Wednesday 31 August 2022

Off to See the Wizard - Broome Day 3

This was our last day at Broome.  After this we would be starting to head south.

Things started out with Mick having to do some running repairs to the van, as the ensuite door was sticking.  It turns out the door runner had never been correctly fitted, so needed to have quite a bit of fiddling to access it.  Just as well he is “handy”.
Our plan for our last day was to go and check out the lighthouse.  You have to do that, and this was the first we have come across.  It turned out that we had a bit of dirt road to traverse to get to it and it had a really steep camber. It is a bit out of town at Gantheaume Point.
It isn’t the most romantic looking lighthouse, but it is still a lighthouse.  There has been a lighthouse on this site since 1905, but the current tower was only built in 1984.
Halfway up we noticed there is very large nest.
It is the nest of an osprey.
What we loved were the craggy rocks on the point.  I suppose it is to reason that there are rocks where a lighthouse is located.
This cheeky little Willy wagtail kept hopping around.  We have seen lots of them on our travels, along with pee wees and top knot pigeons, but no magpies for ages.
There was a group of kayaks rounding the point, which was nice and colourful.
The Point is also famous due to being the home of some dinosaur foot prints.  We had a look at them and wondered if they had concrete back in their time?  It turns out that they are only visible at very low tide and they don’t really want people climbing down there, so they put these castings where they are more accessible.
As we were driving back we saw a couple of rainbow bee-eater birds.  They are so very colourful and have that one very long tail feather.  I was rather excited to see them, as they aren’t something we have ever seen before.
We then went for a drive to find the Port.  This is the main deep port for the north of the state.  They were in the process of loading a ship with cattle.
I then had a look through the museum.  One of the exhibits was a Sail Maker’s shed.  This was the shed of Charlie Bagge, who set up his business in 1907.   He continued in this role until 1917 when bad eye sight forced him to give it up.  
They had a nice little display of the tools of the trade.

It was interesting how they explained that a sail maker not only made sails, but the bags for the pearl shell to be exported in, swags, tarps for covering all sorts of goods, hammocks for the luggers and canvas shades for verandahs on buildings.

Then it was just on to do the groceries before heading back to the van for a late lunch.
In the late afternoon, we wandered down to Cable Beach for one last sunset.  There weren’t as many people on the camels, so the season must really be slowing down now.

Farewell Broome.  

So, what was our opinion of Broome? As with most places, we had received varying opinions, but had to make our own.  We loved it.  Broome was like a holiday from our travels.  Mick liked the fact that it wasn’t glitzy.  There is no high rise or theme parks.  Yes, there are lots of resorts and the caravan park is really large, but nothing felt too busy. Everything is very laid back. I think things may have been quite a bit busier just a couple of weeks earlier.  There’s a lot to be said for travelling at the end of the season, as we have just missed the busiest times and have been able to get accommodation and tours at short notice.  We could quite easily have spent more time there, but we have to get on our way, as there is still a long way to go until we get home.

The highlight of the day was the rock formations that were unexpected.

Sunday 28 August 2022

Off to See the Wizard - Broome Day 2

We think we are on Broome time now, as we are really in holiday mode.
This morning we went to the Courthouse Markets, held in the grounds of the old Courthouse, funnily enough.
There was a nice selection of stalls, better than the Thursday night markets.
I bought a tiny desert rose plant for not much and will see how it goes as an indoor plant.  
We had seen them elsewhere and they are a rather strange looking succulent with pretty pink flowers.  They aren’t an Australian native.
After that, we decided to go and have another look at the Town Jetty, seeing as the tide was fairly high.  What a difference.  The bottom of that ladder was way above the sand when we were there the other day.
There were loads of people trying their luck fishing.
The covered areas have perforations in the roof, creating artworks with their shadows.
It is so clever.  This one depicts a blue nosed salmon.
I mentioned that I had heard that the WWII sculptures were being officially opened yesterday.  Well, it was actually today and was happening while we were at the Jetty.  We didn’t hang around for the speeches, as we had somewhere else to be.

We were going to do a tour at “Pearl Luggers”, which gives the history of the pearling industry in Broome.
Pictada Maxima is the largest pearl producing oyster in the world and is native to the Kimberly area.  The pearl meat (like the oyster) grows in the centre indentation.  You can tell the age of  these creatures by the layers in the shell.  
They can grow to 30 cm and live for over 20 years. This enormous one is estimated to be about 50 years old.
Aboriginal men used the decorated shells, inscribed with sacred patterns, called “Riji” for adornment, like a loin cloth tied around their waist with a rope made from hair.
When the industry commenced pearls weren’t the main reason.  The mother of pearl shell was the main goal, with the occasional pearl being a bonus.  Apparently, in the wild a pearl was found in only about one in ten thousand shells.  The mother of pearl shell was exported all around the world.  The main customers were the USA and England.  The buttons don’t appear to have been made here.
It is said that Broome was built on buttons.

At the height of the industry, in the early 1900s there were over 400 luggers searching for pearl shells, employing 3,500 people. The large shells found here were used for cutlery handles, buckles and inlay as well as buttons.  At its height, pearl shell brought a price of400 pounds per ton.

The decline came as World War One caused many to enlist to go to war, so many luggers were laid up.  Then the Great Depression came along, reducing demand, then WWII, with the Japanese being interred and the fleet of boats either being seconded by the military or destroyed, so they didn’t fall into enemy hands.  The supply of oysters was also in serious decline after so much harvesting. The final blow was the invention of plastic, with that being used for most buttons thereafter.

The saving grace was the invention of cultured pearls.  This practice started in the Broome area in 1956 and is the main industry now.  The pearls take 2 years to grow and the ones in this area are some of the best in the world.

The pearling industry here had a very dark beginning, back in the 1860s.  After discovering the oysters, traders used aboriginal men and women to dive for the pearls. They were known as “skin divers” , as they just had to hold their breath while diving, had no equipment and were naked. There was a trade called “blackbirding” where aboriginals were stolen into slavery, mainly for the pearling industry.  You can read some more about it here.  
There was a belief that pregnant women could hold their breath for longer, so they were used extensively.   A beautiful statue has now been created in their memory.  You can read about it here.

As the supply of oysters that were accessible via this method of diving became less and the introduction of hard hat diving came in the use of aboriginal divers was replaced by mainly by Japanese divers.
The way they were dressed for diving was incredible.  They started out with full length thick woollen socks, followed by thick woollen long johns, followed by woollen fabric trousers.  On top they had several  thick woollen jumpers.  They they were in their canvas and rubber airtight suit.  On their feet there were weighted boots. They wore a weighted belt and had more weights draped over their shoulders.  
Then it was all topped by the metal hard hat, which rested on a padded collar.  Once the face mask was screwed onto the helmet they had no way of communicating with the outside world other than by pulling a rope.  The glass on the hard hats was over half an inch thick. Divers worked in teams of two and each diver had a “tender”, who was another worker that monitored him at all times and held onto the rope that was their sole means of communication.  The entire outfit they wore weighed in at just on 180kg!!!  Remember that many of the hard hat divers were Japanese, so of a small build.  
I visited the museum this morning where they had a good example of how they were dressed.

They would dive in water up to 25 metres deep, so had to rise to the surface in stages to avoid getting the bends.  Once on the deck of the lugger, they would have a break of about a quarter of an hour having hot drinks to warm up before diving again.  They would be under water for most of the day.  
Air was manually pumped to them via a rather primitive compressor.  It was dangerous work and many did die.  There is a rather large Japanese Cemetery in Broome.  Luggers would be at sea for up to two weeks at a time, living in very cramped conditions and will stinking pearl shell on the decks.  They certainly did it tough.
Diving today is vastly different.  There is still some wild harvested pearl oysters, but there are strict licensing rules and quotas.
Outside there are two historic pearl luggers.  The “DMCD” is in very poor condition.
The Sam Maile has been restored.  We were disappointed that you could only see them from a boardwalk around them and they weren’t really touched on during the tour, as this was one of their main selling points.
We went into the adjoining pearl jewellery shop where we were shown various pearls.  This is their largest, having a price tag of $60,000!
By then it was lunch time so a nice fresh salad in a cafe hit the spot.
The afternoon was once again spent sitting in the shade back at the van.  I completed my last two hexies that I had prepped.
Twelve done, four to go, once I get some more papers.
I then started sorting my fabrics for the next EPP shapes.  However, when I got the end I was two dark blue fabric pieces short.  Darn!!!  Fortunately, we had popped into an op shop after the markets and I had picked up a few oddments.
One just happened to be dark blue.  Fabric cut, problem solved.  Not that I expect to have them all stitched by the time I get home.
Some people we know from home are now in the same caravan park.  (They are the ones we ran into in Katherine.). We all went down to watch the sunset, followed by dinner in the restaurant overlooking the beach. The pearl lugger was out on the water again.  A nice way to end the day.

The highlight of the day for me was learning about the history of the pearling industry.  For Mick it was the jetty at high tide.