New Jetty

This morning we walked down to the cafe we like at Town Beach and chose a table looking out over the water. The tide was going out, exposing the mud flats and leaving the mangroves above water. A couple of fossickers with metal detectors and shovels were looking for treasure in the sand. We had blue skies and a bit of a breeze. You wouldn’t find a better place for breakfast in all of Broome, in my opinion, although it was only a short time ago that the beach had been closed after crocodile sightings here.

As we ate breakfast, a squadron of pelicans treated us to a flypast, just as you might expect from military aircraft. Perhaps that’s how the collective noun ‘squadron’ came to be chosen. It’s fitting. You might need to enlarge some of these photos to see them.

The Town Beach area has had a major facelift since our previous visit, with new paving, seating and garden areas. It looks great and is sure to make this end of Broome popular with tourists. There’s a second brewery (Spinifex) recently opened here and Matso’s is nearby as well. And there’s a fantastic new jetty for pedestrians and fishermen to share. It provides great views up and down the mangroves and the beach. There’s always boating activity on Roebuck Bay to catch your eye. I believe it’s possible to spot dugongs from the jetty occasionally. I wonder if you might also see a crocodile now and again.

Just up the coast to the north, at Derby, the difference between high and low tide marks has been recorded at over 11 metres. Even here in Broome, the tidal range can often be measured at around 10 metres. So even though the jetty pylons in my photos are fully exposed, I imagine twice a day the water will cover a good portion of them and the views would be quite different. At low tide this morning we looked down from the jetty onto rocks and mud.

We were interested to see a flock of seagulls gathered around another type of bird on the rocks exposed by the low tide. From the jetty it was difficult to see what was occupying the bird’s attention, but it appeared to be something it had caught in the water or on the mud flats. A local came along and told us the bird was a sea eagle. We realised then that it was probably the bird that had been nesting atop one of the poles at the entrance to the jetty (You can see it sitting on the adjacent pole). Above us, black kites circled round above our heads on the shifting breeze. The Yawuru people know the black kite as Jir.

I briefly mentioned in yesterday’s blog post that there are sculptures at the entrance to the new jetty that commemorate the Japanese raid on Broome during WWII. This morning we stopped to read all the personal stories. Nine Japanese Zeroes attacked Broome in March 1942. A number of Catalina and Dornier flying boats at rest on Roebuck Bay while waiting for refuelling were destroyed and at least 88 people, including both civilians and military personnel, lost their lives.

The irony of Japan inflicting a tragedy of this nature on Broome cannot be ignored. Of all towns in Australia, very few could claim stronger links with Japan, as the Broome pearling industry was founded largely due to the contribution of the Japanese and many of the citizens of Broome when the war began had Japanese heritage.

Walking back from Town Beach, I stopped to photograph a couple of boab trees. There are plenty of them around Broome. Such a fascinating tree, it can store water in its trunk to help it survive the dry seasons.

Back in town later in the morning, Rod and I wandered up to the old Streeter’s Jetty, which juts out into a dense mangrove forest. A narrow channel cuts through the mangroves to the bay. The tide was out and there were bright orange crabs with large pincers busily moving about on the exposed mud. This jetty was once used by the pearling luggers when the industry was a mainstay of Broome’s pioneer days. Nearby sculptures commemorate the contribution of Japanese pearl divers and Japanese business men who established the industry.

There are also plaques nearby acknowledging the contribution of aboriginal pearl divers in the days when Broome was a pearling boom town.

Sadly, just near the entrance to Streeter’s Jetty, Rod and I witnessed a group of indigenous people who have fallen on hard times. Indigenous disadvantage is evident in parts of Broome. You don’t have to look too hard to see it. It’s a strong reminder that Australia has issues to address in relation to the welfare of our First Nations people. As much as I enjoy visiting Broome, I also feel some discomfort when I think of the people here who might never have the same opportunities I’ve had.

Late in the afternoon we drove over to Cable Beach to watch the sunset. Many people had the same idea. It was beautiful, although probably not as good as what we’d seen at Eighty Mile Beach a few days ago. We treated ourselves to fine dining at the Cable Beach Club nearby. The camels were returning home from their daily session with tourists on the beach as we entered the resort.

After dinner we took our place in the queue waiting to enter the fabulous Sun Pictures, Broome’s historic open air cinema, reputed to be the world’s oldest picture gardens. It always screens a couple of movies each night, so while we waited for ‘Lightyear’ to finish we chatted to the people behind us. They were a really friendly couple with about half a dozen kids. When we asked whether they were locals they told us they had 12 kids in total and had been on the road for the past 17 years. They home school their kids and go wherever the heat is because they don’t like the cold. They’ve recently arrived in Broome after about eight months at Hall’s Creek, where they’d found work. They’re about to embark on a camel trek that crosses the entire country. Their kids were really polite and friendly. A night out at the movies was a special treat for them.

We saw ‘Top Gun Maverick’. Sun Pictures has a large outdoor screen and a great sound system, so we enjoyed all the ear-splitting action as Tom Cruise and his team of elite pilots took on the enemy and … (spoiler alert) … won the day.

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