To escape the Southern Hemisphere winter here in Adelaide, South Australia, we decided to join friends for a week in Broome. Broome is a town in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. It sits 1,680km (1,000 miles) north of Perth and is known for the exploits of people who developed the pearling industry, from harvesting oysters for mother of pearl in the 1880s to the large present-day cultured pearl farming enterprises.
The weather in Broome is hot and, in the summer, very humid. We traveled in the dry, and although it was in the low thirties C for our stay, the humidity was low enough that we could walk the famous Cable Beach and enjoy what Broome has to offer.
Our first visit was to the local museum. A story drew me instantly: In March 1942, three Japanese Zeroes attacked a DC3 plane carrying refugees from Java (Indonesia). The pilot put the severely damaged plane down, but many passengers were injured. A passenger threw a brown paper package at the pilot. Little did the survivors know there was a fortune in diamonds inside. When a rescue team arrived at the crash site, many survivors had perished from their injuries and thirst. In the confusion, the package was forgotten—or was it?
The story, of course, did not end there, and for me, it opened a heap of possibilities. A new series was already taking shape in my mind. I could visualize the heroine and hero, their occupations, backgrounds, and personality types.
Walking the streets of Broome, chatting with locals, dining out, and going to the local outdoor cinema – Sun Pictures - which alone has a remarkable history—all help a writer with authenticity. I like to be drawn into place when I read, and, in turn, I set place when I write.
One of our memorable tours was with Kimberley Air. We flew north and over the Horizontal Falls, described by Sir Richard Attenborough as “the 8th Natural Wonder of the World”. Landing at Ardyaloon (One Arm Point), where the Bardi Ardyaloon hatchery has successfully produced trochus shells. For years buttons were made from the trochus shell and still are but to a lesser degree today because of plastic. Our next stop was the red dust airstrip at Cygnet Bay for lunch and a tour of the pearling operations, followed by a boat trip into the bay to feel the power of the world’s largest tropical tides, up to twelve metres (40 feet,) moving through giant whirlpools and standing tidal waves.
Back in Broome, we watched the staircase to the moon. It is a phenomenon seen between March and October each year when conditions are exactly right. It is best seen from Roebuck Bay when the full moon rises over the exposed mudflats at shallow tide, creating a beautiful optical illusion of stairs reaching the moon.
While in Broome, one cannot resist checking out the cultured pearls on offer. The history of pearling in Broome is not pleasant reading. Indigenous people, mainly women and girls were first forced to dive for pearls. In 1871 and 1875, legislation prohibited this practice, and the Japanese took over. The industry thrived and prospered, and each year Broome celebrates the fusion of diverse cultures brought about by the pearling industry.
If you are ever in Australia and looking for somewhere different to visit, I recommend Broome.
Until next time
Contemporary adventure with