We pulled out of the Sandfire Roadhouse at 8:40am with the temperature sitting on 28 degrees. When we woke up this morning there was a blustery wind blowing from the south-east so we may find
our fuel economy is affected somewhat. However, we both agreed that a windy day had happened only a few times on this trip, and we have been very lucky. This is one of the disadvantages of booking ahead that you need to travel even when the weather does not co-operate with you, but we are much happier (and less anxious) knowing we have a booking ahead of us rather than winging it.
It will be interesting to see the economy figure when we next fuel up. Vince always told us that BP had the best diesel for the vehicle, but Bruce has told us that up here the BP is not as effective.
Very early this morning – like 5:30am early – we were all woken up by an extremely noisy butcherbird who would not shut up. He went on for a long time. Russ was able to go back to sleep, but unfortunately, I only managed to doze.
Yesterday evening I got very excited by an email from the Australian Taxation Office saying they had paid me my unclaimed Superannuation into my account. It was a bit of a let down when I went in to check – a whole $6.45!
So far, up to this morning we have travelled a total of 9243 kilometres which includes all travel both with, and without, the van. And we still have so much further to go.
Most of the vegetation today was grassland with bushes, only a few trees, and most of those were small ones, until we came to a patch of beautiful ghost gums about 60 kilometres from Port Hedland. There were even a couple growing in a dry riverbed in the Strelley River East.
There was a steady flow of traffic heading towards the north today, however, we were not overtaken by many at all. Perhaps the wind had something to do with it.
Along the roadside we are starting to see flashes of colour among the bushes, which is very encouraging for sightings of wildflowers.
For most of today’s travel we have been heading in a westerly direction with an occasional turning to the south-west. Due to the strong wind, we have not seen a lot of birdlife as most of them have been hunkering down in the trees.
By 10:00am the temperature had reached 28 degrees, and when we came into Port Hedland it was sitting on 32 degrees. We are actually staying at a caravan park in South Hedland as all other parks tried were fully booked out. This place is very big, and they are doing massive renovations all around the park.
The park has been modernised in some areas already, and this includes the laundry near us which now has new front-loading washers and dryers, and they only take credit cards. It is so much easier with the tap on bit, and no need to carry lots of one and two dollar coins around in your pocket.
We passed a dead brown snake on the road which was very squashed (the way I prefer them even if it is politically incorrect to say so).
After Pardoo Roadhouse the terrain we travelled could only be described as hummocky. We also began to encounter several dry riverbeds.
It has been interesting to note that human beings can’t help themselves when it comes to interfering with nature, particularly when it comes to termite mounds. Throughout South Australia and the Northern Territory the termite mounds were dressed in t-shirts. In Western Australia the custom seems to be hard hats. Fascinating to see that they are slowly being covered by fresh mounding.
We arrived in South Hedland around 1:00pm. The ladies in Reception were a delight and promptly handed over our parcel that had been delivered and was waiting for us to pick it up. We have our own ice machine!
I had to wait until after Russ had his sleep before I could try it out but spent the waiting time reading the instruction manual. A full ice bucket took 2 hours, but it is pretty cool to watch.
I took advantage of the wonderful sunshine and did two loads of washing of clothes, got them out on the line and dried in just over two hours.
Port Hedland has the reputation of being the resource hub of Australia, and is also home to a wealth of nature, culture and history.
From Redbank Bridge Lookout you can see the Rio Tinto Dampier Salt Piles which is a unique icon of the town, and you can watch the ore carriers in the world’s biggest export tonnage port from Marapikurrinya Park. The ore trains go through every twenty minutes and are sooooo long.
At the world’s largest bulk-export port colossal loaders dump tonnes upon tonnes of ore into enormous ships across 19 berths from the biggest open-cut iron ore mines anywhere ever. At dusk the setting sun lights up a horizon lined with hulking cargo ships, car dumpers and bucket wheel reclaimers. Everything here is BIG.
From May to September, you can spot turtles and dolphins from the viewing platform at Cemetery Beach.
Port Hedland (Kariyarra: Marapikurrinya) is the second largest town in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, with an urban population of 14,320 at June 2018 including the satellite town of South Hedland, 18 kilometres away.
At the 2011 census, South Hedland had a population of 9,375. It contains Hedland Senior High School.
The Commonwealth Government’s 1960 decision to lift an embargo on iron ore exports led to the rapid expansion of mining in the Pilbara and the creation of several new towns, including South Hedland.
The original design of the South Hedland townsite was inspired by the Radburn principles. Four residential neighbourhoods where to cluster around a commercial core connected by parkways and pedestrian connections.
Following the completion of the first neighbourhood the design was considered a failure by residents and government authorities and abandoned in 1974, although it has continued to shape the overall town layout to the present day.
Port Hedland is also the site of the highest tonnage port in Australia. It has a natural deep anchorage harbour which, as well as being the main fuel and container receival point for the region, was seen as perfect for shipment of the iron ore being mined in the ranges located inland from the town.
The ore is moved by railway from four major iron ore deposits to the east and south of the Port Hedland area. The port exported 519,408,000 tonnes (1.1 trillion pounds) of iron ore (2017–2018).
Other major resource activities supported by the town include the offshore natural gas fields, salt, manganese, and livestock. Major deposits of lithium are being developed and exploited south of the town as well.
Grazing of cattle and sheep was formerly a major revenue earner for the region, but this has slowly declined. Port Hedland was also formerly the terminus for the WAGR Marble Bar Railway, which serviced the gold mining area of Marble Bar from July 1911 until closure on 31 October 1951.
The locomotive from the Port Hedland to Marble Bar rail service is now preserved at the Kalamunda Historical Village in the south of the state. Located between Port Hedland and South Hedland are the large salt hills of Dampier Salt, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto. These large mounds have almost become a tourist attraction in their own right.
The coastline in the area was seen by European mariners as early as 1628, when the Dutch merchant ship Vianen, captained by Gerrit Franszoon de Witt visited.
Swedish-born mariner Peter Hedland was the first European to note the harbour’s existence and the possibility of using it as a port. He arrived in the area in April 1863 on board his boat Mystery, which he had built himself at Point Walter on the banks of the Swan River.
He named the harbour Mangrove Harbour and reported that it would make a good landing site with a well-protected harbour, and that there was also fresh water available.
However, the port was initially regarded as unusable, due to a sandbar that frequently sealed the entrance and thick mangroves around the shore; further, the narrow entrance made the harbour difficult to enter in bad weather.
Later in 1863, government surveyor Joseph Beete Ridley examined Mangrove Harbour while exploring the country between Nicol Bay and the Fitzroy River, describing it as “an excellent anchorage and perfectly landlocked”.
He named it Port Hedland after the master of Mystery. Ridley located a firm landing place above the mangroves, and a practicable stockroute from there to the De Grey River.
In September 1895, Cossack residents requested the of the headland at Port Hedland in order to establish a town and requested that the Government build a jetty.
In 1896, the Port Hedland town site was surveyed and in October 1896, the town site was gazetted.
By 1905, the Roads Board had made considerable improvements to the roads and streets. In 1909 port facilities were built, and in 1911 a rail link to Marble Bar commenced operation.
On 30 July 1942 the town was bombed by the Japanese, killing one soldier at the local airfield. Perhaps they were searching for Corunna Downs, a secret air force base.
By 1946, approximately 150 people lived in the area.
The population of the town in 1968 was about 3,000 people.
In 2021, the population was 4,253 people.
Goldsworthy Mining developed an iron ore mine approximately 100 kilometres east of Port Hedland in the early 1960s and built the towns of Goldsworthy and later Shay Gap as mine sites. A rail line was then built to Port Hedland, where dredging was undertaken to deepen and widen
the port’s channel, and a wharf was built opposite the township of Port Hedland on Finucane Island. Shipment of ore began on 27 May 1966, when the Harvey S. Mudd sailed from Port Hedland to Japan with 24,900 tonnes of ore.
In 1967, iron ore was discovered at Mount Whaleback, and a mining venture was undertaken that included the establishment of a new town, Newman. 426 km of rail from the mine to the port was built and development of processing equipment at both Newman and Port Hedland was carried out.
In 1986, at a cost of $87 million, the existing channel was dredged to allow larger ships to enter the port. Prior to dredging, the port was only able to load vessels of less than 2,000 tonnes, but today it is able to accommodate ships over 250,000 tonnes.
In 2013, finance was being raised for yet another iron ore mine, railway and port, this time for the Roy Hill project, which required a 344 km railway.
With the neighbouring ports of Port Walcott and Dampier, Port Hedland is one of three major iron ore exporting ports in the Pilbara region.
In 1991, an immigration detention facility was opened to deal with the arrival of boat people seeking asylum. Port Hedland was seen as a good location, as it is in an area where many asylum seekers arriving by boat were entering Australia, and it had an international airport that would allow for easy deportations when required.
The detention centre, situated on the beach front, was formerly a single-men’s quarters for Mount Newman Mining Co. The centre was privatised by the first Howard Ministry in the late 1990s, and it was closed in 2004 due to the falling number of asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia’s north-west.
The town mayor called for the federal government to allow the town to use the detention centre to accommodate the many new mine workers needed for the town’s mining boom. A lack of accommodation made it difficult for companies to operate efficiently, as they were unable to house staff or consultants within the town’s small number of hotels. The centre is now operating as the Beachfront Village.
In October 2019 the state government announced an Improvement Plan would be imposed over the West End of Port Hedland. The purpose of the plan was to prohibit all future residential development due to the health impacts caused by dust levels generated by Port activities.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the Western Pilbara, including Port Hedland is the sunniest place in Australia; being the only place to record an annual average of more than 10 hours a day of sunshine.