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Japanese Pearlers Memorial
Japanese Pearlers Memorial

Photographs supplied by Diane Watson / Peter F Williams

A stone obelisk commemorates the Japanese pearlers who were drowned in a cyclone.

The Japanese pearl divers were mostly from the Taiji province. Their diving ritual would often begin by downing a bottle of port, before donning their cumbersome vulcanised canvas suits and massive bronze helmets, after which they would be lowered over the lugger`s side to spend hours underwater. On the bottom they struggled about in lead-weighted boots, often almost horizontal as they peered through inch-thick faceplates into murky waters, frantically scooping oysters into bags because divers were paid by the amount of shell they collected.

The early luggers were sail-powered and only catered for one diver`s apparatus, but by the 1930s, most vessels were motorised and mechanical air pumps allowed two divers per boat. The death toll in the early pearl industry was horrific, from the `bends`, cyclones and sharks. Four cyclones caught the pearling fleet at sea between 1908 and 1935. The death toll for these is only approximate but it is known that more than 100 boats and nearly 300 men perished.

The unveiling of a monument to the memory of those Japanese who lost their lives in the two blows of 1908 was made an interesting ceremony at the Broome cemetery, when some 600 people attended to do honour to the dead. The road leading to the Japanese portion of the cemetery was thronged with pedestrians and others in vehicles and on horseback, and by the time proceeding's commenced the surroundings were thronged with all classes of the community. The monument was subscribed to and erected entirely by the Japanese residents of Broome. Engraved on the front of the monument were the words (in Japanese), "To the memory of," and then followed the names of those who lost their lives.
Western Mail (Perth), 20th February 1909
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Location

Address:Port Drive, Japanese Cemetery, Broome, 6725
State:WA
Area:AUS
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -17.957619
Long: 122.222592
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Details

Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Disaster
Sub-Theme:Storms
Approx. Event Start Date:1908
Approx. Event End Date:1908

Dedication

Approx. Monument Dedication Date:February-1909
Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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