Ever wanted to circumnavigate Australia? Well, for the next few weeks, that's what we'll be doing, at least virtually, and clockwise. So as to make sure all states and territories are covered, we'll be starting in Western Australia and exploring the early history of a small part of this massive state via TROVE...
Last week we explored a little of Rottnest Island, now we're much further up the west coast of Australia to Broome. Many of you may know Broome as a place where cyclones hit, where life is casual, where there has been a great number of Japanese people come to live and some will know it as a place that is inexorably linked with the pearling industry.
Wikipedia has quite a lot of information re the pearling industry, starting with the original pearlers, the aborigine people. It didn't take long for the Europeans to appreciate the treasures beneath the ocean... as we can see by an early
Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW / 1803 - 1842), Saturday 21 October 1820
Mother of pearl buttons
The shells as well as the pearls were in high demand...
The Perth Gazette & Western Australia Times 4th June 1869
The town of Broome was prospering and growing.. and the wealth was spreading throughout the state. I couldn't reist the article about a very fancy wedding in Geraldton*... note the emphasis on pearls...
Victorian Express (Geraldton, WA / 1878 - 1894), (Marriage Geraldton)Wednesday 26 November 1884 (click to enlarge)
* Geraldton is a coastal city in the Mid West region of Western Australia, 424 kilometres north of Perth. At the 2016 Census, Geraldton had an urban population of 37,432.Wikipedia
I wonder if the pearls were as splendid as these
Mother of Pearl earrings
all three images courtesy of Pixabay
nla.news-article44123204.3 Barrier Miner Pearlers donation 1894
There were both Chinese and Japanese pearlers (divers) in Broome and all up the top third of the west coast where the best pearls were being found. However, in their home lands in 1894, there was a war happening.. This didn't stop the divers getting on with their jobs, however both communities contributed to the war effort in their homelands.
State Library of South Australia... found in TROVE
Broome has hit the headlnes for other reasosn also... this time for being a pivotal destination for long distance telegraphy..
Transcript: All the colonies on the mainland combined yesterday in making further experiments to see how far direct communication could be maintained. Commencing with Brisbane and Sydney the circuit was eventually increased until it reached from Townsville (Queensland) to Israelite Bay (West Australia), and those two stations worked duplex with one another as successfully as though only a hundred, instead of 4,139 miles separated them. In this lengthy circuit were included repeaters at Bowen, Rockhampton, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Port Lincoln, Streaky Bay and Eucla, all of which stations could join in the conversation. Shortly after 1 o'clock, Perth was put on direct, additional repeaters having been inserted at Israleite Bay and Albany. Townsville and Bowen having previously succumbed to the pangs of hunger, Rockhampton became the terminal station in Queensland, and that station and Perth worked direct a distance of 4,300 miles. After a further space of time in arranging additional repeating stations, Broome (Roebuck Bay, West Australia) was put on direct, and exchanged fraternal greetings with Rockhampton, the signals not withstanding the unfavourable weather along the line, being very satisfactory. The distance Broome (West Australia) to Rockhampton (Queensland) by wire amounts to 5, 782 miles, and this is supposed to be the second longest direct circuit ever worked in the world. It is intended to make a further trial shortly, when it is hoped direct communication between Broome (West Australia) and Cape York (Queensland) will be successfully accomplished.
Broome hit the headlines again in 1899...once more to do with distance .. this is another incredible feat.
It was successful...
The Armidale Express & New England Advertiser ship towed from Broome to Sydney
via Torres Strait Aug 1899
During lay up (off season), prior to 1930 courtesy of TROVE
Another headline, of a different nature... not easy times.
Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), Wednesday 18 November 1903, page 10
There are said to be about 40 men who have gone up in the new luggers to Broome, Western Australia and not having enough money to pay their passages back, and not being able to obtain work, are stranded. Captain Smith, the shipping master at Fremantle, as being seen on the matter, said that he had applications from some of them by letter, but was unable to do anything for them. A letter had reached him from the shipping master at Sydney, in connection with three men who had gone round to the pearling grounds from Brisbane, in the belief that work would be easily found there, but as the pearling boats were all manned by Malays, Japanese, Manilamen, and such, they were left absolutely penniless. They had shipped on the boat from Brisbane at £5 for the trip, and could not get a passage down to Fremantle for less the £7 10s, and as some time had to be spent at the place before a steamer arrived their money was all gone before there was a chance of getting away. Two of the men in question, Captain Smith said, had been given a passage down in a schooner, and had since obtained berths on local steamers at Fremantle. "My position," he added, "Is that the men going from Fremantle do not come before me on engaging for the trip, as the boats are under the 80 tons register required to enable me to take a hand in the contract. Some of the lugger masters pay the men a little less than others, but engage to pay their passages back to the port.
Others pay a fixed sum, generally about £5, and are done with their crews as soon as Broome is reached.
I have applied to the Seamen's Union to help the men, but as they do not belong to the union there was nothing forthcoming in that direction. Their position is certainly an unfortunate one, and it should be a warning to others to provide beforehand for means to return. The work at Broome is mostly done by the coloured people, and there is little for white men to hope for without money or friends."
In 1930, pearls were still a very big part of the conversation and the actual industry of Broome...
nla.news-article160457003.3 Broome pearls 1938 click to enlarge...
The second World War came to Broome also.... quite ironic that it was attacked by the Japanese, when pre war, it had been described as the "only Japanese town in Australia". Wyndham was attacked also.
nla.news-article205286295.3 History Broome 1942
Broome, known for so many things including pearling...
Images courtesy of Pixabay.
A little extra reading for you.... from yesterday and today...
and a short video to watch...
Some images of the Japanese and Chinese cemetery in Broome
Image above courtesy of
Tony Bowden flickr
Images below courtesy of
details via above link