Research Trip #2 Port Hedland – Marble Bar – Corunna Downs

Eek, I meant to post this three weeks ago!!!

The second part of my research trip from Broome to Port Hedland seems to have changed the direction of my novel (weird how that happens)…


After a wonderful few days in Broome, I flew to Port Hedland on the milk run via Karratha. The tidal scenery along the coast is spectacular and I’d forgotten how interesting it is coming in to land over the salt farms. Part of my story-in-progress takes place in small aeroplanes so I was busy taking notes along the way. Once I arrived in Hedland, I went straight to the old hospital site to view it in evening light. To my amazement the old building has become a DOME café. My first reaction was, Oh no! but it has been lovingly restored and absorbing the atmosphere from the inner verandah with a coffee was fun. And how lovely is the lattice…

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The next morning I visited Dalgety House Museum and had one of those meetings that are just meant to be. Joan Foley was volunteering that morning and after I explained a little about my plans, she told me her dad was at the airport in the same era and that her mother nursed at the hospital… Bingo! We chatted for ages and Joan invited me to join her the next morning on her Hedland Radio breakfast show. Joan is a multi-talented lady and gave me some helpful contacts.


(I went in early to radio chat with her before heading out to Marble Bar/Corunna Downs)

After Dalgety House Museum, I’d also spent hours at the South Hedland Library’s historical collection – what a treasure trove. Thank you Helen Ellacott and Sharon Groch for all your help.  Then I walked along the foreshore and town, visited Pretty Pool and enjoyed a Pilbara sunset.


Driving out to Marble Bar was a treat with the red earth, spinifex and hills that hold old stories.

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Marble Bar is our hottest town, lucky I visited in winter. I visited the nursing post and decided it was time to take notice of several strange coincidences that had been pulling me away from my intended main setting (Port Hedland) to Marble Bar. That decision is still playing out, so more on that in another post… After visiting the Marble Bar museum and going out to the Comet Gold Mine ruin, I checked petrol and tyres, ready to set out to try and find Corunna Downs, the secret World War 2 airstrip.IMG_3823

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(notice the bull behind the sign)

More lovely scenery and no one else around on the way out to Corunna. The turn-off:


Then I found the marker for the next turn-off.


 According to an online blogger’s directions, I was now within 6 kilometres, but the track was getting rougher and I’m not much of a four-wheel driver. I wasn’t sure what the Rav4 was up for and I’d promised family that I’d be sensible, so as I headed into another creek bed, I pulled over, walked ahead and decided that if I kept going I might not be able to turn.


It was frustrating to be so close and not get out onto the actual overgrown strip, but I had enough background info. Walking on alone mid-afternoon wasn’t an option and so I turned back towards Marble Bar. Hopefully once the story is finished I can come back again.


Thank you to UWA for help funding this trip which has given me a deeper understanding of the Pilbara landscape and shifted the direction of my work.

4 thoughts on “Research Trip #2 Port Hedland – Marble Bar – Corunna Downs

  1. chamin377

    Hello Ms. Wolfer! Thanks a lot for posting about these research trips of yours! I’m the Chinese translator of your book Dog with Seven Names and I find these posts extremely helpful in visualizing the hospital environments during my translation. I love the story of Princess and I completely fell in love with this courageous creature! Thanks so much for writing this incredible story and I can’t wait for young Chinese readers to read it! Zha

    1. Dianne Wolfer Post author

      Hello Zha, how lovely to hear from you 🙂 Thank you for your message and kind words about my story. Unfortunately I don’t read Chinese, but I’m so excited to see the translated version of ‘Dog’. How is it all going? Do you know the approximate date for Chinese release? I understand that it’s an unusual setting so please email me with any questions you may have about the story. My address is Very best wishes for now, Dianne


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