Remarkable for its meticulous archival research and moving life stories, the Pearl Frontier offers a new way of imagining Australian historical connections with Indonesia. This compelling history of maritime mobility demonstrates how, in the colonial quest for the valuable pearl-shell, Australians came to rely on the skill and labor of Indonesian islanders, drawing them into a pearling trade network. From the 1860s onwards the pearl-shell industry developed alongside British colonial conquests across Australia’s northern coast and prompted the Dutch to consolidate their hold over the Netherlands East Indies. Tales and pirates and priceless pearls inspired the maritime equivalent of a gold rush on the peal frontier. Traders, entrepreneurs and willing workers came from across the globe to take part. This history-from-below traces the changing nature of labor relations on the frontier zone, particularly the strict regime of indentured labor migration that was to last for almost a century before giving way to international criticism in the era of decolonization.