Photos of Broome, the Pearl of Western Australia, Australia

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Broome, the Pearl of Western Australia

The small town of Broome, on the northwest coast of Western Australia, facing the Indian Ocean, has one magical name that conjures up visions of a romantic past. Located on the traditional lands of the Yawuru people, it was established in 1883 as a port named after Sir Frederick Broome, the Governor of Western Australia. It was the site where an undersea telegraph cable was laid from Broome to Singapore and England in 1889.

Multilingual sign in Chinatown
Multilingual street sign, Broome
Wooden walkway, Chinatown
Shop gallery, Broome
Carnarvon Street, Broome
Carnarvon Street, Broome
Chinatown, Broome
Short Street, Broome
Shops, Carnarvon Street
Artwork on Dampier Terrace
Boat repair shed
Pearling luggers at low tide
Dampier, Japanese diving quarter
Fong Store, Broome
Fongs Store, Broome
Town Beach, Broome
Town Beach, Broome
Nine Zero's, Nine Stories
ANZAC memorial, Broome
Japanese Cemetery, Broome
Japanese Cemetery, Broome
Japanese Cemetery, Broome
Roebuck Bay coast
Roebuck Bay, Broome
Posing for a photo, Roebuck Bay
Cable Beach, Broome
Cable Beach, Broome
Sunset over Cable Beach
Sunset, Cable Beach
Gantheaume Point, Broome
Gantheaume Point, Broome
Gantheaume Point
Dinosaur footprints, Gantheaume Point
Riddell Beach
Rock formations, Riddell Beach
Rock formations, Riddell Beach

BBroome’s past is firmly rooted in the pearling trade; the first pearling camps were established on Roebuck Bay in the 1860s, and Broome soon became a rugged, mosquito-ridden boomtown in the middle of nowhere. By 1900, more than 400 “luggers” and pearling boats worked the pearl beds off Broome. Mother-of-pearl was the mainstay, although, of course, finding genuine pearls was a bonus. By the 1920s, the Japanese controlled the diving here; it was dangerous work, with risks from sharks, malaria, lung infections and the bends. Around this time, the pearl beds were almost depleted, and collecting pearl shells to make buttons became the main activity. Pearling came to a halt when World War II broke out, and the Japanese divers were interned. Broome was bombed and all but abandoned. With the advent of plastics, demand for mother-of-pearl declined for buttons, but a few boats were still working in the fifties with some Japanese divers returning.

Nowadays, however, tourism has become the mainstay of Broome’s economy. There are beautiful beaches, like Cable Beach, where the telegraph cable left Australia’s shores for Singapore in 1889. It has a lovely tropical climate, and reminders of its colourful history are everywhere: Chinatown with its multilingual street signs, the Japanese cemetery, and pearling luggers at the pier. The town’s population is around 15,000, and it trebles during the tourist season.