Mackerel Islands

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Onslow and Ashburton history

449px-Onslow_Western_Australia_1smallOne of the first recorded Stations was Minderoo, which was established in 1882. By 1890 all land along the river had been taken up, running mainly sheep but also a few cattle. Today it is mainly cattle with a few sheep.ln early settlement days good quality pearls were found in Exmouth gulf and the town became homeport to a fleet of pearling luggers.

These luggers stayed in local waters until World War II when most were commandeered by the armed forces or destroyed. 

The post war period saw pearling start again, but in a small way, and the last lugger was sold in 1965. Today pearling is a small industry with the shells farmed for blister and culture pearls. By 1925, the port facilities at the mouth of the Ashburton were affected by the silting up of the river, causing more and more problems with the loading and unloading of visiting ships. Surveys proved that there was deep water at Beadon Point and so the town was moved some eighteen kilometres to the east. 

A jetty, three-quarters of a kilometre in length was constructed to cater for State Ships and Blue Funnel Line, which plied to Singapore. These ships brought nearly all provisions, building equipment, timber and general merchandise. Exports included wool, pearl shell and minerals. The jetty was badly damaged during a cyclone in 1934 and was rebuilt.

The jetty continued to serve Onslow until March 1961 when another cyclone demolished more than 300 metres. State ships were thus prevented from calling at the jetty and were forced to anchor offshore where they loaded and unloaded.

In 1972, a landing was established in Beadon Creek and the jetty fell into disrepair, then to be destroyed in an army explosive exercise in 1982. Onslow was actively involved in World War II with the Navy refuelling at the jetty, and the town becoming the furthest town south to be bombed by the Japanese. On the night of May 15th 1943 a solo plane dropped three bombs on the airstrip with no casualties or damage to aircraft. The Royal Navy used Onslow as its base between 1952 and 1956 to conduct tests on the nearby Monte Bello Islands, culminating in an atomic bomb explosion. 

Onslow today

Onslow has a population of around 900 depending on the time of year. During summer the weather is extremely hot, however from April to September it is particularly beautiful, making it perfect for the holiday maker.Tourist attractions include the Goods Shed Museum in Second Avenue. There is a large display of memorabilia from the town and surrounding areas. 

Sunrise and Sunset Beach surround Onslow, visit the lookouts and take in the view. The ruins of Old Onslow town site, cemetery and the remains of the jetty that served the sailing vessels of early this century are well worth a visit, as is the Ashburton River.

Also a must see is the Onslow War Memorial erected in 2008 depicting the Diggers badge minus the bayonet points. It has been designed for the sun to rise through the centre each and every Anzac Day.

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