Derby, a very different kind of town
Derby was the first town established in the West Kimberley and is an important hub because of it’s port and the notorious Gibb River Road, which gives access to all the enormous cattle stations across the top – allowing them to get their cattle to abattoirs and markets. It has a permanent population of 4000 but in the dry tourist season add a couple of thousand to that. There are many businesses in town up for sale, including the historic Spinifex Hotel (The Spini).
The Spinifex is the oldest Hotel in Derby and at the Port end of town.
It has seen better days and was up for auction when we were there.
I suspect that it might be replaced by units – there are a lot of units being build in this section of town.
The mineral riches of the area provide a lot of employment at times but also some instability. When BHP shut their large iron ore mining operation nearby the town went into decline for a decade.
First Sight of the West Coast
All lit up for the night shift, the shifts at the export facility at the end of a wharf more than a km. long depend on the high tides
The usefulness of Derby as a Port is affected by its having the largest tidal surge in Australia. The Jetty, rebuilt recently travels over more than a kilometer of mudflats to a new export facility for Zinc concentrate. The shallow King Sound means that ore carriers anchor 20 km. off the coast and are serviced by barges that can only be filled during a five-hour window of high tide. Even the barges have to be moored 6 km offshore at high tide.
At high tide the Barge heads to the ramp to be filled from containers,
bought in by road trains then go the 20 km. off shore to be loaded onto Asia bound ore carriers.
The strength of the tidal surges meeting the sediment-laden Fitzroy River means that the ocean is permanently the colour of Milk chocolate. That, and the presence of very large and hungry Estuarine crocodiles (salties) means that there is no swimming all year round in the Derby ocean, despite the heat and humidity.
The sun sets over the ocean behind the export facility at Derby.
More than a km. off shore and the mud is still solid enough to driver over. It only gets to be wet mud in heavy rain and during kind tide events