Called after the British Secretary of State, Lord Carnarvon, the little town started out as the supply centre of a thriving wool industry. When the early settlers began to succeed at wool production, Afghan camel teamsters were attracted to the area. Huge carts with wool bales piled high were pulled by teams of camels and would bring the wool from outlying stations to Carnarvon to be loaded onto ships. That's why the front street is so wide, the camels had to be able to turn around.
The Afghans came from many countires including Egypt, Turkey, India, Pakistan and Iran but were known as Afghans or Ghans. They were single when they came to Australia and often married Aboriginal women. One man who is of Afghan, Aboriginal and Irish heritage is proud of his ancestry and calls himself a 'liquorice allsort'. During the 1920's, when the motor car arrived the camels and the camellers virtually disappeared overnight. No longer needed, hundreds of these hard working men and animals were abandoned and forgotten.
It's estimated there are over one million feral camels wandering around central and western Australia and they have become a dangerous pest, damaging farms, Aboriginal communities and the environment as they search for water. Now our government has to figure out how to keep their numbers down. A cull seems the most logical solution but the deeply Christian (usually Catholic) faith of many Aboriginal people in Central Australia is proving to be a stumbling block. For them, the camel is a religious icon.
Today, Carnarvon has a population of about 9,000 and is known as the 'fruit bowl of Western Australia'. The main industries include fishing (prawn, scallops, crabs and fish) pastoral (sheep, cattle and goats) agriculture (mainly bananas and tomatoes) salt mining at Lake MacLeod and tourism.
The annual average rainfull is 233mm (9 inches) and falls betwen May and July. There have been several cyclones since 1960, the last one recorded was Steve in 2000.