Thursday, July 7, 2016


That BROOME in Western Australia is a coastal, pearling and tourist town in the Kimberley region, 2,240 kilometres (1,390 miles) north of Perth.  The permanent population is estimated at between 14,000 and 15,000, growing to over 45,000 per month during the tourist season.  Broome International Airport provides transport to several domestic destinations.

Broome is situated on the traditional lands of the Yawuru people.  It is often mistakenly thought that the first European to visit Broome was William Dampier in 1688, but he only visited the north of what was later named the Dampier Peninsula.  In 1699 he explored the coast from Shark Bay to La Grange Bay, from where he headed north leaving the Australian coast.  Many of the coastal features of the area were later named for him.  In 1879, Charles Harper suggested that the pearling industry could be served by a port closer to the pearling grounds and that Roebuck Bay would be suitable.  John Forrest chose the site for the town, and it was named after Sir Frederick Broome, the Governor of Western Australia from 1883 to 1889.  Broome jetty:

In 1889, a telegraph cable was laid from Broome to Singapore, connecting to England.  Hence the name Cable Beach given to the landfall site.

The town has a deep history based around the exploits of the men and women who developed the pearling industry, starting with the harvesting of oysters for mother of pearl in the 1880s to the current major cultured pearl farming enterprises.

At first, aborigines were blackbirded (enslaved) and forced to dive naked, with little or no equipment.  Pregnant girls were preferentially used as they were believed to have a superior lung capacity.  In 2010 the Shire of Broome and Kimberley commissioned a Memorial to the indigenous Female Pearl Divers.

When slavery was abolished and diving suits were needed for deeper diving, Asians and islanders were given the dangerous job instead.  The Japanese were especially valued for their experience.  The riches from the pearl beds did not come cheaply, however, and the town's Japanese cemetery is the resting place of 919 Japanese who lost their lives working in the industry.

Many more were lost at sea, and the exact number of deaths is unknown.  The Japanese were only one of the ethnic groups who flocked to Broome to work on the luggers or the shored based activities supporting the harvesting of oysters from the waters around Broome.   Each year Broome celebrates this fusion of different cultures in an annual cultural festival called Shinju Matsuri (Hapanese for festival of the pearl) which celebrates the Asian influenced culture brought there by the pearling history.

Broome was attached at least four times by Japanese aircraft during World War 2.  The worst raid in terms of loss of life was the air raid on 3 March, 1942 in which at least 86 people (mostly civilians who were refugees from the Dutch East Indies) were killed,. Twenty-two aircraft were destroyed, most of them flying boats, the remains of which can still be seen in the harbour at low tide.

In the 1950, Broome was the setting for Arthur Upfield's novel "The Widows of Broome", his 12th novel featuring Detective Inspector Napoloen Bonaparte ("Bony").

The Western Australian mining boom of the 1960s, as well as the growth of the tourism industry, also helped Broome develop and diversify.

At Gantheauma Point and 30 metres (96 feet) out to sea are dinosaur footprints dated as Early Cretaceous in age (approximiately 130 million year ago).  The tracks can be seen only during very low tide.  In 1996 some of the prints were cut from the ground and stolen, but have since been recovered.  Plant fossils are also preserved extensively in the Broome Sandstone at Gantheaume Point and in coastal exposures further north.  Gantheaume Point, circa 1910:

Cable Beach named in honour of the Java-to-Australia undersea cable which reached the shore there, is situated 7km from the town along a bitumen road.  The beach itself is 22.5km (14 mile) long with white sand, washed by tides that can reach over 9m (30 ft).  The beach is almost perfectly flat.  Caution is required by swimmers when swimming from November to March as box jellyfish are present during those months.  There have been cases where crocodiles have been sighted off the shore, but this is a rarity and measures are taken to prevent these situations.  Four wheel drive vehicles may be driven onto the beach from the car park.  This allows people to explore the beach at low ride to a much greater extent than would be possible on foot.  Sunset caamel rides operate daily along the beach.  Our granddaughter Aimee and her daughter rode camels here some years back.

Cable Beach is home to one of Australia's most famous nudist beaches.  The clothes optional area is to the north of the beach access road from the car park and continues to the mouth of Willie Creek, 17km (11 miles) away.  This is Cable Beach:

Located directly east of Cable Beach over the dunes is Minyirr Park, a coastal reserve administered by a collaboration of the Shire of Broome and the Yawuru people.

Save the Kimberley Campaign:  The Broome community led a campaign to protest against a proposal to industrialise the James Price Point outside of Broome.  The campaign received ardent support from many public figures and a concert for the campaign was held on 5 October, 3023 at Federation Square in Melbourne and was attended by approximately 6,000 people.  Much of the concern was due to the myriad of well-preserved dinosaur tracks that are found in the intertidal zone outside Brroome.  These include possibly the largest known dinosaur footprints, sauropod tracks upwards of 1.7 metres long.  It is suspected that the sauropod that made these tracks may have been 7-8 metres tall at the hip.

There is more on Wikipedia about Roebuck Bay itself which is very interesting as it mentioned much of the wildlife to be found in the area.


  1. Hari OM
    Well that was in an interesting read! Knew the basics of course, but never having managed to get to visit that area, was a bit sketchy on the details... though I have a memory of my grandmother refusing to wear a ring she was given which had opals and pearls on it. "Double trouble" she said, apparently in reference to the lives lost in obtaining both of those items! YAM xx

    1. So glad you found this post interesting Yamini. Broome is quite a place but far too hot for me.
      Strange you should mention your grandmother refusing to wear opals or pearls. I love pearls although the do say "pearls for tears". My mum bought me back an opal brooch from her travels through central Australia and I would never wear it and finally gave it to the granddaughter who was born in October.
      Not sure why I felt like that about one and not the other. xx

  2. Amazing footprints! Imagine those dinosaurs just walking around. :-)

    Love the photos!

    Your mention of the nudist beach made me laugh. I have a friend who was sitting on a beach in Wales when a naked young man carrying a bike approached her and asked, "Is this where the nude beach ends?" She just took one look at him and laughed. He walked off, naked as a jaybird, and carrying his bike. I hadn't heard of a nude beach in that area. I wonder of he was just a prankster, or maybe it was a dare.

    1. The photos were on Wikipedia except for the two of the dinosaur footprints. So glad humans weren't around when the dinosaurs ruled the land.
      Loved the story about the nude bather. It well could have been a dare.

  3. Thanks for the tour and information. I would love to see those dinosaur tracks up close and personal! Must be quite the sight. I suppose they don't let a person go and touch them though.
    I'll bet the folks that use that nudist beach don't lack for Vitamin D.
    The more I see about Australia, the more I wish I could travel there and see it all first hand.
    Trying to imagine a camel ride. :-)

    1. Australia is a very interesting place with much diversity but there is a lot of desert in the centre.
      We actually have a nudist beach right here in Perth but I've never been to it since I was a youngster when it was a public beach. Wonder if the nudist ever get too much Vitamin D? Just a thought.

  4. I knew a lot of this about Broome, even the dinosaur footprints, but not that there were five different types of footprints. I remember the Arthur Upfield Bony books,I had most of them when I was younger, but then made the mistake of giving them away.
    At one time my youngest son thought he might like a job on the pearl boats up there, but changed his mind and got a job closer to home thank goodness.

    1. You as an Aussie would know quite a lot about Broome and I too am glad for you that your son didn't pursue a job on a lugger.
      I don't think I ever read an Arthur Upfield book and yet I feel I've seen a film or series with an aboriginal detective. The one I was thinking of was I think played by Aaron Peterson (spelling?).

  5. Pearls/gold/diamonds. All of them involve so many deaths. Not worth it - in my eyes.
    Would love to see the dinosaur footprints though.

    1. I too would love to see the footprints but my days of journeying that far from home are long gone.
      I suppose greed is behind so many beautiful things, more's the pity. I've just never been able to afford prices jewellery so not much in the way of gold or diamonds here.