Broome The town built on Buttons
Broome – the Town Built on Buttons
Pearl buttons to be precise and the town was born in 1883 and rapidly developed into an area filled with Chinese, Japanese and Europeans along with local aborigines ‘blackbirded’ into forced labour aboard the pearl luggers like the perfect model you see in the picture. The industry of pearling was a dangerous one and thousands of lives were lost when the fleets were caught in storms and divers were lost in the watery depths. We descended on the excellent Museum established and run by the Historical Society as soon as we arrived in Broome, thinking our room at the Kimberley Travellers Lodge would probably not be ready for a few hours.
As always there were many stories told within the walls of the museum which themselves started life as a general store in the 1890’s owned by pearlers Newman and Goldstein and were The Customs House from 1910 until 1979. I thought you might like the story of the DC3 known as the Diamond Plane.
Marine archaeologists are using advanced sonar to find some of the seaplanes destroyed in the 1942 Japanese air raid that still rest in the waters nearby and it was ironic that the local Japanese who had for years been an essential part of the cheap labour force in the pearling industry, were imprisoned in Broome as soon as their countrymen started aiming their wartime attention into the area around Broome.
With the advent of plastic the bottom fell out of the pearl fishing market and all that remains in the business is the local cultural pearl industry for the making of jewellery sold commercially. But there is plenty going on in Broome which includes both ‘new Australians’ and the indigenous population and the future looks good for both groups as tourism slowly returns after Covid 19 and the many WA folk from the south migrate here for the warm, dry climate away from the cold season back home.
The permanent population is sufficient to support a growing and diverse infrastructure in this tropical paradise. It seems that in this place, diametrically opposite across the landmass from Canberra, the improving relations between the two distinct population groups is far ahead of the counterpart relations in Canberra, where the bastion of political power is more resistant to change for the better of everyone, allowing of course for the unseen efforts that are being made back east.
We explored the peninsular near Broome and found a very quiet boatyard where an old magenta steel wreck was home to a pair of Ospreys raising their young. A little further around beneath kites and falcons darting above us we came to the Gantheaume Point Lighthouse named after the French Naval Admiral Joseph Gantheaume by Nicolas Baudin in his 1801/2 expedition, (during which he met our Matthew Flinders in Encounter Bay near where we moored at Kangaroo Island before crossing the Bight).
As you can see it is an airy lighthouse providing a perfect nesting spot for another osprey nest half way up and for peregrine falcons to nest on the top level. The rock formations were incredible with different types, colours and shapes all crushed together in a veritable geological workshop.
Having feasted for lunch on a delicious sweet orange, from Christine’s garden, a juicy WA apple, two soft ‘ginger kisses’ biscuits and water we decided we’d go to our lodgings, booked for three nights which became four, and see if they were ready for us.