Telling it Like it Is
This story evolved from work in Port Hedland, or Hedland as it is commonly known these days, on the northern coast of Western Australia.
The name came from one Peter Hedland, a Swedish-born mariner who, in 1863 aboard the cutter Mystery, was the first recorded European to sight and name what he called Mangrove Harbour. Two months later, the Surveyor-General of the time gave it the name Port Hedland in his honour. It was a large anchorage area and since then, has become a magnificent port, reported to have the highest tonnage of any port in Australia.
Hedland is a unique town. The original site, is on the eastern side of the harbour, stretching from the port to an area known as Cooke Point. It can be viewed in photos on the website www.aussieyarns.com under the heading of Short Stories and then the title, “Telling it like it is”
Since the iron ore boom, the port and the town have grown commensurately with the mining industry. The town these days is in three: the original town on the harbour and along the coast and , the industrial area due south of Nelson Point and South Hedland, a newer residential area 18 kilometers south of the original town.
From Hedland to South Hedland, one takes the main highway out of the original town. The drive is across flat, marshy country including salt flats, and, where it’s visible beyond the marshes, red dirt supporting yellow, spiky spinifex grass.
There are virtually no trees or shrubs on that stretch of road as the photo in the website show. The second, third and fourth photos show the sort of country way from the marshlands, ore stock-piled stock-piled at the BHP yards and, last, an ore train leaving Hedland through the marshlands for another load of ore.
The two population centres, fortunately, are far more attractive, with a number of well-kept gardens, public spaces with planted trees and carefully developed and maintained sporting facilities.
But this story focuses on the drive between Hedland and South Hedland.
Bindi, my colleague, and I were were working with Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) in its development phase and taking the trip to South Hedland from Hedland for the umpteenth time that week. As we headed south one morning towards the salt mountain just before bridge over the BHP railway line, it was already nearing 35 degrees at was only nine o’clock. As we travelled, we spoke about the days work we had, trying to get our heads around questions we needed to ask.
After some thought, I asked Bindi to extrapolate on an answer she had given a minute or so before, and found she was staring vacantly to her left through the care window.
“A penny for your thoughts,” I offered.
She pointed at the view across the marshlands, mud, flatness, heat haze, railway lines and industrial sludge and told me, “Dave when telegraph poles actually enhance the scenery, Houston, do we have a problem!”