Broome is a pearling town in the remote north-west of Western Australia. Tourism is the other major industry, so there is plenty for us to do today and tomorrow before a bus carries us back to Derby and our Onetide Charters camping boat experience. In a few weeks we will be back here again at the end of our trip, but in time to enjoy the Staircase to the Moon festival, when crowds gather to watch the full moon rise over Roebuck Bay.
Broome was established in about 1861 after the discovery of the giant pearl oyster Pinctada Maxima. Pearl fever led to many early deaths; of divers, many of whom came from the Dutch East Indies, Japan and China, and captured aboriginal men and women made to work as slaves. Today the population of Broome reflects the eastern, islander, aboriginal and european peoples who were thrown together through those wild years …. oh and not forgetting the people who came as camel drivers from the Middle East to help 'open up' the inland. Even today tourists can enjoy a camel trek along one of the pristine white sand beaches.
We found the Broome Historical Museum absolutely brimful of informative displays about early history, and the many racial groups who mingled here. Japanese divers and pearlers, Chinese businessmen, English and Dutch colonials, families from all over the world seeking their fortune in this remote corner of Australia.
When plastic buttons were invented the bottom fell out of the lucrative pearl industry, until culturing pearls in living oysters remade fortunes in the 1950's. Today Broome is still the pearling capitol of the world.
One hundred years ago Roebuck Bay looked like this, busy with pearling luggers unloading their precious cargo and pearl shell. Today there are a few leisure boats out on the clear blue waters, which also hide the wrecks of flying boats bombed by the Japanese during the Second World War. Broome was a staging post for Dutch families escaping from the Dutch East Indies, so the flying boats were crammed with women and children when they were hit and sunk. A sad tale, with heroes and drama, like all those tragic wartime stories.
Broome holds a annual multicultural festival, opened each year by a dragon led parade!
After the museum we wandered along the main street of the old Chinatown, browsing the fabulous Kimberley Bookshop, and gazing at mouthwatering pearl displays. These golden pearls are being fazed out now, as the supply of the golden oysters is dwindling. No doubt fashion will find other oyster colours just as attractive in the future.
Meanwhile we can be entranced by the beauty of golden pearls ……