The Last Pearling Lugger
Mark Dodd arrived in Broome in 1978 as a 20-year-old looking for adventure, after working his way across northern Australia. There he fell in with the crew of the fabled DMcD, one of the last of the old wooden pearling luggers that still worked the Kimberley coast diving for pearl shell. He came aboard as a deckhand before graduating to become one of the pearl shell divers. He dived for four seasons, living a life on the luggers and in the pubs and exotic alleys of Broome that would have been recognisable to pearl divers for 100 years before, but has now sadly disappeared forever. This story encompasses it all: the cramped camaraderie of life on a small wooden lugger, what it is like to be 40 metres down to the sea floor at the end of precarious length of air hose, as you search for shell whilst keeping one eye out for tiger sharks. His book is both an adventure and a wonderfully nostalgic account of an industry and a way of life that has gone forever.
Mark Dodd grew up in Queensland and Victoria. After dropping out of art school he tried his hand at a variety of jobs before a trek through the top end brought him to Broome and to pearl diving. After leaving Broome, Mark worked as a journalist – notably in East Timor during its violent transition to independence. He is currently working for The Australian, and lives in Canberra, Australia.