Fri 2 Oct 2015


WA Maritime Museum

Dr Steve Mullins

Associate Professor, School of Education and the Arts, Central Queensland University

Presented in association with Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University

This lecture examines pearling in northern Australia through the lens of the floating stations, the schooner-based lugger fleets that scoured the pearling grounds between 1886 and 1915 and transformed the industry.

Between the mid-1880s and World War One, Australian pearling was shaped by the floating station system, a way of working in which schooners of 100 tons or more served as mother ships for fleets of luggers from which full-dress helmet divers worked in deep water. This highly capitalised system offered producers significant advantages, not the least of which was mobility. It connected Australia’s two widely separated original arcs of pearling activity, the Torres Strait and the North West, and exerted a transforming influence on the other mother-of-pearl producing regions of the Indian Ocean. The system proved so efficient it was blamed for exhausting shelling grounds wherever it went and governments moved to outlaw it, although this response was motivated as much by political ideology as by concerns about resource depletion.

Join Dr Steve Mullins as he examines pearling through the lens of the floating station, which offers a wide-angle view from which to consider the historical development of this key industry in northern Australia.

This lecture is part of the Batavia Lecture series for 2015.

Cost: $12 per person. Includes light refreshments after the lecture.

Bookings: Essential call 1300 134 081

Please RSVP by 5.00pm, Wednesday 20 September.

Where: NWS Theatre


Online Booking

Ariel and Alice in the Aru Islands (c.1909)

Ariel and Alice in the Aru Islands (c.1909)

From the collection of James Milne Southern (courtesy of Jill Brown)

Getting Here


Victoria Quay Road,
Western Australia,


1300 134 081

By Train
The WA Maritime Museum is located within walking distance of Fremantle Station visit the Transperth website for timetables.

By Bus
The WA Maritime Museum is serviced by the free Fremantle Cat Service, at Red stop 1. Visit the Transperth website for timetables and details.

By Car
Paid parking is available in the Wilsons car park at the WA Maritime Museum, Victoria Quay Road.

By Ferry
Captain Cook Cruises offer a range of ferry services from Perth which stop nearby at B-Shed ferry terminal.