Australian ghost town may be reborn as eco-tourism attraction

This ghost town could get a shot at reincarnation.

For 70 years, the historic birthplace of Australia’s pearling industry has sat abandoned in a remote northwest corner of the country’s sprawling, isolated western state. Today, Cossack is home only to a single caretaker, who maintains the historic structures — including a post office, customs house, police barracks and courthouse that still line its now-deserted streets — and entertains the odd straggler coming by to take a look at the original location of one of the continent’s darkest trades.

That may soon change, though, as Cossack’s owner, the government of Western Australia, has put out a call to investors interested in acquiring the townsite with an intent to “activate and revitalize” the area, a spokesperson told CNN, while minding its heritage and conservation-related protections. The deadline to submit a registration of interest application is Nov. 20 at 2 p.m.

“Established as the first port of the northwest of Australia, the townsite played a central role in the state’s first pearling industry and today offers a central base for adventurers to explore the stunning Pilbara landscape, Aboriginal history and rock art and various recreational activities,” the call for registrations reads.

State tourism groups are eager to see the area better utilized.

“Outside that three weeks of the [Cossack Art Awards] festival, Cossack is pretty much abandoned, so it’d be great to see the town developed in a sustainable way so it can be vibrant all year round,” Natasha Mahar, WA’s North West Tourism Board CEO, told CNN, referring to the town’s 28-year-old annual art exhibition. “When you walk around this empty place and see all its beautiful old buildings you feel drawn to understand its history, why it was abandoned.”

Mahar said the town would be a prime site for an eco-resort or a monument to the pearling industry’s horrifying abuse of Australia’s Indigenous people.

“Next time you gaze in wonder at the beauty of a Western Australian pearl, spare a thought for the Aboriginal people who suffered so appallingly during the industry’s darkest days,” a Cossack plaque reads in remembrance of the native people enslaved and made to dive for pearls.