An appropriate day to visit the island of the same name.
We’d approached the island by sailing through the Torres Strait islands for much of the morning, enjoying a commentary from Peter, our reef pilot on board. Thanks to him, we were able to learn about that little structure just off the coast of Goode Island: it’s a tidal flow meter and transmits a message in morse code about the depth of water – crucial information for shipping in these shallow seas.
The sea this morning was very still and our wide sweep as we navigated through the islands was clear to see.
We stood watching the turquoise blue water, mesmerised by the colour and entertained by the occasional splash and circle of ripples. What could it be?
We knew these to be crocodile infested waters, so maybe…who knows…perhaps? Shortly after having that none too comforting thought, we spotted the creature – a sea turtle! Of course, as soon as we spotted one, we spotted many and our first sight on the island confirmed our experience in the form of some rather attractive public art.
Today was a tendered port so as always, we were entertained by the very efficient and remarkably speedy launch of the boats just beneath us.
It’s always a good chance to chat with the neighbours, too!
We’d opted to take the one hour orientation tour on this incredibly hot and humid afternoon. Thankfully the clouds sheltered us from the burning sun, but nevertheless, we were glad of the airconditioning on board. We drove through the streets of the small (3 – 4k population) community making our first stop at the cemetery!
The main reason for doing so was to visit the memorial to the many Japanese pearl divers who died here in pursuit of the valuable commodity. Well tended and reflecting the respect held for these brave people whose role came to a rather abrupt end with the invention of plastic. Personally, I’m happy with that – the thought of people having to dive for a living doesn’t sit comfortably with me!
The stop also offered a chance to learn a little about the islanders’ funeral traditions, consisting of a series of ceremonies over a period of time all of which involve a great quantity of colourful flowers and the final placing of a very elaborate headstone.
Off uphill then, towards the aptly named Green Hill Fort at the top which featured as part of the Australian defence against the Japanese invasion in WW2. Looking south, on a clear day, the northern coast of mainland Australia is visible but today, we could see just the neighbouring islands.
Oh, and home, of course.
The small museum at the fort had lovely displays of shells and the mother of pearl buttons for which those Japanese divers risked their lives, as well as interpretations of the military role of the fort.
A short drive back downhill and that was it, really, but as always, we felt that it was unlikely we’d be coming back here any time soon, so rather than return straight to the ship, we wandered around a little. We began with the Gab Titui Cultural Centre where there was an interesting exhibition of local artworks. Amongst them were some beautifully woven baskets and a number of prints featuring local fish and flowers. There was also a well stocked art shop with a surprising selection of screenprinting materials, probably a good indication of the most common form of art practised here.
The buildings were adorned with some interesting local artwork too.
Next, we wandered along to the small Anglican Cathedral of All Souls, named for the many who perished on the wreck of the Quetta here in 1890. The small stained glass windows were beautiful representations to commemorate events in the island’s history.
Having signed the visitors book, we returned along the seafront, enjoying the various public artworks which were staged along the pathway.
There were, however, reminders of why this might not be quite as idyllic a beach as one might think
Returning to the ship on this hot and humid afternoon wasn’t quite the most comfortable journey, described by some as “like being in a plastic bag”. Sitting at the back of the ship’s tender did give me chance for some interesting reading however.
Comforting to know that there’s fishing tackle on the lifeboats.
Sailing towards Darwin today, through waters which are around 45m deep, apparently. Thank goodness for pilots!