Circumnavigating Australia — Walking Port Hedland


Welcome to Port Heland

Radiance of the Seas arrived into Port Hedland on February 22 of this year. This was the smallest destination, population-wise, of our entire trip. But small does not equate to uninteresting. This is quite the busy port, and the port itself is a huge operation even if the town itself is small.

The port at Port Hedland

The primary export from this port is iron ore, and over 515 million tonnes/568 million U.S. tons of ore were shipped from here in 2019. Another export is salt derived from evaporated seawater.

A salty export

This port is so busy that even has its own control tower to direct traffic . . . just not the type of control tower in which I used to work.

Port Hedland Shipping Control Tower

That’s the new control tower pictured above. Here’s a neat video of the toppling of the old control tower back in October, 2019 (too bad we missed that by four months):

We took a free shuttle from the port into Port Hedland, and we were greeted warmly by everyone whom we met. Offloading from the bus local scout troopers even offered us cool, refreshing bottle water at no charge. That was quite welcome, for as you can see in the lead photograph above the high temperature was projected to reach 34ºC/93ºF, and that was with stifling humidity.

The walk into town passing the Silver Star Café

One friendly conversationalist whom we encountered was a fellow selling some lovely handmade pens and rings made from indigenous woods. Some of these are the perfect pen for the firearms enthusiast in your life, as they are bolt-action and have the profile of a shouldered rifle bullet. I’d seen similar pens previously on our trip, but these were better made. If you’re interested, visit this chap’s business at PilbaraPens.com and tell him I sent you (no, I’m not getting a kickback; I just like this guy and his wares). And, yes, I picked up a lovely bolt-action pen made from burled Australian red gum (eculyptus).

Fun bolt-action bullet pens from Pilbara Pens

When we first passed this statue below I thought it was a tribute to local area mining. In researching this article I found it has a much more interesting origin. This statue represents the now defunct Black Rock Stakes wheelbarrow race. During its 40-year history, contestants would at night push 11 kilograms/24.25 pounds of iron ore in a relay race stretching 120 kilometers/75 miles. To up the degree of difficulty, the relay racers would hand off the special racing wheelbarrows to teammates who jumped from a sideboard mounted onto a moving vehicle . . . in the dead of night!

Black Rock Stakes Sculpture

If you’re having trouble imagining all that, here’s a photo I found:

Historical Black Rock Stakes race

Black Rock Stakes rolling relay — teammates preparing to hand-off

The following two images are of some of the artwork decorating Leap Park near Port Hedland’s downtown area:

Leap Park

Leap Park

Finally for today, let’s go back to revisit the Silver Star Café pictured above, but closer up this time. This I found fascinating. Even more so now that I’ve had time to research it for this article. The Silver Star Café is contained within the Silver Star railroad car built in 1939. It was originally a diner/observation car running on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, and it ran specifically with the General Pershing Zephyr streamliner. The Silver Star railroad car found its way to Hedland in 1974, where it was presented to the Mount Newman Railway to commemorate the first 100 milli0n tonnes of iron ore moved between the mining town of Newman and Port Hedland.

Silver Star Café

 

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