56["The Pearling Industry", The Western Mail (Perth, WA), Friday 02 October 1914, page 19]
THE PEARLING INDUSTRY.
SLACKNESS AT BROOME.
Perhaps no industry and no town are feeling the results of the war more than the pearling business and its chief centre and port, Broome, the reason being that the markets for the shell are almost solely confined to the cities which are now enveloped in the theatre of conflict. America
prior to the trouble in Mexico, was demanding much of the fruits of the diver and shell openers, but since the recent upheaval in the southern republic trade in pearl shell has considerably diminished. By far the largest quantity of shell was eaten up by the factories of Berlin, Paris, and Vienna, but the London distributing markets now announce that they have sufficient stocks on hand (about 1,000 tons) to last for many months after the close of the war.
The most prized inhabitant of the shell, the pearl itself, being a luxury, has now practically no market at all, which is show by the fact that the recently found 90 grain pearl, valued in normal times at about £5,000, cannot claim a speculative purchaser at half its worth.
Naturally with this dullness in Europe Broome, the centre of the business in this State, approaches a quietness never before experienced. "The port is now passing through a stage of frenzied finance," said a prominent pearler to a representative of the "Western Mail," "which it will take years to straighten out, but the final result will be of lasting benefit to the industry."
Speaking from his experience of 24 years on the coast, the pearler expressed his opinion that the industry and Broome itself were going to have the greatest setback they have ever experienced. The war, he said, would do what the Federal Government had been trying to accomplish for years; that is, to stop the production of shell and pearls. At present the population of Broome is diminishing by every outward steamer, some travellers paying their passages but others being required to work their way to greener fields. With the exception of a few boats, which are laid up and their crews discharged, most of the fleet are out at work, where they will probably remain until about November, when their stores will have run out. They will come into port, but they will not return for some time, most of the so-called owners being in the hands of the storekeepers and other financiers who, under the circumstances, will be compelled to lay up the luggers and return their crews to Singapore. As most of the divers are heavily in debt to their masters it is probable that a few of the luggers will be kept at work with a view to giving the divers a chance of paying off their indebtedness, and in the hope of an improvement in the shell market.
"Out of all this multitude of ill effects, however," concluded the pearler, "the situation is likely to bring about a great amount of good to the industry and for the legitimate pearler. It will rid the business of many of the undesirables, for when the fields re-open they will be managed on different lines. The business will go back to what it was 20 years ago, and will be better for those who are working on their own capital."