Arnie: Pearls and Luggers in the Torres Strait

by Arnie Duffield & Lee Duffield



Book Details

Language : English
Publication Date : 6/7/2021

Format : Softcover
Dimensions : 6x9
Page Count : 130
ISBN : 9781664105218
Format : Hardcover
Dimensions : 6x9
Page Count : 130
ISBN : 9781664105225
Format : E-Book
Dimensions : N/A
Page Count : 130
ISBN : 9781664105201

About the Book

This is the story of Arnie Duffield, who arrived at Thursday Island, in Torres Strait, the Northern tip of Australia, aged ten, in 1936 - beginning a life-time of adventure. His father worked on the famous sailing luggers, diving boats that harvested pearl shells and pearls for over 100 years up to 1980. Arnie with his father and brother, with their own hands would build their own flotilla of luggers, to operate as a family company over eventful decades: seeing the Great Depression, war and the immediate threat of invasion, a post-war boom in the region, the loss of divers and constant striving for safety at sea, failures of an industry, mounting threats to the environment. For ten years he managed an innovative project cultivating pearls for jewellery, a change from selling shells, the `mother of pearl' used for buttons and ornamentation. The tropical life provided excitement, stimulus, dangers; material for yarns, about crocodiles or sharks, drunks, bad weather at sea, a near-drowning, a mercy dash in a fast boat to save a downed pilot, and a few close shaves on bush air-strips. Arnie became a leading personality in this world, a humourist and practitioner of the wisecrack, always quick with a come-back. From childhood days observing the hectic life of the far-away little port at Thursday Island, Waiben under its traditional name; then working as a young man, repairing warships, and operating the family-owned boats, he became, he would proudly state, a master mariner and proficient ship engineer. He would revel in the island life, enjoying great freedom, getting successes and hard blows; in private life, marrying, starting a family, experiencing the stresses and joys. At 95 he is known as the “last man standing” from days when the fleet would depart under sail.

About the Author

Arnie Duffield recalls the halcyon years of the famous pearling boats, the luggers of Torres Strait, in Northern-most Australia. At age ten he journeyed from his home in Brisbane, with his parents and elder brother Jim, to the remote township on Thursday Island – Waiben in traditional language of the region. In those Depression years, his father Ernest had been offered a new, high paying job as principal marine engineer with a pearling company. With his two sons, Ernest later built his own pearling fleet of eight boats, doing most of the work themselves. Arnie remained in the ‘straits’ for 70 years. In war-time he worked preparing defences against the inevitable attacks on the islands. Evacuated to Brisbane he was apprenticed to an engineering company, repairing allied warships, becoming, he said, a “proficient ship engineer”. He prospered during boom periods in the diving industry, and in cultivation of pearls, then suffered through down-turns. His sea adventures were complemented by long land journeys across Australia’s “top end”. His later occupations were connected with tourism, offering sustainable relations with both sea and the bush. Indefatigable, Arnie would become a leading personality in the remote North, a humourist and yarn spinner. He married, raised a family, and, after the last working luggers had put to sea, moved into late retirement at Buderim in South-east Queensland. He collaborated writing this book with a younger cousin, Lee Duffield, a long-time journalist with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Lee Duffield had been the first news editor on the ABC’s youth network Triple-Jay, and its European Correspondent at the fall of the Berlin Wall. He later taught Journalism at the Queensland University of Technology, writing articles and books across many subjects, including communications issues in the South Pacific islands – and would also spend much time on boats.