Shay Gap was a mining town east of Port Hedland. It was space age back in the day and revolutionary. That’s just what mining companies did to keep their workforce local.
The Port Hedland Lock Hospital was built to house Aboriginal people suspected — often wrongly — of having venereal diseases 100 years ago, after an isolated island hospital scheme was shut down.
Reference: ABC News, 7 June 2019
Dr Pervan has investigated the history of the Port Hedland site and hoped to begin formal excavations later in the year.
“We’ve still got evidence of the nursing quarters left on the location, so this is made of wood and corrugated iron buildings,” she said.
“But then there’s other archaeological evidence of timber frames, metal compressed fibre all scattered across the site, which would have been part of the hospital quarters.
“There’s also evidence of a burial ground on the site and we know that people who were sent to the lock hospitals are still buried in the location.”
Location of Port Hedland Lock Hospital:
Where is the SS Koombana?
The steamship SS Koombana was a steel-screw steamer of some 4,000 tonnes and was operated by the Adelaide Steamship Company on charter to the WA Government as a State Ship.
The SS Koombana made her inaugural voyage to Port Hedland arriving on 10 April 1909 and serviced the Port Hedland community for three years.
On 20 March 1912 the ship sailed out of Port Hedland on route to Broome, encountered a cyclone and was lost with all 146 passengers and crew aboard. It had been rumoured that she was carrying a bounty of gold and a mysterious black pearl called the ‘Roseate Pearl’ that was thought to be cursed.
No records of gold or the pearl were listed on the ship’s manifest.
Despite several attempts and intensive investigation the wreck of the SS Koombana has never been located. However….
Researcher and book author Hugh Edwards has been researching the history of SS Koombana and has provided Julie Matheson with some further information:
In the early 1900s Australians were appalled to read in their newspapers that three of the newest and most luxurious passenger steamers on their coast had gone to the bottom of the sea. All lost in a period of only three years.
Of a total of 515 passengers and crew aboard them none had survived the fatal accidents.
‘NO SURVIVORS !’ was the grim report.
Lost with all hands were the SS Waratah, July 27 1909; the SS Yongala, March 24, 1911; and the SS Koombana, March 20th 2012.
At the enquiry the owners, the Adelaide Steamship Company, did their best to limit the scope of evidence due to their concerns about possible claims against them. They succeeded in escaping without censure in circumstances which might raise eyebrows today.
However, despite the ‘White-wash’, as described by Walter Barker, editor of the Port Hedland Advocate newspaper, there was controversy outside the Courtroom at the time. There was strong opinion that due to increases in the height of upperworks for first class cabins and facilities, the vessels (Koombana and Yongala) were top heavy. It was said that they were bound sooner or later to have problems in extreme storm conditions.
KOOMBANA: COURT OF INQUIRY CONCLUSION:
‘The Court found that the stability and seaworthiness of the SS Koombana were unassailable and that the competency and carefulness of the master Captain Allen was beyond question. After being lost sight of at sea on the 20th of March, 1912, her fate passes beyond human knowledge and remains a Mystery of the Sea’.
The Roseate Pearl
There are also some interesting associated legends in the case of Koombana, including the story of the far-famed Roseate Pearl.
That is an intriguing issue which has caught the imaginations of historians and novelists in the years since, among them the excellent book Koombana Days by Annie Boyd.
It is said that that the pearl went aboard Koombana at Port Hedland with prominent Broome pearl buyer Abraham de Vahl Davis in March, 1912. He was said to have paid 23,000 pounds for it. A fabulous amount of money for the time.
The most famous South Sea Pearl in Western Australian history became a legend, including the fact that three men were hanged in Fremantle Gaol because of it.
Is the Pearl still in a jar, or some other kind of container, in the Chub Safe deep down in the wreck of the Koombana?
We know that the first skipper to cross the bar, which later caused so many problems, and sail on the Mystery into the anchorage of Port Hedland was Peter Headland. He dropped anchor there in the sheltered water in 1863.
Port Hedland was named after Captain Peter Headland in 1896 although the spelling was incorrect as it was spelt Hedlund.
Note from Hugh Edwards: The MMA pilot said to have seen the outline of a wreck which may be SS Koombana was George Meadows and the date of his supposed sighting was 1973. One of the previous searches organised from Port Hedland under the title SS Koombana Search Group had Ted Graham as one of the leaders.
Enquiries: Hugh Edwards 08 9384 4766 or e: firstname.lastname@example.org
One of Port Hedland’s favourite pubs was the Hedland Hotel (the Heddy or the Top Pub) now known as the Ibis Styles Hotel overlooking the ocean on Sutherland Street.
We are chasing information about the Heddy:
- The year it was built?
- Who built the pub?
- Pub attractions?
- Any fond memories?
So far facebook page Port Hedland’s Remember When has delivered:
The pub was built around circa 1968
It was a location for a wedding reception in 1981
Purple Haze Band is now called The Haze and Rob Christian has dedicated a website page to its history. The drummer, Nige, Nigel Ridgway, has written a book called A Different Drummer. He mentions towns Purple Haze played in earlier days, and he would have mentioned Hedland in passing.
Formerly managed by the Pickering family
A place for union meetings including a visit by Bill Shorten in October 2002
Sponsor of the Rovers Football Club and Hawkes Rugby League
Dress-up nights in the 1970s
If you have any photos to share, please let us know.
Julie Matheson, editor
21 to 23 October 2016
Where: Port Hedland, Western Australia
Why: Port Hedland was named after Captain Peter Hedland in October 1896. It is one of the oldest towns in the Pilbara rich in history, mineral exports, diversity of people, Aboriginal culture and rock carvings. This year the town is putting on events to celebrate it’s gazettal and history. Click here for information on its history.
Where to stay: Located in the oldest part of the town, The Esplanade Hotel is offering accommodation for $155 per night including a a la carte breakfast. Click here to book.
What’s on: Something for everyone.
Friday 21 October: Quiz Night at The Esplanade including dinner and drinks package. Part of the proceeds will go to the Port Hedland Historical Society to update the historical building of Dalgety House. Click here:
Sat 22 October:
- Morning: history tour of Port Hedland
- Afternoon: Wedge Street food and festival, story telling and pictures, fictional story winners announced
- Evening: Black Rock Stakes, Live music, street market food and fireworks
Sunday 23 October: Free time and departure.
Planning your visit:
Write a fictional story. Entries close 9 September 2016 for Port Hedland’s fictional writing competition, please click here:
Enter a team in the Black Rock Stakes. It’s a reformatted version of the Goldsworthy to Port Hedland famous wheelbarrow race. Teams will run from Cooke Point Recreation Club along our beautiful foreshore, ending at the West End Markets on Glass Lane in the historic part of town. To join a team email the committee: email@example.com
Book Airfares: Qantas flies direct to Port Hedland from Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne. Click here to make a booking.
Book accommodation: The Esplanade has a special room rate of $155 per night including breakfast. Click here to make a booking.
For more information, please contact us at Port Hedland Now:
Although Port Hedland continues to be the engine room of the Western Australian economy, the busiest port in Australia and the biggest minerals exporter, its economy is suffering.
House prices have dropped by 50% and rents significantly more than that. The tonnage through the Port Authority is still at record highs, but this has not saved the town from the boom bust cycle.
After experiencing three booms in the 1970s, 1990s and 20tens, it would be fair to say that Port Hedland’s prosperity is driven by construction booms, not export tonnage through the port. Tonnage does not offer more jobs and employment security. Jobs are lost after each construction boom due to advances in technology and efficiencies.
Port Hedland’s economy can be secured with a diverse range of products and services. The next boom will probably be in agriculture. The port is well positioned for this and to host cruise ships and the tourism that comes from that.
In the meantime, Port Hedland is offering some bargain properties at the right price in readiness for the next boom.
Good news for Port Hedland and Newman businesses from Minister Mischin….”Eligible Port Hedland and Newman-based business can apply for up to $20,000 to build competiveness to successfully bid for a greater number of business opportunities within the region and beyond,” he said.
Read more here: https://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/Barnett/2015/06/Good-news-for-Port-Hedland-and-Newman-businesses.aspx
A significant event for the Town of Port Hedland was the air crash of a MacRobertson Miller Airlines on 31 December 1968.
My father Colin Matheson was called to the crash site to take photos (the one above) as a reporter for The West and the Hedland times. Some history records show that twenty one passengers and five crew were killed in an incident caused by “a fire” in an engine. The plane was found at Indee Station near Port Hedland.
The aircraft was under the command of Captain B.B. Bayly and the crew consisted of First Officer M.J. Nelson, Senior Hostess G.F.J. Bradshaw, and Hostess G.P. Sweetman. There were 22 passengers on board the aircraft including Miss K.M. Aubrey who, although travelling on a passenger ticket issued by the Company, was on board as part of familiarisation training as an air hostess.
Recently Mr Ken Ablett, previously of Port Hedland, has written to Porthedlandnow to advise that:
“The cause of the crash was not fire, but a result of the right wing braking away from the fuselage. This section of the aircraft was found nearly 1km from the main crash site. Apparently a bush had been inserted incorrectly during a service of the aircraft and this developed into metal fatigue. I can still clearly remember ringing your Dad, who was the correspondent for the ABC and The West and telling him what had happened.
Cheers Ken Ablett”
The air safety investigation report prepared in September 1969 by the Commonwealth Government can be found here: https://www.atsb.gov.au/media/24427/196800001.pdf
Port Hedland has a great sporting tradition. Football, cricket, tennis and nearly every summer sport invented has been played in the Town.
Now triathlon is reaching the headlines of the North West Telegraph sporting pages.
Triathlon is three events rolled into one. A swim to wake you up, a bike ride to enjoy to location, and a run to check your fitness to complete the event.
There are many ways to enter the sport of triathlon. Start by entering an enticer event. The distance varies, but most start with a 300 metre swim (6 laps of a 50 metre pool), 10 km bike ride, and 3 km run.
After a bit more training, the next distance to aim for is the Olympic distance which is 1,500 metre swim, 40km bike ride and a 10 km run. Noosa is a great location to do this event, usually in November each year. http://ap.ironman.com/triathlon/events/asiapac/multisports/noosa.aspx#axzz2w0IV2XKV
Triathlon lots of fun and can be addictive after a while. There is lots of great gear to buy to look the part and feel great participating. Enjoy.
It’s not just ships loading iron ore that come to Port Hedland, cruise ships do now as well.
Here’s what the locals think about our new visitors: