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EXC In-Depth Field Notes: Broome, Kuri Bay and Darwin, Western Australia

Our EXC In-Depth Voyage is off to Western Australia! EXC In-Depth Onboard Naturalist/Zodiac Driver Kristy King sent some Field Notes and excellent photos from Broome, Kuri Bay and Darwin. Enjoy this installment, and stay tuned as the ship begins its journey to Southeast Asia.

Broome, Western Australia

With Maasdam docking in the early hours of the morning, many of us were still sleeping when we arrived in this beautiful port situated in Roebuck Bay. The Bay was named after HMS Roebuck, the ship captained by William Dampier when he explored the coast of north-western Australia in 1699.

As we awoke the tide was at its lowest point of the day. As the tide had dropped over the course of the early hours of the morning Roebuck Bay’s beautiful turquoise waters un-covered what appeared mysterious objects lying at its bottom. These mysterious objects were in fact remains of WII wrecks. The North West saw 11 air raids in 1942 and 1943, and Broome experienced the second worst air-raid on Australian soil on 3rd March 1942. Ten Japanese fighter planes were spotted overhead, and in a short attack the airfield and the flying boats moored in Roebuck Bay were strafed. There were as many as 100 fatalities during the raid, most of whom were Dutch evacuees, including women and children. An American Liberator bomber, carrying mostly injured military personnel, was also shot down shortly after take-off with the loss of all but one person on board.

It was a very hot and humid day here in Broome with many people choosing to get out and about in the morning and returning to the vessel to enjoy the air-conditioning. For those that braved the heat they were rewarded with beautiful views at Cable Beach and at Gantheaume Point (known for its dinosaur foot prints) with the turquoise waters against the rusty red dirt making for gorgeous photos today. Many strolled the main street of downtown Broome or made their way to Broome’s China town to visit small souvenir shops and learn about the history of what is considered to be the Pearling Capital of Australia.

A Japanese cemetery in Broome.

A Japanese cemetery in Broome.

In the 1880s early pearlers turned their sights to Roebuck Bay and by 1910 Broome was the largest pearling centre in the world, benefiting from newly introduced diving suits, fertile waters and a booming international pearl button market. The Japanese cemetery was also on many list, where many of the early Japanese settlers and pearlers now reside.

Kuri Bay, Western Australia

This morning the Kimberley coast greeted us with blue skies and a windy outlook, but we weren’t going to let a little bit of wind get in our way. Maasdam slowly maneuvered her way through small island outcrops and past Augustus Island before dropping anchor just of the coast of Kuri Bay, a small bay located within the Lalang-Garram/Camden Sound Marine Park located around 330km north of Broome.

This marine park covers almost 700,000 hectares of the pristine and remote Kimberley region. Lalang-garram is the word in Worrorra (the Dambimangari native title group language) that evokes ‘the ocean’ in its most general sense. The Dambimangari Traditional Owners chose this word to name the marine park for cultural reasons that respect the idea of ‘salt water’ without talking about just one place or one part of their traditional country.

With this part of the Western Australian coast line being so remote, there were no towns or cities to check out today so many guests spent their morning ashore with the team from Paspaley learning about the history of pearls or on board the zodiacs exploring Kuri Bay and its surrounds.

Pearl inside the oyster shell at Kuri Bay, Western Australia. Photo: Matthew Baldrini©

Pearl inside the oyster shell at Kuri Bay, Western Australia. Photo: Matthew Baldrini©

For the lucky few, flights were also on offer with views over the marine park and out into the Indian Ocean and across the towering sandstone landscape that the Kimberley is most famous for.

Mallard flight over Kuri Bay, Western Australia  Photo: Matthew Baldrini©

Mallard flight over Kuri Bay, Western Australia Photo: Matthew Baldrini©

The history of the area is a fateful one at that … A settlement was established at the very eastern end of the Camden Sound Marine Park, known as Camden Harbour, by a group of Victorians who had high hopes but no practical experience. The Camden Harbour Association gave misleading information to potential settlers, including telling them that the site was a mere 270 miles north of Perth. It was in fact, closer to 2,000 miles north.

The first group arrived aboard the vessel the Stag, 12 days before Christmas, in 1864. The harbour was most attractive but the ground was barren and fresh water was very scarce. Soon after, two more vessel arrived — the Calliance and Helvitia — carrying 67 passengers and 2,800 sheep. The very day the ship arrived one of the settlers died from the effects of heat stress and was buried on Sheep Island.

It was the worst time of year to try and establish a settlement, the harsh conditions caused settlers to begin abandoning the settlement within weeks of arriving. The settlement was finally abandoned in October 1865 mere months after it had been established.

Our zodiacs tour guests spent the morning out on the water learning the history of the failed Camden Harbour settlement and even managed to spot some dolphins before returning to the ship for the second round of trips today. The afternoon trip saw windy conditions similar to the morning, but that’s due to the tide flooding in over the course of the morning. The afternoon was spent darting in and out of the mangrove stands in search of flora and fauna.

Flooded Apple Mangrove Sonneratia alba Kuri Bay, Western Australia. Photo: Kristy King ©

Flooded Apple Mangrove Sonneratia alba Kuri Bay, Western Australia. Photo: Kristy King ©

Brahminy Kite nests were spotted in the mangroves and White-bellied Sea Eagles were preached atop trees staring down that these odd creatures in inflatable vessels as they weaved back and forth.

Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

This morning we awoke in the capital city of the Northern Territory, Darwin. Situated on the Timor Sea, the greater Darwin area is the ancestral home of the Larrakia people.

On 9 September 1839, HMS Beagle sailed into Darwin Harbour during its surveying of the area. John Clements Wickham named the region “Port Darwin” in honor of their former shipmate Charles Darwin, who had sailed with them on the ship’s previous voyage, which had ended in October 1836.

There were a number of options for those that went ashore today. Many choose to venture out of town to Litchfield National Park. The national park covers approximately 1,500 km2. It was proclaimed a national park in 1986, it is named after Frederick Henry Litchfield, a Territory pioneer, who explored areas of the Northern Territory from Escape Cliffs on the Timor Sea to the Daly River in 1864.

Others spent the day looking for crocodiles on the Jumping Croc tour or made their way to Crocosaurus Cove to get an up-close and personal encounter.

A jumping crocodile in Darwin.

A jumping crocodile in Darwin.

There also was the hop-on hop-off bus that took in all the highlights Darwin had to offer, whilst others took a leisurely approach on the zodiacs this morning as they cruised through the mangroves that fringed Darwin Harbour.

White Bellied Sea Eagle in Darwin.

White Bellied Sea Eagle in Darwin.

If you’d like to join one of these amazing adventures, check out our EXC In-Depth itineraries. Stay tuned to the EXC In-Depth Field Notes as Maasdam makes way to the Indian Ocean.

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