The Pearl – The Incredible Journey

This is Cable Beach with stunning
turquoise waters and 22 kilometres of pristine white-sand. It’s renowned as one
of the most beautiful beaches in the world, it was named to commemorate the
undersea Telegraph cable that came ashore here in 1889 linking Australia to
Java and the rest of the world. Many people are surprised to discover that
Australia is home to the world’s largest camel herd, there are about 1 million
camels roaming wild in the outback, I’m on my way to the heart of Broome, often
referred to as the pearl of Northwest Australia. It’s an exotic pearling town
at the Western gateway to the Kimberley region of Western Australia. It’s got a
history and culture as rich and vibrant as its landscape, here you can ride a
camel along Cable Beach shop for pearls in Chinatown, see dinosaur footprints and
bird watch in Roebuck Bay. For centuries people of many nationalities have been
lured here by the promise of finding their fortune, there’s treasure to be
found here in Broome, so join me as we search for it, because finding this
treasure could change your life forever. Broome is situated on the land of the
Yawuru people who’ve inhabited this region for centuries, this country has an
extraordinary history and the Yawuru people continue to protect it and ensure
that the cultural stories and the well-being of the country and all the
life it supports are well maintained. The Yawuru people have always had a close
connection to their land and the ocean, which is expressed in their sixth season
yearly cycle, this mosaic design tells the story of natural divisions of the
year through flora and fauna typical to each season; flowering, fruiting and bush
tucker plants demonstrate the seasonal changes. The town’s more recent history
is a blend of colourful and often violent tales now mixed with a modern
sophistication, nowhere is this more exuberantly expressed than in Broome’s old
Chinatown. Once a bustling hub of pearl sheds,
billiard saloons, entertainment houses and Chinese eateries, Chinatown is now
home to some of the world’s finest pearl showrooms, along with a variety of retail
outlets. Sidewalk cafes and restaurants add a
splash of colour to the pavements. One of Broome’s fascinating attractions
that has captured the attention and the imagination of pearl divers right
through to modern tourists is the staircase to the moon,
this natural phenomenon is created by the full moon rising over the exposed
mud flats at Roebuck Bay at extremely low tide creating the beautiful optical
illusion of a staircase rising up to the moon. We’re on our way out to an isolated
rocky outcrop just off the shore where many people believe that the English
buccaneer William Dampier was the first European to actually visit Broome shores
and set foot here in 1688. He landed here at what is today called
Buccaneer Rock in Roebuck Bay and buried a pirate treasure chest here just over
300 years ago, the locals say you can see his ghost here at night searching for
his lost treasure with a lantern, or maybe you won’t and for a number of good
reasons, one of which is that Dampier never actually landed at Roebuck Bay at
all, in fact he never got to within 200 kilometres of the place, so we can forget
about finding pirate’s treasure here at Broome, even though there is this granite
monument built in the form of a sea chest with Dampier’s name and coat of
arms that perpetuates the myth. In the 1860s the first settlers arrived and
attempted to develop the area to farm sheep but drought, dingoes and sometimes
hostile Aboriginal tribesman doomed the venture and the idea was soon abandoned. Broome owes it’s beginning and continued
existence to the giant silver tip pearl oyster the Pinctada maxima,
it’s the largest pearl shell in the world and grows here in the waters of
Roebuck Bay, on which Broome is situated and along the shores of 80 mile beach.
The size of the shell was huge in comparison to any other shell available
and caused a sensation in European and American markets, the average size of the
Pinctada maxima shell was 10 to 20 centimetres across and the nacre of the
shell had a shimmering interior that also set it apart from the rest. At this
time many objects, but particularly buttons, were made from mother-of-pearl
and so it was considered a valuable commodity,
Aborigines had been harvesting and trading these huge pearl shells for
centuries, but in 1861 Europeans discovered the new species for the first
time, this was the defining year in Broome’s history. Workers from Japan, Malaysia,
Singapore and Timor soon flooded into the area, lured here by the promise of
finding their fortunes. Thanks to cheap labour, or in the early
years slave labor, the new pearling industry soon boomed, within a few years
Broome was supplying 80% of the world’s mother-of-pearl and so Broome’s history is
inextricably linked to pearls and the associated pearling industry. This is the
treasure that attracted people to Broome and the way they reached this sea
treasure was aboard these pearl boats called luggers. These working vessels were
originally made of wood and were nine to ten meters in length, they were built
down south in Fremantle and were specifically designed for the pearling
industry, each was equipped with a manual air pump
and five lengths of divers air hose. They were the workhorses of the sea and
were used to harvest mother-of-pearl in these waters for over 100 years, in the
early 1900’s there were over 400 of these pearl luggers working the waters
off Broome. In the early days of pearl diving Aboriginal men and women were
black birded, coerced, into the industry. They were enslaved and forced aboard the
Pearl boats and made to dive naked with little or no equipment, pregnant
indigenous girls were preferred as they were believed to have a superior lung
capacity, they worked under atrocious conditions and many lost their lives. This bronze statue in Pioneer Park
poignantly commemorates the indigenous female divers who, having become pregnant
on the Pearl luggers, were still forced to dive. It depicts a female diver
gasping for air as she proffers up a pearl shell, a small belly protruding
above the waves. It’s a reminder of the contribution these women made to the
pearling industry and also of the mistreatment and exploitation of the
indigenous people. When the shallower waters around Broome had been emptied of
pearl shells, it became necessary to move further out to deeper water, now the only
way to reach the precious shells was to use diving suits and massive helmets, the
new equipment and increased financial rewards attracted people from many
countries to Broome, the Japanese divers were considered the best and were
especially valued for their experience, they were specialist divers and soon
became an indispensable part of the industry.
However, harvesting the treasure from the pearl beds of the ocean did not come
cheaply, it was extremely dangerous work, the hundreds of headstones in Broome’s
Japanese cemetery provide clear evidence of the risks that came with pearl diving,
the bends, drowning, sharks and cyclones ended the dreams of many divers. Four
devastating tropical cyclones hit the area between 1908 and 1935, over 100
boats and 300 people were lost during that time, another 145 deaths occurred
due to the bends, when divers spent too long at depth and then ascended to the
surface too quickly. This large stone obelisk honours the
Japanese divers who lost their lives in the massive cyclones, in all, 919 Japanese
pearl divers are buried in this Cemetery, a testimony to the extreme dangers of
their profession. World War II brought disaster to Broome and the pearl
industry. In fact, pearling virtually stopped, Japanese divers discreetly went
home or interned, and then Broome was attacked and bombed by Japanese aircraft,
destroying many of the remaining pearl boats. After the war the pearling industry
recovered to some degree, but the hay days were certainly over and then
disaster struck again in the 1950s, a crucial new invention hit the market, yes
the plastic button, pearl shell became worthless overnight. The plastic button sealed the fate of
the mother-of-pearl industry, but not the fate of Broome. The development of
cultured pearls was perfected by the Japanese and the pearling industry was
secured but this time by pearls themselves rather than the shells.
Japanese experts were brought to Australia to try their skills on the
giant Pinctada maxima. Broome pearls are some of the
most beautiful and sought-after pearls in the world, they mature in half the
time of Japanese pearls and they’re also twice the size, within 20 years the town
was producing up to 70% of the world’s large cultured pearls, Broome continues
to be one of the world’s major suppliers for quality pearls today. I’m on my way
to Willie Creek earl farm to find out more about cultured pearls. I want to find out how technicians seed
the live oyster to produce a pearl. Willie Creek is situated about 40 kilometres
north of Broome and Cable Beach on a beautiful and protected turquoise tidal
estuary. [Man] So, in the wild a pearl is formed when a
small irritant makes its way into the oyster often we think of it as a grain
of sand but it could be a piece of algae or a pathogen or something like that and
the oysters going to secrete what we call nacre which is a defence mechanism
and it’s going to coat that irritant so effectively nullify any damage that
that irritant might cause and over time that nacre will harden and more
layers will be put on and that’s how a pearl will be formed in the wild. A
cultured pearl, it differs from a natural pearl obviously in the way that we are
deliberately trying to form the pearl, so it begins with the divers who
are going to be doing what we call drift diving and they’ll be down in the
habitat of these oysters, down about 20 metres below the surface and they’re
gonna be towed behind a boat and they’re going to be collecting wild shell. [Gary] These healthy wild oysters are then brought back to the Willie Creek farm where they
are then rested for four months to acclimatise to the new location
prior to pearl seeding. The oysters are then relaxed and pegged open to allow a
highly trained pill technician to perform the delicate seeding operation
in a sterile room on board the vessel or at the pearl farm. [Man] A technician will
plant a seed into the oyster and he’ll plant it in such a way that
hopefully that oyster won’t reject the seed, now with that seed he is
going to plant a bit of mantle tissue which is a part of the oyster that
secretes what we call nacre and nacre is effectively liquid pearl and hopefully
that nacre is going to form the pearl sac around the seed and over two
years it’s going to produce a cultured pearl. [Gary] The shell is then safely housed
within a pearl panel and placed on the ocean floor to undergo a complex turning
process which encourages the development of a round pearl. Every oyster is pulled
up and cleaned once a month using a high-pressure cleaner and a knife
to get all the barnacles and seaweed off that attaches to the shell so that the
oyster can feed freely. [Man] They’re also x-rayed to determine the
size of the cultured pearl. They have a little seed that’s planted in there and
when they pass through the x-ray they’re looking for a little black dot that
represents that seed and that means they’ve accepted the seed and they’re
starting to produce a pearl that’ll happen 80 to 90 percent of the time.
They’ll go through, they’ll get a tick they all head out after their x-ray onto
a long line which will be their home for the next couple
of years. [Gary] The oysters are then transported to farm sites
which provide a pristine environment such as the waters off the coast north of Willie
Creek, oysters thrive in these nutrient-rich waters,
filtering over 80 litres of water an hour feeding on the microscopic plankton
and other nutrients. [Man] Their native habitat is about 20 metres below the
surface, that’s where the divers collect them from, but after they’ve gone through
their x-ray and they end up on a what we call a long line, so this would be out in
the open water, they’ll be hanging from buoys and they’ll be about 2 to 3 metres
below the surface of the water. With our big tides here, around the Kimberley, when
that tides coming in it’s gonna have the panel up here spinning around tide goes
out vice versa. so it cuts out the need for a diver to
go down and flip the panel and the tides are doing the work for us to hopefully
make a nice even coating around the around the pearl. The pearls are
extracted from the oyster and replaced or reseeded with another nucleus about
the same size of the pearl that was removed if an eight millimetre pearl is
removed it’s replaced with an eight millimetre nucleus that will hopefully
become a 10 millimetre pearl in two years time [Man] They can do this up to four
times, so an oyster can produce four pearls in its lifetime, the difference
between the first seeded pearl and a fourth seeded pearl is going to be the
size, because they’re going to put in the same seed as the pearl that they’ve just
taken out of the oyster. You want a bigger pearl but your
chances of getting a nice pearl come down per seeding, so by the time you’re at
a fourth seeded pearl you might have a you might be looking for a nice big one
but you’re probably down around a five ten percent chance of getting a really
nice pearl from fourth-seeded, whereas on a first seeded pearl you’re probably up
around 80 – 90 percent chance of getting a good pearl. [Gary] The oysters are then returned
to the sea where they are again suspended vertically, about three metres
below the surface and the monthly cleaning process continues for another
two years, this completes the second seeding cycle, after a further two years
the oyster is again x-rayed and the whole process is repeated again. As
oysters age the rate of nacre deposition declines and so oysters are generally
only seeded three times over a six-year period, two percent of all oysters are
seeded four times over an eight-year period, so most large lustrous Australian
South Sea pearls will take three seedings and six years to develop. A
pearls value is determined by the five pearl virtues: size, shape, colour, surface
and lustre [Lady] The first thing we look at is of course the size, end of the day, the bigger
the better, then the shape, then colour and the lucky last two being the lustre and
then of course the complexion marks. The shape is all personal preference, but we
do aim for that nice round pearl, it is very hard to find a round pearl
nonetheless next thing being the color of course we want that nice moonlight
white, we do also produce white and gold pearls here in Australia. nNice shiny
lustre is something great to look for and minimal blemishes. End-of-the-day,
blemishes are kind of good things, that’s like a stamp of authenticity from the oyster
just to say that it is real. [Gary] These Australian South Sea pearls are the most
highly prized of all pearls and are regarded as the finest, largest and most
beautiful pearls in all the world. The appeal and attraction of these
magnificent Australian South Sea pearls is nothing new, pearls are the world’s
oldest gem, for thousands of years pearls have been revered as one of the world’s
most beautiful and magical gems, with its warm inner glow and shimmering iridescence,
pearls have been one of the most highly prized and sought-after gems and you can
understand why, when you look at this magnificent specimen, this is a priceless
pearl it’s the world’s largest fine quality pearl, the pride of Broome, it was
grown at Signet bay pearl farm not far from Broome in 2006 it measures twenty
two point two four millimetres in diameter, 70 millimeter in circumference
and weighs 15.75 grams. Holding this precious and priceless
pearl reminds me of a wonderful short story that Jesus told, it’s found in
Matthew chapter 13 verses 45 and 46 “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value he went away and sold
everything he had and bought it.” Here Jesus tells us about a pearl merchant
who goes searching for fine pearls, he finds a very special one, a pearl of
immense value, he’s so taken by this pearl that he must have it and so sells
everything he owns in order to buy it. This one pearl, this one thing is worth
everything, nothing else compares, nothing else matters, he must have it and so the
pearl merchant sells everything he owns in order to get that one pearl,
so what does this story, this parable, mean? Well a parable is an illustration, a
story designed to teach a lesson, a parable is an earthly story with a
spiritual truth, so what truth is Jesus sharing with us through this parable?
What does it mean? Well the pearl represents Jesus, he’s the
pearl of great price, it’s worth giving up everything in order to have Jesus, you
and I are the pearl merchants, we go searching for the pearl of great price,
Jesus when we find him it’s worth giving up everything in order to have Jesus. But there’s another way of looking at
this parable, instead of thinking of the pearl merchant as you, think of him as
God, so now the roles have been reversed, instead of you being the pearl merchant,
think of God going through the marketplace looking for the pearl of
great price, now the story is different, now the pearl of great value is you, you
are worth everything to God, God values you so much that he was willing to
sell everything, give up everything, in order to have you and to be with you and
what does God sell in order to make his purchase? Well the better question is who?
Who did God give in order to make his purchase?
Jesus. Jesus His only Son it cost God everything to make you his. God sees you
as the pearl of great value, worth even the life and suffering of Jesus, his own
son, in telling this beautiful story about the pearl of great value, Jesus
wants you to know that there is nothing more precious to God than you, to God you
are the one thing worth everything, you are the pearl of great value, if you
would like to thank God for his great and unconditional love for you why not
do that right now as we pray? Dear Heavenly Father, today we have
considered the value of pearls but more importantly we have been reminded of
your great and unconditional love for us. May we always remember just how much you
love us and that you accept us just as we are and so Lord we come to you today
to accept Jesus and your great love for us. Please guide us now as we follow in
the footsteps of Jesus and prepare for his soon return, we ask this in Jesus
name. Amen. The story of Broome and the history of
the pearling industry certainly is fascinating and it’s been a privilege to
learn about pearls and to actually hold a priceless pearl, but perhaps more
importantly, it’s reassuring to know that we are of immense value to God, that we
are worth everything to God, it’s such good news to know that, to God, we are the
pearl of great value. If you’d like to know more about God’s great love for you
and his plans for you and our planet then I’d like to tell you about the free
gift we have, it’s an inspiring booklet called: The One and Only. This book shares
the secret of finding true happiness in our lives and it shares the good news of
God’s great love for us, this book is our gift to you and is absolutely free, there
is no cost or obligation whatsoever, here’s the information you need. Phone us now on 0481 315 101
or text us on 0491 222 999 Or visit our website: the
to request today’s free offer. So don’t delay contact us right now. If you’ve
enjoyed today’s journey be sure to join us again next week when we will share
another of life’s journeys together and experience another new and
thought-provoking perspective on the peace, insight, understanding and hope
that only the Bible can give us. The Incredible Journey truly is television
that changes lives. Until next week remember the ultimate destination of
life’s journey, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth and God will wipe away
every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying,
there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away”.

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