Cossack today is a quiet little settlement that offers budget backpacker accommodation and has a cafe for visitors to purchase refreshments.
Most of the major surviving buildings have been refurbished and the surrounds on the Harding River are very attractive.
Sightseeing and fishing are the main reasons people visit the historic settlement and it is possible to launch boats next to the old wharf.
The area is best visited in the cooler months between June and August.
Cossack is 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 Governor Weld's
visit earlier that year aboard HMS Cossack.
The first name originated from one of Walter Padbury's ships that
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 Cossack!'
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 Fremantle, many
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
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 venture there.
Alexander Forrest tried to have a new port established at
Port Robinson (behind Dixon Island) and he surveyed a town site at Cleaverville (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 winter.
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 Darwin.
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 development.
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 artifacts 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 mud crabs.
Just off the coast at Cossack is Jarman Island 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.
TALL TALES 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.
Settler's Beach, Harding River, Jarman Island, Historic settlement, Old graves, fishing, boating, Museum.
BUILDINGS OF NOTE
All the buildings are historically significant.
State : North West Coastal
Federal : Durack
Postcode : 6720
Local Government : City of Karratha
Click on a thumbnail to see full sized picture.