Though the coastline in the area had been explored in the 1700s, Captain Peter Hedland was one of the first Europeans to explore the harbour for the purpose of developing an export port. He arrived in the area in April 1863 onboard his boat, Mystery, that he had built himself at Point Walter on the banks of the Swan River (Perth).
What Capt Peter had omitted to report, was that there is a shallow sand-bar governing the entrance to the port which made it difficult for ships to enter in all but the highest tides. For many years this led to Port Hedland being eclipsed by other nearby settlements; Cossack and Roebourne. It wasn't until the 1960's that iron ore was discovered and mined. After that the harbour was dredged and the industry blossomed.
Port Hedland now has the highest tonnage of any port in Australia and is the largest town in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, with a population of approximately 14,000.
The first features we saw as we entered the town's environs were; the railways (about which more later).
..and the salt pans, complete with the 'white mountain range!
It was pure happenstance. It was a Saturday and Port Hedland was celebrating its 113th birthday (I suppose Bilbo might have said, 'its eleventy third'). It is not a large town, but the main street was alive with activity. Side shows and stalls, a stage, and announcer and a programme of events. The town even had a birthday cake made up from scores of cup cakes and of course the children were there to blow out the candles.
After the children - everyone else, "Visitors included !" The young lady said with a smile.
Some folks that we had spoken to didn't rate Port Hedland as a tourist stop. But we warmed to the place. It was neat and smart, a lot of effort had been put into street decorations, statues, gardens and an 'overall good state of repair'. In any case it was as far as we wanted to drive in a day, towns are 100s of kilometres apart in WA with little or nothing in between.
Just a couple of the street statues follow here:
A more conventional statue crouches by the waterside.
And of course Kangaroos - a lovely 'action' scene, we thought.
This is just a sample of a large collection depicting life through the years in the history of Port Hedland.
The man-made Spoilbank juts northwards from the town. We drove as far along the bank as the bitumen road allowed and discovered a beach. Folks with 4WD vehicles took the challenge of crossing a bar leading to a sandbank and enjoyed a days fishing.
The trains. Port Hedland has its name in the Guinness Book of Records. The world's longest trains ply between here and an inland production centre with iron ore. The 'record breaker' was 7 kilometres long, had eight engines and only one driver. However even on a day to day basis, trains regularly exceed 3 kilometres and the front of the train is out of sight whilst the trucks are still passing under the bridge.
Such is the interest in these monsters, that the council have provided a covered lookout on a bridge directly over the track. We made the trip and found more than just trains!!!
The fly-masks were a blessing and the dots on my t-shirt are not pattern!
Sharing our campsite was a bright red touring bus, the like of which we had never seen before. It is a 24 berth Mercedes unit operated by Rotel (a contraction of Rolling Hostel), a German touring company. Passengers and operators seemed to work in co-operation to provide meals and adjust the bus; awnings, staircases etc were all fitted swiftly and efficiently.
It has become custom for me to close with a sunset on the town, so, no exception here is the offering from Port Hedland.