THURSDAY 31 AUGUST BROOME
Took the plate to the dentist, early. It had to be there all day, so I walked around with a big gap where one front tooth should be, and tried to keep my mouth shut!
This was, officially, the last day of winter – which is rather a hard concept to believe in, up here.
Left at 10.30 to drive out to Willie Creek. Took the Dampier Peninsula road for a short way, then turned off it back towards the coast, on the road that goes to James Price Point. Then, turned left and drove over tidal salt flats and then beside Willie Creek itself – really a little inlet.
There was a very high tide. We’d been told it was a spring tide and this was a king spring tide because there was no moon, or only a very new one.
Willie Creek is so called because the pearl luggers used to shelter there from cyclones (willies), which are regular occurrences along this coast over the summer months.
We joined the tour group that arrived on the bus, together with a couple of lots of independent travellers like ourselves.
The tour lasted 90 minutes, and was excellent. It was more a talk than a tour, since the actual pearl farms are well offshore. A man explained the government controls and the reasons why Broome pearls are in strong demand.
We learned about cultured pearls – the round ones. Baroque pearls are the odd shaped ones. Keshi pearls are ones the oyster grows without being “seeded”, but in the same sac as the seeded pearl grows; thus they are not the same as a fully natural pearl because they do not have a nucleus. Mabe pearls are half pearls grown on an oyster shell – several on each shell, for earrings and the like – like we bought the other day at the Shell Shop. All of these types of pearl are nacre coated and so have genuine pearl qualities.
Freshwater pearls are imported – grown in mussels in places like Fiji.
The pearl seeding process was demonstrated. This is where a foreign object – a tiny piece of shell mantle, or a bead – is put into the oyster. This is an irritant and the oyster secretes nacre around it as protection, and thus grows a pearl. Back before pearl farming was begun, pearl divers would be looking for oysters where a grain of sand or similar, had been a natural irritant and started the process.
We were offered beer, sultana damper, tea or coffee.
We both thought the tour was excellent value.
They had a gallery there, too. The guide talked up the investment value of pearls, and there were certainly some buyers, afterwards.
I think I like the baroque and keshi pearls the best, because of their irregular shapes.
John also investigated whether he could buy pearl shell here, in the future, and what he would have to do to get some sent.
We drove along a track, from the pearl farm, a little way to the north and then pulled up behind a beach area to have lunch. The area was really bare and barren, but the beach was really long. There were some great shells lying about on it. However, when I investigated more closely, most had hermit crabs in and scuttled away when I put them down again.
We drove back to town – the pearl farm was 38kms out – and did bowls practice for a couple of hours.
Then it was back to the dentist to collect my plate. He’d rebonded the tooth as a temporary measure, but I am to get a new one, at home. That cost $43.
Tea was chicken marylands done with a honey and lemon recipe, with rice. Very nice.