Day 11 of the “Ultimate Australian Rail Holiday” Saturday 28th May 2016
After our big day touring Cape Leveque (the previous post, here), it was nice to have the opportunity to hang this sign on our door and have a little sleep in. Isn’t it cute? The other one says, “Go ahead . . . make my room.” (presumably everyone is familiar with the Clint Eastwood movie quote).
Today is check-out from the Mangrove Resort Hotel, our home for the last three nights. We are a little sad to leave it, but it is tucked in our memory in case we are to return for a week long resort holiday. It has a peaceful view over Roebuck Bay from its outdoor bar and dining area, which give a ringside seat for the Staircase to the Moon monthly phenomenon.
We have time on our hands, so decide to take a leisurely stroll to the Broome Historical Museum. Leisurely is really the only pace you would walk in Broome. Even though we are in the cooler months, it is still warm – high 20s celsius (80s in fahrenheit). Along the way, we admire various flowers and glimpses of the bay through houses. There are also monuments to the explorers Baudin and William Dampier, a recurrent theme in Western Australia.
On the shores of the bay, there is a statue depicting an Aboriginal girl rising from a wave to offer a Pinctada maxima pearl shell up to her “employer”. This is a part of the pearling history I have alluded to in previous posts, but not explained in detail. In the early days of the mother of pearl industry the shell could be found in shallower waters close to shore. Aboriginals were “black-birded” – basically captured and enslaved – to dive for the shell. Young girls were in demand. There was a belief that being pregnant enabled them to stay underwater longer, and you can guess how they came to be in that condition. Take a second look at the statue and you will note her swollen belly. It is only in recent years that we are facing up to these stories of our dark past, and you can read more here.
It wasn’t much better for those who followed in their diving suits, even though they were paid a small wage. Wages that were too low to attract European divers to such dangerous work, but did appeal to Japanese, mostly from Taiji. I stumbled across another story in regards to Taiji, but I didn’t record the details, and now can’t find anything to back it up. It was something about whale-hunting, offending an angry spirit, who retaliated by destroying the town/livelihood, which in turn created a mass migration. I am not sure of the year or the truth of that, but Broome does have a sister city relationship with Taiji. Divers stayed down as long as possible because they were paid by the shell. Too long in some cases. In 1913 thirty-three divers died of the bends, and another seventy-five over the 1912-1914 period. Almost a thousand people have their final resting place in the Japanese Cemetery we drove past a few days ago.
Their graves face the setting sun in accordance with their Shinto custom. Headstones were vandalised at some point, and replaced with black granite. The benefactor hired a Chinese engraver, so we were told that now the inscriptions are a mixture of Chinese and Japanese characters!
There are many displays in the Broome Historical Museum, including information on the deep-sea communications cable which ran from Java to Broome. There was also a display of telecommunications since then. The most alarming was the switchboard which I used in my days as a motel receptionist. You know you are getting old when your familiar equipment is in a museum.
I had come particularly to know more of the WWII bombing of Broome. There is a comprehensive history, and artefacts from the families who were aboard the evacuation flying boats destroyed by the Japanese raid. A survivor who visited in recent years recognised one of his childhood toys on display.
I am putting up these two photos for fellow blogger, GP Cox – The Pacific Paratrooper. GP – we need to keep in mind that this plaque refers specifically to Western Australia, therefore there is no mention of the Darwin bombing in the Northern Territory. I am sure you will note the mention of the 435th Bombardment Squadron – the same crew which evacuated MacArthur from the Philippines I wonder? There is also this amazing story about a Douglas DC3 airliner being shot down north of Broome as it was escaping the bombing raid. On board was a haul of diamonds worth several million dollars in today’s currency. Even though there were some survivors among the crew and passengers, the diamonds have never been recovered. There is a lot more to this story than Wikipedia summarises, but would need some serious research. For example, there is even talk of diamonds being used as gambling chips by people who didn’t know what they were. It might be “fuel” for your book?
I could have spent another hour or two in the museum, but, conscious that we had a plane to catch, (and a thirst to slake), we wandered back to Matso’s Brewery for more of their wonderful ginger beer, and a light lunch, while sitting out on their wraparound veranda beside the bay. I don’t think re-wording my notes will bring the moment more to life, so here they are verbatim:
Sitting on the veranda at Matso’s, breezes wafting, metal ceiling fan rattling, rock music in background from inside section . . . “sweet dreams are made of this, who am I to disagree . . .”
Looking out over the aquamarine waters of Roebuck Bay, watching a small hawk, my attention drawn to two white wading birds perched in the mangrove scrub. I can see their long necks – possibly small heron. Curlews on the wing.
It’s time, then, to wander back to the hotel, retrieve our bags, and head out to Broome International Airport. Yep folks, it doesn’t get much more hectic than this . . .
We are flying to Darwin in an Embraer E170 jet which can carry 76 passengers and has a crew of four, the two pilots and two cabin attendants. I have never flown in this aircraft before. Departure time is around three pm, and arrival around seven pm – which seems a really long time to cover the distance of 1172 km (730 mi). . . Time difference is one factor. Darwin is 1 hour 30 minutes ahead of Broome.
The other reason is that we are to stop en-route at Kununurra, which is very close to the Northern Territory border. You can get an idea of our route from the above map, but the blue line is tracing a road, whereas we would have flown in straight lines hopefully.
Flying low on the approach to Kununurra, we have a clear view of the terrain below us, and can see that it is a scenic area of ranges and deep gorges, that flatten out into farming land, and a river snaking through it all. This turns out to be the Ord River, which was dammed to create an irrigation scheme so that now the area is very fertile, melons and mangoes being some of the crops grown here. It is also a mining area – diamonds from the Argyle Diamond Mine. We have a half hour here off-plane, and as we re-board from the tarmac, I managed to snap a few shots on the phone camera with the sun setting around us.
About an hour later we landed in Darwin, our home for the next four nights.
Distance log: Running Total = 8300 klm (approx) or 5160 miles.
For Reference: We booked our tour through the Australian Holiday Centre.