The BUCCANEER ARCHIPELAGO
The Buccaneer Archipelago is a group of isolated islands off the coast of Western Australia northwest of the town of Derby in the Kimberley region. The islands and coastline were visited in 1697 by William Dampier who recorded in his journal that the inhabitants that they found there were "the miserablest people in the world".
It is a harsh and dangerous environment of poisonous animals and prickling vegetation, sandflies, huge 12m ocean tides, whirlpools and treacherous currents. The precambrian rocks are among the oldest on earth that oceans have never submerged, a hard vitrous sandsone with a dusting of red alluvium. Nature's struggle for survival is fierce.
This coast has the second highest tides in the world and this first picture is of the rapid tidal flow around the numerous small islands.
For three months I stayed at the Cone Bay campsite of the hermit, the late Xenex, collecting specimen seashells, fishing and exploring the accessible landscape by foot and inflatable rubber rowboat. He and I had boated up together in a 5m aluminium dinghi, loaded with supplies to within several centimetres of the gunwales, a two day journey during which the outboard motor suffered a breakdown and with minimal steerage-way we only just managed to reach the campsite. Several other people were then living there. Fortunately we had brought plenty of supplies as it was two months before a passing fisherman took Xenex back to arrange for the needed spare part, and a further month before our return journey to Derby was possible.
Second picture is looking into Cone Bay from the cliffs near Xenex campsite. The black band above the waterline is the tidal zone, grey mud on oyster covered rocks. One species of less common rock oyster, the mud oyster, was flat and oviod, and up to 18cm in length. Four or five were sufficient for a complete meal.
For another year I remained in the Kimberley, later taking a job as townsite gardener a little further north in the Buccaneer Archipelago on Koolan Island, where I worked for nine months. When I finally returned to civilization, nearly all of my seashells were purchased by a dealer at an excellent price for immediate export to Europe.
The camp as it then was.
The photographs on this website were taken by the kayaker Terry Bolland on his intrepid journeys along this coast. More photos of this extraordinary coastline may be found on his blog: