From both what the little the ship had to say and Wikipedia, I have gleaned the following: This is an industrial port town whose population seems to be stable around 15000. In a prior existence, it was the both the gateway to the Marble Bar gold area (and the rail terminus for that particular Railway). It is reported to be the largest tonnage port in Australia. Well, iron ore is heavy. Looking out the window this morning at 0530, I saw more than huge ore-carriers in a ragged line just floating and waiting their turn for loading. Red hulls with black above and a white low castle, they ride low on the water like a flock of birds. Since we are not due to dock till 0900…. As a deep anchor harbor, we don’t have to deal with tenders. The original harbor was protected by a sandbar which has long since been dredged away. Most of the development actually happened in the 1960s with the expansion of the iron mining (meaning able to handle 250,000 ton ships.
There was also an immigration detention center established in 1991 and operated first by the government and then privatized till 2004. It was convenient for the arrival of boat people. (perhaps the numbers arriving here dropped because there was a center?) Anyway the center was turned into housing for the expanded mining operation. The climate is described as warm to hot. Most people with brains who are visiting stay out of the summer months (Nov temps 21-> ~37*C*C).
There are salt hills between Port Hedland and South Hedland. Suppose I should go back and finish Kurlansky’s Salt to see if he has a reference. (answer – no, at least not that I found with a search on my KindleApp). Of course, I had not been expecting to see a huge pile of salt out in the open at the port. We arrived early and spent over 30 minutes inching into the pier. Unlike all the cruise ship terminals, there were no rubber bumpers, old tires or anything to protect the side of the ship from the steel pilings. I guess that it doesn’t matter if the sides of the ore haulers get bruised.