Following Exmouth, we made our way up to Broome, a good two day drive.
Broome is one of the many areas bombed by the Japanese in WW2. Everyone has heard of the Darwin bombing, and most Western Australians are aware of the bombings in Port Hedland and Broome but it is a little known fact, that submarine captains and their vessels made it all the way down to the Albany area on the south coast. One of those, wanting to be able to say he bombed Australia, launched a weapon into farmland along the coast, a little north of Geraldton.
I’m always surprised what we don’t know.
Anyway, WW2 and the manufacture of plastic shut down Broomes pearling industry which was booming for many years. Malays, Chinese, Japanese and the English made their way to this far north spot, diving for pearls and trading them for enormous value.
The Asians had a better diving capacity than the Caucasians, and free dived in the pre-scuba days, along with Aboriginal women, enslaved by pearl Luger captains. There’s a moving monument to these women in Broome, a young Aboriginal lady, in early pregnancy, reaching up with desperate stretch and need for approval of her hopefully, valuable find.
We had a Chinese tour guide, whose father was a pearl assessor and dealer, and he showed us the tools used to weigh and also craft the pearls. The shells were originally plucked from the ocean for the mother-of-pearl, because of the high demand for pearl buttons. And it was a natural course of events that the pearl was found, appearing in approximately on in 10,000 pearls.
We loved Broome. The fat boab trees soak up water in the wet season until they sometimes split their bark. They seemed to sum up the history of the pearl industry.
We rode camels on Cable Beach, saw dinosaur footprints at Gantheaume Point at low tide, toured a pearl farm and saw a freshwater croc lounging on the sand, and watched the Staircase to the Moon.