located on the mouth of the Harding River near Roebourne. It was originally
known as Tien Tsin Harbour which was first established in 1863. The
current name was declared in 1872 after
visit earlier that year aboard
The first name originated from one of
ships which was used to deliver supplies to miners and settlers.
A causeway was
constructed between this coastal port and the larger inland town of Roebourne
in 1870 but flooding regularly destroyed large sections of it. By 1887 it
had been turned into a tramway with a horse drawn tram.
It was the first port in the north west and as such earned much of it's
early living from the pearling industry that first began in 1864. The old town once boasted a Chinese
bakery, two Chinese stores, a Japanese store, Singhalese tailor and even a
Turkish bath house.
Although the remaining buildings suggest a rather well established town an
early visitor described it in the following way:
'With the exception of three good-sized buildings, all of the inevitable
galvanised'iron types, and a cluster of disreputable shanties made chiefly
of empty beer-cases and flattened kerosene cans, I saw nothing to warrant
the name of a town. 'Heavens!' said I to myself, 'this surely can't be
Ships called in at Cossack to deliver supplies for the stations and the
emerging town of Roebourne. They returned south with wool, pearl shell and
other commodities as well as passengers heading back to 'civilisation' for a
holiday or to conduct business.
During cyclone season these trips were hazardous indeed but when the ship
Emma vanished during calm weather on its way back to
families in the north west lost loved ones or friends. The lost cargo also
brought financial hardship to many but the loss of life touched most the
people living in the Pilbara.
The reason for the sinking and the whereabouts of the wreck remained a
mystery for 10 years but eventually it was discovered lying on a reef not
far from Point Cloates.
The loss of everyone on board puzzled people as the ship had not gone down
in rough weather and it would have been possible for survivors to swim to
shore. It was likely that the ship struck the reef at night and apart from
drowning, any survivors would have had to face numerous tiger sharks that
are most active at night.
There was even information that those who had reached the shore were
attacked, killed and eaten by a tribe of cannibalistic Aborigines that were
known to live on the North West Cape. There may have been some truth in this
as the Cape remains to this day a place of evil to the Aborigines and few
tried to have a new port established at Port Robinson
) and he surveyed a town site at
(named in honour of the Governor Sir
William Cleaver Francis Robinson). This was
rejected by the residents of Cossack who had already established themselves
and even when Cossack was eventually abandoned, the new site was never taken
up. Today Cleaverville is a town (of sorts) for 4 months of the year when
visitors from the south camp there to avoid the rigours of the southern
In 1913 a
lazaret (leprosarium) was established on the opposite bank of the Harding
River and it remained in operation until 1931 when it was transferred to
The port began to silt up in the early 1900s, many buildings including the
Weld Hotel, were demolished after World War Two and it was abandoned in the
1950s. Reconstruction began in 1979 (the project was completed in 1991) and today it is a historic tourist
Of all the buildings that remain it is the court house that really stands
out. This is the image you will see in most tourist publications. It was
constructed for the sum of 2058 pounds and was designed by
George T. Poole.
Today it houses a small collection of artefacts and it is one of the most
interesting buildings in the Pilbara.
Cossack has only a few of the original buildings (made of local bluestone)
left, however, the setting on the river and nearby Settler's Beach make the
trip a few kilometres in from highway one worth while. There are few
facilities at Cossack except for a backpacker's hostel and caf' Fishing and
crabbing from the old wharf can produce bream, catfish, mangrove jack and
Just off the coast at Cossack is
named after Captain J.T.
Jarman of the barque Tien Tsin.
The lighthouse on the island was pre-fabricated in Birmingham (England) and
was shipped to the Island via Fremantle.
The first lighthouse keeper (S. Efford) was appointed in 1888 and the ruins
of the keepers quarters can still be seen on the island.
The light operated until May 1985 when it fell into disrepair. A restoration
project was begun in 2003 and completed in 2005. It is hoped that a similar
project will be undertaken to restore the keepers quarters.
and true: The ship comes Inn
A cyclone in
1866 drove the ship New Perseverance high up on to the land. An enterprising
local (Augustus Seubert) decided not to let the hull go to waste and cut
holes in the side and opened The Ship's Inn, the first pub in town.