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Journey to the Buccaneer Archipelago, Western Australia

Date: 1920s
Overall: 246 x 345 x 15 mm
Medium: Silver gelatin prints, paper, buckram
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Photograph album
Object No: 00030432
Place Manufactured:Australia

User Terms

    This lavishly compiled photograph album with handwritten captions is titled 'Journey to the Buccaneer Archipelago' and was made around 1930 by an unknown person associated with an iron ore mining survey of Cockatoo and Koolan Islands in Yampi Sound, part of the Buccaneer Archipelago, off the Kimberley region in north western Australia.

    The first page has a hand-drawn map titled 'A detail of the islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago in relation to the Mainland'. The photographs include the schooner GERALDTON (chartered for the 1929 survey) at Fremantle, the wharf at Derby, pearling luggers at Broome, various views of and around Cockatoo Island and iron ore deposits.

    The majority of other images are of Aboriginal people. The Australian Iron and Steel Company had begun initial surveys in the area in 1916 and had agreements with local European missionaries for the provision of fresh vegetables and Aboriginal labourers. Wotjulum mission had been established opposite Cockatoo Island and became a settlement for the Warwa, Ngarinjin and Wunambul people - who are most likely the subjects of the photographs.

    The images show Aboriginal people hauling fishing nets, turtle and dugong hunting, 'Kimberley natives with their fish spears', dugout canoes and Bardi rafts, 'preparing for a corroberee', and various images of Aboriginal men and women.
    SignificanceSuch amateur collections photographs of Aboriginal people from the early twentieth century are rare and not widely known. They are important historical documents for Aboriginal people whose lives were so drastically affected by colonisation and European settlement. This collection in particular holds valuable information about the use and construction of watercraft along the Kimberley coastline.
    HistoryIn 1929 the Australian Iron and Steel Limited commenced a mining survey on Cockatoo and Koolan islands in Yampi Sound, in the Buccaneer Archipelago off the Kimberley coastline in north Western Australia.

    The mining of iron ore in the Kimberley region was peripatetic for many years until the 1950s. It had been investigated since 1916 and this 1929 expedition was promoted as the beginning of an important venture. Various commercial interests had combined to support it including Howard Smith, Australian Iron and Steel and Southern Portland Cement Company - based at Berrima with limestone mining operations at nearby Marulan, in southern central New South Wales.

    The album is unsigned, but was obviously compiled by a member of the joint venture company - a section at the back has images of the Marulan limestone cliffs.

    The photographs appear to have been from the 1929-30 survey as extensive newspaper reports on a 1935 survey (as operations appear to have been halted during the Great Depression 1929-1932) show images from the album and refer to them as from the 1929 survey. The Northern Times (Carnarvon, WA) newspaper reported in August 1935 that;

    'Next week the schooner Geraldton will leave Fremantle for Yampi Sound on behalf of Australian Iron Steel Limited, to make a full survey of the iron deposits. Captain Pentony will be in command, and Mr. Starke, metallurgist, is attached to the company.'

    The same month The West Australian (Perth, WA) newspaper showed an image;

    'The schooner Geraldton at anchor at Cockatoo Island, in Yampi Sound, in 1929. The vessel is now being equipped at Fremantle to take another expedition to the island.'

    This appears to be the same as an image in the album.

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