Camels and Pearls.
Camels at sunset.
There is nothing quite like taking folding chairs down to Cable Beach to watch the sun sink into the ocean, especially when you have good company and a bottle of champagne or wine. The camel trains make a marvellous picture as they amble past, silhouetted against the sea and sky as the light slowly fades.
Gantheaume Point was named by the famous French explorer, Nicholas Baudin, after a French naval officer. The spelling is wrong, the word should not contain the 'h' but as so often happens, once the error was copied on to official documents it became too hard to change.
Gantheaume Point is the location
of a rather ugly lighthouse.
This location is best known for some fossilised dinosaur footprints which can only be seen at very low tides. So far we haven't had a sufficiently low tide, but as soon as we do . . .
It is also the location of Anastasia's Pool. Anastasia was the arthritic wife of one of the lighthouse keepers of bygone days. He found a circular hollow in the rocks and lined it with concrete to create a shallow pool for her to bathe. Much of the lining has now broken up. Pam has a photo in her June 2008 journal so I won't duplicate it here.
Willie Creek Pearl Farm
We went to see how pearls are cultured at the Willie Creek Pearl Farm which proved far more interesting than I'd have believed. Below is a picture of an oyster which they opened up so we could see what was inside. To grow a pearl, technicians perform a surgical procedure in order to 'seed' the oyster.
The oyster's shell is prised open, but no more than an inch, and wedged. Peering through the gap the technician identifies the oyster's reproductive organ, or 'gonad' - see the yellow arrow in the picture. Then, using a special blade, he cuts a small slit in the gonad. Into the slit he inserts a seed, or nucleus, made from a small piece of mussel shell which has been ground perfectly spherical. After it he inserts a piece of
nacre secreting mantle tissue which develops into a sac around the nucleus
. This mantle tissue - see red arrow - has been taken from a sacrificial oyster. The seeded oyster is then closed up and placed in a special net called a 'pearl panel' together with several other seeded oysters and placed on the ocean floor. As the pearl begins to develop, divers repeatedly turn the panel to try and ensure that the pearl grows spherically and thus will have a higher value.
I feel I owe this oyster an apology for displaying it thus and leaving it without a skerrick of dignity. The picture is almost pornographic.
An oyster with its lid off. The gonad is indicated by the yellow arrow and the mantle tissue by the red arrow.
Pam's forearm in the top right of the picture lends scale.
Later the oysters are taken to a farm such as Willie Creek where they are suspended below the water in their pearl panels. The manual turning by divers is here replaced by the action of the tide. As it ebbs and flows the oysters filter eighty litres of water per hour for microscopic phytoplankton. At regular intervals the oysters are pulled to the surface and cleaned of all marine fouling organisms. They are also X-rayed to ensure the pearl is developing.
We were taken out on a boat and shown the lines of buoys from which the submerged pearl panels were suspended.
Robert, the boat's skipper, holds up a pearl panel he has just hauled out of Willie Creek.
After two years they are again opened and the pearl is removed. Another nucleus is then inserted, this time about the size of the removed pearl. The oyster goes back into the water for a further two years. As the nucleus is now larger, so the pearl grown around it will be larger but the chances of success are reduced. This process is repeated four times and each time a larger nucleus is inserted and each time the chance of success diminishes - the oyster is getting older and tired. If the fourth pearl is successful it will be very large and may be very valuable.
The dollar value of a pearl is determined by its lustre, complexion, then size shape and colour. A pearl with a good lustre is worth far more than a dull one. Complexion refers to any surface blemishes. Round pearls are more valuable than other shapes and the larger a pearl the better. Colour is largely a matter of personal preference.
Pearls need to be worn to retain their lustre as they absorb moisture from human skin. In storage they dry out, lose their shine and eventually discolour. That process cannot be reversed and the pearl loses value. If kept in a safe, a glass of water should be placed with them.
Just a nice picture for its own sake.
The Dinosaur's Footprints.
One of Broome's renowned attractions is the dinosaur's footprints. These can only be seen if:-
- you wait until there is a very low tide,
- you wait until that tide is fully out,
- that event happens in daylight,
- you are willing and able to scramble down a cliff and over slimy rocks,
- you have a vague idea of what you are looking for, and
- you are lucky enough to stumble across one of these unmarked footprints.
It might be fair to say that Broome uses the footprints to attract visitors but makes no effort to help you find them and probably hopes you don't.
We sallied forth with friends Greg and Janet to photograph the footprints. On arrival at the site Pam declared she would guard the cars and Greg said he was driving back to Cable Beach to have a drink and watch the sun set. Pam decided she would go with Greg, took all the wine, and off they went.
With the four shortest legs out of the picture, Janet and I set off to the cliff edge and looked for a way down. Several other people were also exploring the cliff top for the same reason. We spotted a man carrying a tripod making some progress and followed him. Janet, two inches taller than I and eleven years younger, not to mention fitter and stronger, set off down leaving me no alternative but to follow or appear a wimp. It was tough going, not helped by the knowledge that the climb back had to me made very soon as the tide was on the turn and the sun was nearly down.
I suppose there were about a dozen of us scattered around down there, searching among the rocks, watched by more people on the cliffs.
The people that did have sufficient sense to stay on top and watch, photographed by one that didn't.
The rock-scape we searched, the sun already gone from sea level.
I was examining a hollow in the rock that resembled the imprint of a giant hand wearing a mitten and with the thumb curling out.
What have you found there?
asked a female voice from behind me.
It's a dinosaur's handprint.
It was wearing a mitten.
I stood and walked away, leaving her busy photographing my 'find'.
Just as it appeared hopeless there was a shout from another woman and we all scrambled over the slimy rocks to see what she had found. If this is a dinosaur's footprint, then she'd found it:-
Anyone seen a dinosaur's foot lately? Would its imprint look like this?
The worthy gent who led the way down the cliff made good use of his tripod. The footprint that stood out
was the one circled in yellow but was that a second one, circled in green? There are several other
possibilities on that same slab that might have been footprints which have eroded.
There are more known footprints about eighty metres further out from the cliff but they were under water. It would take a much lower tide to uncover them and let me tell you, I will NOT be there. As it was, the scramble back up the cliff in fading light was not a great deal of fun.
The Staircase to the Moon.
This much-photographed illusion occurs when a full moon rises over a tide at low ebb. In June 2008 these conditions were met on three consecutive nights.
The moon rose on schedule, the tide was out as per arrangement, we were there on time with copious quantities of alcohol to fortify us but . . . the stupid sky clouded over. Night One was a wash-out. Tomorrow we will return.
What a fiasco. We'd booked a table at the restaurant overlooking Town Beach for a time which we calculated would see our meal finished by the time the moon rose. Janet and I were each equipped with our cameras and tripods.
We arrived in good time and sat at our table under the open sky. The wind was strong and it had turned quite cold. Everybody in Broome, it seemed, had the same plan and those that were not eating formed a line between us and the view. The meal arrived and was beautiful. The moon arose as expected but, from the table, was not visible as the human screen had become four deep. The beef and prawns were so delicious that I decided to finish eating before moving. Janet, far more dedicated than I (or a faster eater) had long since grabbed her camera and disappeared into the darkness. Pam had disappeared I knew not where. Greg was with me.
By the time I had attached the camera to the tripod and pushed through the crowd the moon was up clear of the horizon. I had taken a few so-so pictures when a man carrying a chair swung it around and neatly severed one leg off my tripod. Fortunately I was holding the camera so it didn't fall but taking further long-exposure pictures with my new 'bipod' was not worth attempting. Fortunately Janet had taken sixty - yes, sixty, - exposures so I begged one from her to show you. I told you she was dedicated.
Janet's picture of the 'Staircase to the Moon'.
The effect from our vantage point at Town Beach was disappointing. The steps on the 'staircase' are reflections from successive pools running all the way out to the sea. A sandbank between the land and the water's edge will show up as a black gap - missing steps - on the picture.
Many thanks to Janet for the use of her picture which is much better than mine but illustrates that the hype that surrounds this event raises expectations which will rarely be fulfilled.
Without a tripod there was no point in trying for a photograph. Sadly, Greg and Janet had left Broome in the morning.
Billy Throws a Wobbly (This is utterly boring if you're not into auto electrics.)
We were driving around the town, minding our own business, when I noticed four warning lights glowing on the instrument panel. We stopped and consulted the book . . .
- One light indicated that our electrical generator had malfunctioned,
- Another that we had water in our fuel,
- A third that our automatic transmission was overheating, and
- The last that our anti-lock brakes had failed.
All totally unconnected so almost certainly all false. I also noticed that our direction indicators were not working.
Where do you start with so many disparate symptoms? If it was a computer you would probably employ the 'master reset' technique. That is, pull out the plug and start over. Well, Billy has two computers so that was worth a try in the absence of any better ideas. I disconnected the battery for a couple of minutes then tried again. No improvement. What next?
What next indeed! Check the fuses, perhaps? Ah, this fuse has blown. Check the book. It is the 10 amp fuse for the hazard warning lights. Sure enough the hazard warning lights were not working. Still, probably nothing to do with our present predicament and we have no spare fuses anyway. The horn circuit, however, has a 10 amp fuse so we'll swap them over.
Now the hazard warning lights work and the horn doesn't. Durrrr . . . just what else did I expect? However, with a sound fuse in the hazard light circuit, all the warning lights on the instrument panel extinguished and the indicators worked again. Hmmm. Well, let's get rolling in the direction of an automobile fuse shop and see what happens.
We were only half way there when all four warning lights glowed again and our indicators failed. I bought five fuses and replaced the one for the horn that I'd 'borrowed' and the one for the hazard lights which had blown again. Everything worked perfectly again. We went for a test drive to try and discover the circumstances that caused the fuse to blow. A logical next step, yes? Everything remained rosy until I indicated right and the fuse blew. We pulled over and replaced the hazard warning fuse yet again. When I tried the right indicators the contrary things worked perfectly. We drove around a bit more, trying all sorts of things. Everything remained functional so we carried on to Woolworths. On the way I indicated right and the panel lit up with the same warnings.
Conclusion: There was an intermittent short in the right hand indicator circuit. I replaced the fuse again, dropped Pam at Woolies and went back to the shop for some more 10 amp fuses. I now avoided using the right indicators. I can't remember the last time I used my right arm to signal. Having collected Pam, we drove back to the caravan park in that manner and all remained O.K.
Next morning I took a look under the back of the car. As I suspected, it was not the fault of the Pajero. Whoever had fitted the heavy duty tow bar bracket had forced it against the indicator wiring and over the course of time vibration had worn through the cable insulation resulting in an intermittent short circuit. The fault was easily rectified and would have been more easily diagnosed had a bunch of seemingly irrelevant warning lights not confused the issue.
Cows, Pipes, a sea Eagle and a sky diver.
One day we set out to see the Broome Deep Water Port. It consists of a jetty with a T-piece on the end. Two ships were tied up on the ocean side of the jetty. The Merino Express was loading cattle and the Allison Tide was loading oilfield pipes.
The little deep water port at Broome was very busy. The Merino Express (left) and the Allison Tide (right),
both on the far side of the jetty were loading simultaneously.
Road trains queued up to discharge loads of cattle on to the Merino Express
. Semi trailers carrying 20” diameter steel pipes queued to transfer their cargo to the Allison Tide
Double deck cattle trailers queuing to unload at Broome's deep water port.
On the way back from the port we passed more road trains full of cattle heading to the port. We called at Gantheaume Point, the location of the lighthouse, Anastasia's Pool and the dinosaur footprints, and found there a Channel Nine film team making a programme for children's television.
More interestingly, we noticed a sea eagle's nest with young on the lighthouse, just one level down from the light. While trying (in vain) to get a good shot of a parent sea eagle, we heard a small aircraft circling very high above us. There was only one reason we could think of for a small aircraft to be so high and that was to drop free-fall parachutists. We'd never previously seen any parachutes over Broome so we were pretty pleased with ourselves when we saw a tiny spot separate from the aircraft and plummet down, down, down to open its canopy at about 1,500' and gracefully pirouette to a landing on the nearby race course.
One of the parent sea eagles, ruler of the skies.
A temporary usurper passes overhead.
On the way home we took advantage of a temporary offer to purchase six bottles of wine which entitles us to 20¢/litre off fuel. A win-win situation. And to add to our euphoria, the car behaved impeccably.
On that happy note, let's move on to Page 77.
Footnote: This re-working of Page 76 was completed on 3rd July 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.