36["A Trip Up the Nor'-West Coast", The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), Sunday 10 May 1914, page 23]
A Trip Up the Nor'-West Coast
With Glimpses of the Ports En Route
Prosperous Geraldton and Carnarvon – Port Hedland in the Doldrums – A School Strike – Piebald Broome – The Charon and its People
We called at Geraldton, which seems to be a flourishing town. It has grown largely near the site of the present railway jetty, drawing the population from the earlier settled portion, but I am told that a better jetty is to be built nearer Point Moore, which will again disturb the equilibrium and draw away the trade. I presume it is necessary to build the new jetty, but it seems a pity to disturb the existing order of things. Carnarvon seems to be a stationary town. There is little progressive or inviting in its appearance. A large amount of public money has been spent on the jetty, tramway, and wharf, which latter protects the town from the infrequent floods in the Gascoyne River. We spent only half an hour in the town of Carnarvon, and saw nothing of interest except a few nice residences and a very fine hotel – the Gascoyne Hotel – partly built of reinforced concrete, and apparently, from an outside view, fitted up with modern sanitary appliances. This hotel is close to the tram terminus, and faces the river. Of course we did not land at Onslow, where we took on board some 60 tons of ore – silver lead, I think it was – from some of the back-country mines.
We lay at Port Hedland for 24 hours. This is clearly a decaying town. Many shops and houses are empty, and there are announcements in some windows of departures from the town. It is hard to say what keeps the place alive, except the shipment of stock and wool and the forwarding of stores to the inland stations. At the moment Hedland is agitated, by the memory of the late school strike, when the children were withdrawn for a fortnight, as a protest against the neglect of the Public Works Department in connection with the school. It appears that the school was planned by those who only knew Hedland in the cool season, and consequently no provision was made for ventilation on the side from which the prevailing winds in the hot season blow. It is abundantly clear that the matter could have been rectified by the expenditure of about £5, but the Public Works officials obstinately refused to recognise their blunder and to remedy what their ignorance had occasioned.
Immediately above the floor of two sides of the school there are long, hinged shutters, which can be raised to allow the wind to enter at the floor level, and ventilate the school during the cool season, but on the two other sides, where such provision is more necessary in the hot season, the walls are closed. There is a door on one side, but it is sheltered by a closed in verandah end. As the building is of wood and surrounded by a broad verandah, ans as there need be no interference with the framework, sufficient openings could easily be made at small expense, if the officials were not so pig-headed.
The unfortunate schoolmaster seems to have been ground between the upper and nether millstones ia this matter. Apparently the Works officials complain that his action brought about the agitation and the strike. At the inquiry by the Resident Magistrate Mr. Brown, it was clearly shown that the schoolmaster had taken no part in the agitation but had preserved a strictly accurate attitude. He will suffer from the strike, if it is only in his examinations, and therefore it is most unlikely that he would have fomented a strike or encouraged it.
We arrived there in the morning at about 8.30 o'clock, and as there were some influential people on board the train was delayed to allow them to catch it. I understand that there is only one train a week, and that sometimes, though the steamer may arrive a couple of hours after the train is timed to depart, the departure is not delayed, and consequently the mails for the Interior are left to lie at Hedland for a week or so. I can hardly believe that this is true, but I am assured that it is a fact.
All along the coast we have had delightful weather and a good time, although on our departure from Fremantle the Charon, so far as the first-class was concerned, was overcrowded. This was largely caused by men, women and children coming aboard without having booked their passages. The Charon is somewhat like the Irish omnibus which, when full, can always hold another passenger. The captain and his officers accommodated some of the passengers in their rooms, and beds were made up in the smoking and music rooms. Not withstanding the overcrowding everything passed off without trouble, thanks largely to the tack and ability of Captain Dalgleish and the chief steward. In one cabin, in which there were four berths, there were three ladies, one girl, and three babies, and yet good humour prevailed, and trifling discomforts were overlooked. I had heard that the catering for this trip is done by the captain and chief steward, and that consequently the food would be unsatisfactory. I am pleased to say that so far as myself and my daughter saw there is no foundation for any such idea. Our food has been good, clean, and abundant, well cooked and well served, and so far we have had no reason to regret having voyaged in the Charon, though she has no cold storage, but has to depend on an ice-house.
Now that the bulk of the passengers have left we each have a stateroom to ourselves, and will no doubt be very comfortable between here and Singapore. At first the bathing accommodation seemed crude after the Indarra, Katoomba, and Warilda. There is no hot water in the bathrooms, nor is there any fresh water showers, but we are supplied each morning with a bath tub of fresh water, and after a salt water plunge we wash ourselves with the fresh water, then with a small dipper pour the water over our bodies, which seems to have an excellent cooling effect, so we soon forgot to sigh for the bathrooms of the inter-state steamers.
There, seems to be a little neglect in small matters that I expect only requires to be mentioned to be rectified. For example, after leaving Fremantle there were a great many seasick, and they were not supplied with those cleanly, thick-paper storm-pans to which were are accustomed on the other boats, and there was an insufficient supply of tin storm-pans, the appearance of which was not likely to make a seasick person feel any better. There were some complaints by the mothers of the numerous babies on board that they had a difficulty in getting bath tubs to bathe their babies in, but this was soon overcome. After all, these were only minor faults, but it must be remembered we had on the whole an exceedingly smooth passage. Had it been otherwise these little troubles may have been more apparent. Though the Charon is an old boat, she is well adapted to the trade, and is certainly very comfortable.
Point Sampson, which is one of the capes which form the old port of Tientsin or Point Walcott, is distinguished by a high jetty of 1846 feet in length. Here we landed 260 pedigree sheep from Katanning, not having lost a single one on the voyage, much to the delight of the owner, Mr. Gillam, who loudly praised the chief officer for his care and attention to the stock. There seems to be a little feeling among the Cossack people against Point Sampson and its jetty. Apparently at one time all cargo was landed into lighters, and as this was monopolised 30s. a ton was charged for lighterage. This has been largely removed by the jetty, but even now cargo for Cossack has to be taken from the jetty by a motor launch to Cossack.
I am told that there was a tram to Cossack, but the Public Works Department pulled up the rails and left them lying near the route of the tram. There is a steam tram to Roebourne, which makes the journey in about two hours. Apparently there are a fair number of motor cars in the district, some of which run between Cossack and Roebourne, and when we arrived there were two private motor cars waiting for their owners, who were on board the Charon.
A few hours after leaving Point Sampson we called at Balla Balla, where the four-masted ship Elginshire is lying, taking in copper ore from Whim Creek. She is about half loaded, and will take about 3600 tons, which she is getting at the rate of 60 tons per day. The captain came aboard, and I had an interesting talk with him.
He has struck his royal and topgallant yards, has one anchor down and two anchors all ready to let go, so he has made his ship all snug in case of a blow. We passed the wreck of the steamer Eddystone, close to Depuch Island, on which we also saw from the ship the wreck of the Crown of England and on the beach a lighter, reminders of the awful Koombana hurricane and loss of life in the same storm on Depuch Island. We could also see very clearly the white cross which marks the graves of some of the drowned, who were buried, on. the island.
I had been warned that there was an awful amount of drunkenness on the Nor'-West boats", but it is not apparent on board the Charon. I have seen and heard ef two or three cases, but nothing very bad. The late master of the Koombana, who was my relative, told me that to control this traffic on his ship was one of his worst troubles.
We arrived at Broome at breakfast time after a splendid passage from Hedland, and went alongside the jetty, which is half a mile long, the sea end being about three miles from the business part of the town, which is hidden from the jetty by high sandhills. Still, we could see a forest of masts of the luggers in the creek and on the flats. A steam tramway runs from the sea end of the jetty right through the business town, and running round, a loop returns to the residential quarters; consequently we were able to have an excellent view of the town going through the principal streets without fatigue.
Between the jetty and the business town is the residential quarter, which is most refreshing to the eye after the other ports, as there are plenty of trees and grass, and the houses are spacious and well kept. There seems to be plenty of water laid on, from which the lawns are watered. Each bungalow stands on a large piece of ground, the streets are broad, and consequently it is a pleasure to walk through the quarter; in the cool of the evening, or to ride through in tram, or motor car, of which latter there are two for hire. All the bungalows are single-storey, with very broad verandahs, which in most cases have bougainvillea or other creepers growing over them. We were charmed with this portion of Broome. At the shore end of the jetty is a small, old cemetery, in which we saw the gravestone of one of the Forrests, who died here, in 1884, apparently a brother of Sir John. There are about four other gravestones in this now disused graveyard.
A. G. Russell, late of Perth, has a shop in the main street of the residential quarter. We called upon him and had a chat. He looks well, and says he is doing very well, handling the largest quantity of chaff in the place. He also has a general store, which seems to contain everything likely to be required by the Broome folk. A short distance further on is the office of the Broome "Echo," run by our old friend, Barker, late of Leonora, on whom I called and had a chat with, and then walked through the business part of the town, the bulk of which is on a sandhill, and fronts the beach in an inlet off Roebuck Bay. The place seemed very busy owing, apparently, to the large humber of luggers in for provisions. Of course it swarmed with Chinese, Japanese and Malays.
It was too hot to spend much time in this quarter, but it was not hot enough to prevent our walking to the ship, which we did in about three quarters of an hour, allowing us time for lunch. The offices and premises of the Cable Company, which are advertised for sale in "The Sunday Times," is a splendid property, standing on a large piece of land. I heard it was proposed to form a club, and endeavor to acquire this property, but that has apparently fallen through, and it is said that it is to be acquired by the Roman Catholics for a convent. In the cool of the evening we again went for an hour's walk through the residential portion of Broome, and also before breakfast next morning. Our opinion of the beauty of this part of Broome was confirmed.
The telephone seems to be, largely used--apparently all the Europeans are subscribers. This is, of course, necessary owing to the large area of the town. Electric light is largely used. The post office is a fine building, in which the postal receivers for letters and newspapers are most ingeniously hidden beneath the receiving counter. We had to inquire for them after vainly searching for them.
At 1 a.m. we commenced. taking 250 cattle on board from Streeter's station for Java. This took about five hours. It was most interesting to watch the cattle coming down the race, built on the side of the jetty, and then walking into the hold of the Charon. Last evening, about 10, the Western Australia came alongside the jetty for about half an hour for passengers and mails, and then departed for Fremantle. Apparently the discipline is not of a high order on board this boat. I noticed that there was no gangway light shown, although some scores of people boarded and left the vessel. Had any accident occurred no doubt the ship would have been responsible and would have had to pay damages. We left about 10 this morning and are now in beautiful weather, heading for Derby. We are going inside the Lacepede Islands, will anchor to-night, at Cape Leveque, and reach Derby to-morrow.
So far, we have thoroughly enjoyed our trip, and given the weather we have had we cannot imagine a more pleasant holiday. "Tombo" Cooper, of the Lands Office, is aboard, en route for Singapore. He is the hero of "Dryblower's" yarn about the crayfish, and proudly read to us last night the extract from "The Sunday Times," which he carries with him.