Friday, May 20, 2011

Slip into Broome Time

Broome is the most tropical of the places we've been on this segment of the trip.  The temperature has been in the 80's and there are tropical flowers blooming everywhere.  There is a saying "slip into Broome time" which means just relaxing and soaking up the tropical atmosphere.  We've been liking Broome so much we decided to stay a couple of extra nights from what we were planning on originally. 

We've been swimming at Town Beach, into town twice once by foot and once by bus due to the heat, enjoyed the Staircase to the Moon (more on that in a future post) and night markets, I went for a run, and Ben even got a haircut. 

In the 1800's the first European settlers found beds of silver-lip pearl oysters, otherwise known as Mother of Pearl shell, on Eighty-mile Beach at low spring tides.  Mother of Pearl was in high demand in Europe and America for making buttons.  Once the beds were depleted, diving for the shells began with the local indigenous people free diving up to ten meters.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, Japanese divers were recruited.  They wore heavy dive suits, copper helmets, and lead-weighted boots.  Many of the divers died due to the dangerous conditions and lack of understanding about the bends.  Many of them are buried in the cemetery in Broome.

At one time there were 400 pearling luggers along the shore.  As plastics became popular for buttons, the demand for Mother of Pearl decreased but around the same time the first cultured pearl farm began.  There are still many pearl farms around Broome and lots of places to buy beautiful pearl jewelry.  We stopped at the Pearl Luggers Museum and saw two of the boats (luggers) used for diving and learned some of the history.

Km today: 638
Total travelled: 3970

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