Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Archive for the ‘Norfolk Island 2018’ Category

Last thoughts, Norfolk Island, June 29th 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 29, 2018

Well, we’re off home tomorrow and although I’m looking forward to being home with my friends and my dog and my own house and garden, I’m not looking forward to the fog, which is not actually fog at all but rather particulate pollution caused by stupid people burning trendy log fires when there’s no wind to blow the pollution away.  It means I will have to stay indoors until we get a blast of wind from the Antarctic to clear the air.

So that’s been a reminder to appreciate the beautiful clean air here on Norfolk Island.   This little Sacred Kingfisher on our verandah likes it here too.

Sacred kingfisher

We had a quiet couple of days for the last of the week.  We loafed about with books yesterday, venturing out only for the fabled Fish Fry at dusk which turned out to be a very much over-priced disappointment.  It might be nice in warmer weather, and it might be nice if they had a greater variety of fish, but trumpeter and king fish in a limp lukewarm batter self-served with some indifferent salads and a woeful musical accompaniment is not worth $136 for two.

But it was yesterday that I noticed something special about the furniture and fittings here at the Jacaranda Cottages.  These cottages are really, really nice, with a spacious sitting room and a well-equipped kitchen; a very comfortable king sized bed with a spa in the ensuite; and a beautiful view over the valley from the deck where we had breakfast most mornings.  And although there are five cottages on the site, they are very private, especially if you are on the end of the row as we are.  But what I hadn’t realised at first, is that all the furniture is handmade out of Norfolk Island Pine on the island by Dave Pitcher’s Joinery, and it’s beautiful.

We had dinner on our last night at Hilli’s Restaurant again.  We haven’t been to all the restaurants on the island, but we’d had such a good meal on our first night, that we wanted to go back there again.  They don’t have a huge menu or wine list, but everything they do is well done and well-presented and the staff are friendly and efficient.

So all up, a beaut holiday and we’re glad we came!

Thanks to Vanessa and Bookie for hosting us at Jacaranda Cottages, we would recommend this accommodation to anyone looking for a lovely quiet place to stay.

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Norfolk Island Cemetery, June 29th 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 29, 2018

One of the most scenic cemeteries in Australia

On our last day we took a tour of the Norfolk Island cemetery.

Actually there are four other known burial sites, and there are unknown sites where the Polynesians buried their dead, but this is the one that became the official cemetery and is still in use today.

Entrance to the 2nd settlement section

We started off by looking at the only two graves that are definitely known to have a verified history.  (Apparently some gravestones were restored at some time in the past but at least some of them are known to have inaccurate information as to the person or the dates).

Altar grave of Sarah Gregory

First up was Sarah Gregory’s altar stone.  She died aged 67 in 1801 after having been transported here for stealing hogs, joining her husband who was transported for having possession of the same hogs.  She was a free settler by the time she died.  One of her children is historically significant too, because there are records of a man being made to run the gauntlet for having tried to sexually assault her. It’s nice to hear that she went on to have a good life, apparently unscathed by the experience.

Grave of Thomas Headington

The other grave known to have a verified history is Thomas Headington who was transported for theft. He died in 1798 aged 40.

The dead are buried with their ancestors and family

In keeping with Norfolk Islanders’ preoccupation with lineage, the dead are buried with the ancestral family.

Other graves of note are those of the convicts who mutinied against the brutality…

After the mutiny there was a particularly brutal commandant called Price who used burial in unconsecrated ground as a deterrent against insubordination. There is apparently a mass grave outside the fenced area, which has now been consecrated by the Bishop of Sydney.

Mass graves in unconsecrated ground

You can’t wander about an old cemetery like this without being chastened by the number of deaths in childbirth and child deaths, babies who lived just long enough to break their parents’ hearts.

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There were other perils too: a number of deaths by drowning, accidental shootings, and the unfortunate cook who was in the wrong place at the wrong time during the mutiny, along with a private aged only 22.

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Graves of three NZ soldiers who died in training accidents during WW2

More recently, three New Zealand soldiers were killed in a training accident during WW2.  It’s hard to imagine that, in a peaceful place so far from the battlefields.  Their parents must have thought they were safe here.

Cemeteries are always sobering places to visit, reminding us of the fragility of life…

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Captain Cook’s Memorial, Norfolk Island, June 27th 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 29, 2018

There’s not the same angst about Captain Cook on Norfolk Island.  In Australia, he claimed possession of a place that had had traditional owners for 60,000 years.  Australia went on claim, spuriously, that the place was terra nullius until well into the 20th century.  But Norfolk Island was genuinely uninhabited, having been vacated for reasons unknown by the Polynesians who had lived there centuries before, so it was not morally wrong for him to claim possession of it.

So a memorial to Captain Cook’s landing on Norfolk Island doesn’t have the same historical baggage that his landing place in Australia has.  There’s a lovely park overlooking the ocean and tourists can wander about the site, marvelling at the difficulties of landing anywhere on this unhospitable coast…

According to the signage, Cook landed yonder from the large rock you can see in this photo.  We were looking at it during high tide, but even so, it seems an inadequate sort of beach for an historic moment.  There is a patch a bit further on which seems a better spot to drop anchor, but perhaps low tide would give the lie to that.

In the same memorial park, there is a cairn recording the moment, and the views are lovely.

Apologies once again for the layout of these photos…

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Botanic Gardens on Norfolk Island, June 27th, 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 28, 2018

On Wednesday we visited the Botanic Gardens on Norfolk Island.  Entry is free, and you can buy inexpensive brochures that give you more information about the flora and fauna from the Park Ranger’s Office.

The slideshow speaks for the beauty of these magnificent gardens, the gift of Mrs Annie Eliza Moore.

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Norfolk Island Museums #4, June 26th 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 28, 2018

The Sirius Museum is the smallest of the Norfolk Island Museums, and really, there’s not much to see, but it’s the most poignant.

Sirius shipwreck signage 3 (excerpt)

‘What will become of us God only knows’… was surely what the unlettered among the ‘500 souls’ were also thinking when they found themselves stranded on Norfolk Island after HMS Sirius was wrecked on the reef.

L to R HMS Supply & HMS Sirius

At the entrance to the museum there are scale models of the HMS Sirius and its much smaller companion, the HMS Supply. While the Supply was the smallest (and fastest) ship in the fleet of 11 vessels bound for Botany Bay to establish a penal colony there, the Sirius was the flagship. Armed with 14 cannon, 6 carronades and 8 swivel guns, its length on deck was 118 ft (almost 36 m) and it had a tonnage of 512 tons. Almost as soon as he arrived at Port Jackson in January, Governor Arthur Phillip despatched the Sirius to take control of Norfolk Island and set it up for commercial development of its timber and flax. After the other ships in the fleet returned to England, the Sirius was to become the Sydney settlement’s insurance against starvation and their only link to the rest of the world.

replica of HMS Sirius

The Norfolk Island Pine turned out to be too soft for masts and spars, and the flax was the wrong species for cordage and sailcloth, but the small settlement at Kingston became an essential source of food supplies for the Sydney settlement because the soil and climate were more benign. The original 15 convicts and seven free men under the leadership of Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King were soon supplemented by more convicts and soldiers to reduce pressure on provisions for the colony at Sydney. So though the Sirius was actually en route to China to buy some much needed tools and other hardware and was only intending to drop off more convicts and personnel en route, the fatal voyage was not the only one between the two settlements.

The Supply landed first and unloaded, moving out of the way so that the Sirius could dock. But when the weather worsened, it was the more nimble Supply that could manoeuvre to safety, while the Sirius came to grief on the reef before unloading.


HMS Sirius anchor

Disastrous as it was, the loss of the Sirius could have been worse. Signage tells of the ingenious methods used over two days to winch those on board to safety and to salvage provisions and weaponry. Signage also relates the escapade of convicts Dring and Branagan who discovered the grog supply on board, got drunk, and set fire to the ship. Another convict unnamed in the signage swam out, put out the fire and returned the two convicts to justice – which could easily have been the gallows but they were spared that (though not severe punishment).

The ship finally broke up two years after wrecking.

ship’s bow

What the signage doesn’t explain (or if it did, I missed it), is what the Supply was doing after it had manoeuvred to safety on the day of the disaster. I think she must have continued on to Batavia where she was bound and then returned to Sydney with fresh supplies without calling in at Norfolk Island. (But why didn’t she hang about a bit, to be sure that Sirius survived the hazardous landing on that fateful day? I bet their respective captains had a ‘bit of a tense chat’ when they were reunited, because Hunter and the crew were marooned on Norfolk for eleven months before the Supply eventually returned. In the interim martial law had been declared and it was in this period that the ‘Providence Petrel’ was almost hunted to extinction in an effort to feed the stranded population. It was not until the following March that King and 22 of the crew returned to Sydney on the Supply and only then did Governor Phillip find out about the disaster.

What must it have felt like, each time their sole remaining ship the Supply set sail out harbour on Norfolk and at Sydney? Everyone must have been well aware that if disaster befell her too, then they were wholly alone until a new ship arrived from England…

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Norfolk Museums #3, June 26th 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 28, 2018

Pier store museum

The tourist brochure about the Pier Store Museum has this to say:

The legendary mutiny on board the Bounty has been portrayed in no less than five Hollywood movies, but the true story is to be found here along with major Bounty artefacts.  Life on Pitcairn Island and the resettlement to Norfolk in 1856 are also told.  Today’s rich local culture, including Norf’k language, is revealed in this museum.

Which is to say that it’s a bit of a mish-mash, neither chronologically nor thematically coherent. Still, there’s some interesting stuff.

Journey of the longboat

There’s a scale model of the Bounty and its cannon, and a wonderful painting of the Journey of the Longboat, showing the fragility of the craft into which Bligh and his supporters were despatched by the mutineers.  How he ever got them safely to land (with just a sextant hurled to him from the ship) is a miracle, and one injustice which the museum seeks to rectify is Bligh’s reputation.  Signage tells us that he was actually quite enlightened for the times, that deaths onboard were rare, and that contrary to the dramatic scenes in the movies, he didn’t keelhaul anybody.  The amateur historian in me isn’t exactly sceptical, but I’m mindful that he’s the one who got back to England with a legacy to protect, and that when the mutineers landed on Pitcairn, all the Bounty’s logs were burned along with the ship to avoid detection.

There are also some miscellaneous bits and pieces, not authentic enough for the 2nd settlement period of the House Museum, but interesting in their own right.

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In marked contrast to the prominence given to WW2 history on New Caledonia where they have a whole museum dedicated to it, there’s only a little bit of signage about Norfolk Island in WW2. Due to its strategic position in the South Pacific, the island was used as a staging post for aircraft, a base for submarine patrols and as a refuge for aircraft in distress.  Perhaps because it was manned by Kiwis and not by a huge influx of US servicemen WW2 didn’t have the same social impact on Norfolk Island as it did on New Caledonia, where the racial mix today is evidence of fraternisation to say the least.  But as at New Caledonia the infrastructure built to service military needs was a great benefit to Norfolk Island although the signage gives very little credit to this.  Indeed, the only decent roads today are the ones built back then, and the 20-bed hospital was built then too.  (I keep getting reminders that there’s no money for community infrastructure in a tax-haven.) The biggest benefit was the building of the airstrip, which linked Norfolk Island to the world by air, enabling the growth of tourism and facilitating imports of fresh produce not available on the island.


There is also, inevitably, more about governance than any tourist wants to know…

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Norfolk Island Museums #2 June 26th, 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 28, 2018

I’m catching up on touristy things that we did two days ago because we spent yesterday doing more energetic explorations and when we got back to the cottage there was a really good book that I just had to finish reading.  (See Are Not Most People.  I’m drafting this offline, so I haven’t got the URL)


No 10 Quality Row is called the House Museum, because it’s been restored and refurbished as an authentic 2nd Settlement house for one of the officers.  (The 2nd settlement lasted from 1825-1855).  No 10 was built in 1844 as a residence for the (very busy) Foreman of Works, Thomas Seller.  He lived here with his manservant William Jenkins while supervising the building of the other residences, but before the house was built he lived in a wattle-and-daub hut.

Seller, a free settler who arrived in Sydney in 1833) had a wife and two children, but he came here to Norfolk Island in 1839 without them.  Having read some accounts of how women were distressed by the treatment of convicts in the penal colony on Van Dieman’s Land (now Tasmania), I can guess why she stayed in Sydney with the children.  I’m not at all convinced by the signage’s claim that by the time the Orfords family took up residence,  life was so far removed from the hardships and cruelty occurring just down the road that ladies sitting on the verandah to do their needlework were oblivious to it all.

One of Seller’s pastimes was painting, and his ‘Kingston from Flagstaff Hill’ is still hanging in the bedroom.  The other interesting feature is the trapdoor between the beds.  What was that for, I wonder?

During the Third Settlement, heralded by the arrival of the community from Pitcairn Island in 1856, the house was home to Isaac Young and his wife and 15 children. (Goodness only knows where they put them all!) They lived in the house till the early 1880s, and then a Methodist minister called Phelps moved in.  They called it the Faith Home of Norfolk Island, and converted 100 C of E believers to Methodism.  It reverted to C of E custodianship after that until the murky politics of Norfolk Island governance intervened. Since (despite the best efforts of assorted tour guides) I am sooooo not interested in that, (and neither are other tourists who say they are also sick of it) – suffice to say that this house and all the other buildings on this world heritage site now belong to the Commonwealth Government of Australia.  (And presumably, the restorations were done under their auspices.)


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Norfolk Island Museums #1, June 26th, 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 26, 2018

Today we went to the World Heritage site at Kingston and did the museums.

Commissariat store museum (Tim)

The site is world heritage because it is an almost complete Georgian village.  All the officers’ houses are built to the same design, and some of them are still in use as housing for commonwealth public servants who are seconded here for a year or two.  (Though they are a bit damp, apparently, so some prefer to rent elsewhere.)

Apparently in one of the stoushes over who owns what on Norfolk, the NSW government wanted to charge rent for these houses, and the locals took umbrage over it because they reckon they own the buildings because Queen Victoria gave them the island.  So they burned down some of the houses…

Anyway, first up was the Commissariat Store Museum…

In a small room off to the side, there were some artefacts proving the existence of Polynesian settlement on Norfolk Island, but the reasons why they vanished from here are not known.  There are also some scraps of archaeological evidence of the First Settlement that began in 1788.

There are a lot more artefacts from the Second Settlement.  I particularly like the household items – see the contrast between the china ware that the officers used and the mocha ware used by lesser mortals…

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Crankmill (Tim)

There are also more melancholy exhibits. The crankmill was used solely for the purpose of punishing convicts. It was more slow and inefficient than other methods of crushing grain,  so this machine was just to inflict back-breaking labour on the men.

the kidnapping of Tuki & Huru

There was also the shameful story of two Maori chieftains called Tuki and Huru who were kidnapped so that they could teach the Brits how to weave flax.  The chieftains, of course, had no idea, since it was women’s work.  Eventually they were taken back to New Zealand and released.  The baskets on display were given as gifts, and have an interesting little tale of their own.  In the 21st century they were repatriated to the Kiwis, who promptly returned them, saying that they had been given as gifts, and they don’t take back gifts after they’ve been given.

NI pine & flax

These are tree rings of Norfolk Island pine and flax.  The pine turned out to be too soft for the masts and spars of a ship, but they are still holding up the building very nicely indeed.

If you only have time to see one museum, this is the best one, and the lady who sells the tickets is very knowledgeable and willing to answer questions about anything. ,

PS I’m sorry the layout is a bit of a muddle, I will fix it when I get back home…

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Norfolk Island Orientation Tour, June 25th 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 25, 2018

Today we did the Norfolk Island equivalent of the Red Bus Tours that we do in new cities when we’re overseas.

First up, the scenic aspects – you need to know that there were three settlements:

  • The First Settlement (1788-1814) took place within 40 days of Arthur Phillip’s settlement at Port Jackson.  He sent the HMS Sirius to take possession of the island, partly in case the French claimed it but mainly because Captain Cook had recommended that the Norfolk Island pine would make good masts and spars, and the flax could be used for sailor’s clothing.  He was wrong on  both counts, because the NI pine is too soft and the flax turned out to be too hard.  However, the island was very useful as an agricultural settlement, supplementing the pitiful stores they had on the mainland (where stuff obstinately refused to grow due to the drought). When they eventually abandoned the settlement they burnt everything so that there was nothing for the French to take possession of…
  • The Second Settlement (1825-1855) was the infamous penitentiary settlement, set up for the recidivist convicts who were sent here as a lost cause.  Over the thirty years there were 1300 suicides* and about 150 executions.  It was eventually closed down because it was finally deemed to be too brutal.
  • The Third Settlement (which is the one the locals are proud of) took place when the descendants of the Bounty Mutineers outgrew the resources available on Pitcairn Island and were resettled here by grace of Queen Victoria.

*Update 1/7/18: the historian who led the cemetery tour was very indignant about the suicide rate that is quoted by the tour guides.  She says that there are only three verifiable suicides.  I was a bit confused by her reasoning (if I followed it correctly) that if one suicidal convict asked another to put him out of his misery, then there was one murder (of the would-be suicide) and one subsequent execution (of the murderer) and neither of those could be called suicide.  And where are all their graves then, she asked?  Ok, I’m no historian, but this seems like splitting hairs to me.  If life was such hell, and for many it was especially under Price who was a notorious sadist, then both convicts would have achieved their aim of ending it all.  And their graves are not in the cemetery because they probably would both have been buried in unconsecrated ground in unmarked graves because of religious beliefs held at that time.


There is nothing to see of the First Settlement but the remnants of the penal colony have been designated World Heritage and the buildings are being preserved and restored.  There are museums to look at – and I’m sure I saw a bookshop (!) but the tour didn’t stop there at all, only at the Kingston lookout where we could take photos from afar.

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But the bus did stop at St Barnaby’s Anglican church. It’s very beautiful, and has an interesting little history as a missionary outpost which trained missionaries for the Polynesian area. When you consider the difficulties of importing anything here, it is quite remarkable that there is a stained glass window by William Morris and a beautiful pipe organ in perfect working order.

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We also learned that the chickens we see everywhere are feral chickens and that they have a cull every year to get rid of them. Clearly it’s not successful because they keep coming back. The cows are free range because there’s not enough grazing land in private ownership (somebody has 100 acres, which doesn’t leave much for everyone else on a very small island) so they use the old English system of grazing on commons. They are beef cows, eventually despatched to dining tables by the butchers here because there is no abattoir. There are no dairy cows because a pasteurisation plant is too expensive – so they have long-life milk imported from the mainland. (You’d think, wouldn’t you, that the very rich people who came here because it’s a tax haven might have generously helped out with some of these problems, but apparently not. I guess you don’t go and live in a tax haven unless you are mean-spirited anyway…)

PS We had nice lunch (chicken crepe and a beef burger with scrumptious chips) at Rumours Café where they had some second-hand books for sale.  Not just any old books, either!  I found a Penguin copy of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (which I’m hoping will be better than the more recent Pushkin edition which I read and didn’t like) and a paperback of cryptic crosswords which the lady wouldn’t let me pay for!  She and I had an interesting chat about Russian lit while she made coffees for other customers:)

Tomorrow, if the weather holds, we might check out the museums.  Or we might loaf indoors with a book…

Posted in Cathedrals & churches, Cemeteries, Dining out, Norfolk Island 2018 | 6 Comments »

Exploring Norfolk Island, June 24th 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 24, 2018


Today we checked out Cascade in the North – and Kingston in the South, with a reprise of the shopping centre for extra supplies…

First, our trusty vehicle: it is a Sigma of some sort, with a motor about the size of a lawn mower.  As you can see from the rego plate, there are not a lot of cars on the island, and you can pick the rental cars straight away by the larger rego numbers…  We have not seen a single 4WD and only one ute, though there surely must be some around the place…

I drove today and Tim navigated, so I was the one who had to push the pedal flat to the floor to get up the hills.  Norfolk Island is, geologically speaking, the remnants of an extinct volcano so there are steep hills and cliffs (and unmarked hairpin bends) once you get out of town.  More alarmingly, there are also free-range cows on the road, including a mother feeding her calf at one stage, and also plenty of chickens which wander around everywhere like they do in Indonesia,

Anyway, we made it to Cascade without incident, and very pretty it is too.

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From there we dawdled around to Kingston, which is the historic part of the island where the convicts were housed. We’re doing a tour of this world heritage site tomorrow so I didn’t take any photos. But yes, it looks suitably grim…

Then it was back to the shops. We forgot to buy tonic yesterday for the G&Ts!

The shops are actually spread out all over the place, so good luck if you don’t have a car. In the slideshow you can see the Ferny Lane Theatre where you can see performances by the island’s theatrical group, and also movies. We also admired the stained glass window for the bakery which is next to the supermarket. There are actually two, we like this one better than the Foodtown because it seems to have better quality food though it is more expensive. You can also buy delicious home made sausage rolls, croissants and apple pies, which the other place didn’t have. (The Foodtown is surrounded by a small circuit of specialty shops (bakery, butcher etc) but they were all closed on Saturday afternoon so we haven’t inspected them yet. I am keen to find a fresh tomato!)

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