Tag Archives: Port Hedland

Returning to Port Hedland

Last week I returned to Port Hedland, the first time since 2015 when I was researching The Dog with Seven Names. After a breakfast presentation with the Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Camilo Blanco and I visited DOME café, the refurbished hospital where my fictitious dog lived in 1942.

The first time I visited this site, the hospital building was fenced off and in disrepair. Travelling back in 2015, the most I’d hoped for was to be able to take photographs through the wire fencing. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at dusk to find lights blazing in a newly renovated building. I went inside, ordered a coffee and walked along the verandahs, imagining the scene in World War Two when dozens of burnt patients were evacuated from Broome after the strafing of Dutch flying boats. It’s just one of the passages in my novel which was enriched by being able to walk through the old hospital rather than view it through holes in a fence. Thanks DOME, I love your policy of keeping our heritage alive by restoring historic buildings.

Cafe’ manager, Hannah shared interesting renovation details and even mentioned a ‘presence’ felt by some visitors (perhaps there’s another story there). Thanks to the Town of Port Hedland, Librarian, Gill Westera and Port Hedland SHS for inviting me to Port Hedland to share The Dog with Seven Names. I look forward to visiting again in 2020 when I’ll also travel to other book settings such as Marble Bar. In the meantime, you may like to follow these links to see photos from previous research trips to Broome and Port Hedland.

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.