of a pearl will sometimes show an amazing reflection within the pearl layer itself.  Sometimes these lustres appear to have a pinkie hue about them.  The lustre of a pearl can also pick up colours of an item that you are wearing or standing near, thus characterising itself to its owner. The Freshwater Pearls were not from Broome, they are imported from other countries.  They are cultured in a similar process to the South Sea Pearls only in mussel shells not oysters. South Sea Pearls are the most sort after pearls in the world, especially the South Sea Pearls that are from Australia. These pearls are cultured from a process of nucleating the pearl oyster shell with a bead made from shell.
Where it all started - The first white person appearing in Broome history is Abel Tasman, the famed Dutch navigator who discovered the island state in the South of Australia. He sailed past and charted much of the Kimberley coast in 1644. The English buccaneer William Dampier was the first European to actually visit Broome's shores in 1688, after sailing north from Shark Bay in the H.M.S. Roebuck, and landing somewhere near the Buccaneer Archipelago. As the story goes he also landed at what is today called Buccaneer Rock in Roebuck Bay and buried a pirate treasure chest. You can see his ghost there at night, looking for his lost treasure with a lantern... Or maybe you won't. Dampier actually never landed at Roebuck Bay...

Still, the Dampier Archipelago, Dampier PeninsulaRoebuck Bay and of course the famous Roebuck Hotel on Dampier Terrace are all named after this first visit.
An unsuccessful attempt to develop the area to graze sheep started in the 1860s and was soon abandoned. Cattle arrived around 1885, when the McDonalds and the Duracks established the first cattle stations across the Kimberley.
1861 was the defining year in Broome's history. A new species, the pearl oyster Pinctada maxima was discovered in Roebuck Bay and turned out to be the largest pearl shell in the world.


The pearling industry was a major economic force for over one hundred years in northern Australia and for business interests in the southern capitals from the 1850s onwards. However, alongside the development of the industry were stories of forced and indentured labour, danger and death. Pearl shell and Mother of Pearl were the main focus of the industry as the shell was used to make buttons, cutlery, hair combs, jewellery items as well as art objects and inlay for furniture. The cultured pearling industry came to fruition much later.
Australia's pearling industry began long before European settlement.

 Northern Australian coastal dwelling Aborigines harvested the abundant pearl shell from the shallow waters and had a well established trading network for pearl shell. Within Australia, pearl shells travelled further perhaps than any other item. In Western Australia an explorer saw an aboriginal wearing a pearly oyster-shell which had travelled at least 500 miles from its point of origin. Aborigines also traded with the Macassan fishermen from the Indonesia island of Sulawesi3 who harvested beche-de-mer, trepang (sea-slugs), tortoise and pearl shell. Folklore, songs, cave paintings and the diaries of Matthew Flinders tell us of links between Australia and Indonesia dating back 500 years with traditional visits from Indonesian fishermen4 continuing until the 1970s.
A dark history of pearl diving - From 1862-68, local Aborigines worked dry shelling 1without wages, collecting oysters in the shallow waters of Shark Bay. Within three years, the supply was so low that larger boats were sent out two kilometres off shore to collect oysters in deep water. Six to eight Aboriginal men and women in a boat would naked dive for shell. This meant they had to dive down deep with no oxygen, no snorkel and no mask. Employment conditions were regarded as dangerous as well as unspeakably squalid and dirty which contributed to a high degree of accident and death.
The invention of diving suits revolutionised the pearling industry in Australia. Not only could divers go deeper than ever before, they could also stay underwater longer and collect more shell and pearls. These divers wore vulcanised canvas suits and massive bronze helmets and were lowered over the boat's side to spend hours underwater. On the bottom they struggled about in lead-weighted boots, often almost horizontal as they peered through inch-thick faceplates into murky waters, frantically scooping oysters into bags because divers were paid by the amount of shell they collected.
As time went by many different races became involved with the pearling industry. The races included Chinese, Japanese, Sri Lankans, West Australians (mainly Aborigines), Torres Strait Islanders, Manilamen and Filipinos from the Philippines, Malays from Malaysia, Rotumah men from Roti, Koepangers from Timor, and Amboinese from the Moluccas.
During the olden days of pearling, the various races were grouped into their own social classes each with varying importance. The highest and most respected class were the white pearling masters who built and pioneered the industry, because they had the money. The pearling masters rarely mixed with the other coloured races and held themselves apart. They were principally occupied with the construction, organisation, and management of the lugger fleets and prospected for new pearling grounds. The pearling masters also associated themselves within the pearl and shell market and were responsible for winning overseas markets.
The pearling masters employed various races for work within their home: Each pearling master had a Chinese or Japanese cook, an aboriginal for garden work, Koepanger boys supervised the children at play, did the housework and polished the silver, an Aboriginal woman did the daily washing, a Chinese person did the ironing and the waiter was either a Japanese or Koepanger. The Malays and Manilamen were usually employed as pearl shell divers, however the Japanese, whom seemed naturally immune against ill-fortunes associated with high pressure such as otitis (inflammation of the ears), otorrhagia (bleeding of the ears), and epistaxis (bleeding of the nose), were recruited and indeed overtook them because they were more ambitious, quicker to learn, and ready to take risks. Many of the Japanese divers were used as indentured labour. This means that they were working for no money in order to repay a debt, usually their transportation to Australia. Divers were paid by the amount of shell they collected and because of the dangers involved, very few of these divers ever managed to work off their debt.
Most of the other races were involved on the deck either as being deck hands, pump crews or cooks.
In the Torres Strait, pearlers not only sought pearls11 but also other island resources to maintain the industry and this extended to the ransacking of the islands for food, timber, women and water. Along with the onslaught of diseases, this contributed to significant population decline amongst the Torres Strait Islanders within 30 years to as low as 50% of pre-pearling populations by 1900.
Pearl divers regularly faced the threat of shark attack as well as the dreaded crippling effects of the bends17 with every dive. Some sources say that the mortality (death) rate for divers was 50%. In addition, whole fleets were shipwrecked18 in single cyclones. Between 1908 and 1935, four cyclones hit the pearling fleet19 at sea. Around 100 boats were destroyed and 300 men were killed.
In the early 20th century, Australia's White Australia Policy20 restricted immigration to mostly white Europeans. This was a problem for Broome and the pearling industry that relied on cheap, expendable labour from Asia. As a solution to this, the government recruited 12 divers from the British Navy as pearl divers. Unfortunately, nearly all of these divers died, so Broome was made an exception to the White Australia Policy.
During World War I and World War II, the industry virtually ceased as most of the workers enlisted. The industry relied heavily on its Japanese pearl divers and as a result of Japan entering WWII; these divers were imprisoned in prisoner of war camps. The recovery after World War II was slow as harvesting methods used in the previous decades meant that the supply of shell had almost run out. The development of plastic buttons and buckles in the 1950s devastated the pearling industry by the 1960s. However, new cultivation methods allowed the artificial creation of a pearl. This was usually done by inserting a small plastic ball into the oyster. The beginning of the cultured pearl in Australia!
The Wars:
The town was booming. Before World War I, Broome supplied over 80% of the world's mother of pearl. While the pearling masters and their industry prospered the occupation proved fatal for many of the pearl divers. The "bends", drowning, sharks and cyclones ended many dreams of a comfortable life. The Japanese divers had the reputation to be the best, and the hundreds of headstones in Broome's Japanese cemetery speak clear evidence of the risks that came with their work.
Enter WWI. The upheaval and the following depression devastated Broome's economy. There was now also strong competition from the Japanese. By 1939 the pearling industry survived on government subsidies.
Next came WWII during which the Japanese divers and crew were interned. Most of Broome's pearl luggers were sent south, loaded with women and children. The remaining boats were burnt on the beaches to prevent them from falling in enemy hands.
Broome and its port were undefended when they suffered the second worst air raid in Australia's history (Darwin of course suffered the worst) on the 3rd of March 1942. The Japanese shot down a plane carrying wounded which had just taken off heading for Perth. They went on to destroy 15 of the Dornier flying boats anchored in the shallow bay. Most of the flying boats were filled with refugees, mostly women and children, many of whom died either immediately or swimming through the burning oil... And finally the Japanese bombers turned to the airfield, where most of the planes were destroyed. When they finally left Broome its buildings, vehicles, and even the ocean around the bombed boats were burning. 24 aircraft had been destroyed and 70 people killed. Three of the flying boats that were destroyed by the Japanese bombings can still be seen in the bay at very low tide today. The only good for Broome that came from the war was the fact that the Japanese competition wasn't operating either. After the war the pearling industry recovered to some degree, but the heydays were definitely over.
Then disaster struck again. As if all that hadn't been enough, in the 1950s a crucial invention hit the market. Yep, the plastic button! Pearl shell became worthless over night...
The plastic button sealed the fate of the Mother of Pearl industry, but not the fate of Broome. Experiments with cultured pearls had been under way for many years, and again it was the Japanese who perfected the process. The results were phenomenal.

Broome pearls mature in 2 rather than 4 years like Japanese pearls, and they are also twice as big. 20 years later the town produced up to 70% of the world's large cultured pearls. It continues to be one of the world's major suppliers for quality pearls today. Today pearls are no longer the only pillar of Broome's economy. The 1980s saw a new industry emerge: tourism discovered Broome and is growing fast. Some say too fast. From 2,000 residents in 1980 Broome grew to 11,000 in 1999, by the far the fastest population increase in the history of Broome. Today the town has a population of nearly 14,000. The history of Broome is visible everywhere. And I don't mean the statues and monuments sprinkled across the town. I mean the Broome people. The faces you see in the streets are still a vivid reminder of the wild pearling days of Broome's history.

The People You Meet:

Brendan – one of the most energetic, enthusiastic and friendly people I think we have ever met, a man of nature, the sea, surf and sun and Jody – a friendly, kind and loving soul with a touch of a hidden spark, a great lover of art and Brendan – both opened their hearts and lives to us

Sam and Brendan again

Sam the mechanic – a man of great mechanical knowledge and skill as well as size, the man who helped fix our anchor winch motor with the help of Brendan – they got it fixed in lightning fast time, one day.

There are two organizations/clubs that I belong to (Flickr and SICYC) that I like to catch up with other members along the way where possible. In Broome we were able to have a Flickr meet up with Sharon, a lovely lady with an adventurous spirit and a fellow camera snapper.

Sandy (Phase II) who we already knew from the Darwin and the Kimberley trip but now got to see his other adventurous side while mixing with the backpackers on the beach. ;o)))

The crew of the sports fishing boat that came alongside to Brendan's boat Alabama Bay – local boys full of character and comics