Norfolk Island

Norfolk Island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. The island is part of the Commonwealth of Australia, but it enjoys a large degree of self-governance. Together with two neighbouring islands, it forms one of Australia's external territories. It has 2,300 people (census returns show about 25% of this number are tourists at any one time) living on the space of 8km * 5km. Its capital is Kingston. Originally settled by East Polynesians who had moved on before the Europeans arrived.

The first European known to have sighted the island was Captain James Cook, in 1774, on his second voyage to the South Pacific on HMS Resolution. He named it after Mary Howard, Duchess of Norfolk (c. 1712 – 1773). The evergreen Norfolk Island pine is a symbol of the island and thus pictured on its flag. Native to the island, the pine is a key export industry for Norfolk Island, being a popular ornamental tree on mainland Australia, where two related species grow, and also worldwide.

After the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, Norfolk Island was placed under the authority of the new Commonwealth government to be administered as an external territory.

During World War II, the island became a key airbase and refuelling depot between Australia and New Zealand, and New Zealand and the Solomon Islands. The island proved too remote to come under attack during the war and the 1500 strong NZ Force left the island in February 1944.

In 1979, Norfolk was granted limited self-government by Australia, under which the island elects a government that runs most of the island's affairs. As such, residents of Norfolk Island are not represented in the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia, making them the only group of residents of an Australian state or territory not represented there.

In 2006, a formal review process took place, in which the Australian government considered revising this model of government. The review decided that there would be no changes in the governance of Norfolk Island.

Financial problems and a reduction in tourism led to Norfolk Island's administration appealing to the Australian federal government for assistance in 2010. In return, the islanders were to pay income tax for the first time but would be eligible for greater welfare benefits. However, by May 2013 agreement had not been reached and islanders were having to leave to find work and welfare.

Norfolk Island, with neighbouring Nepean Island, has been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area because it supports the entire populations of White-chested and Slender-billed Norfolk Parakeets and Norfolk Gerygones, as well as over 1% of the world populations of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Red-tailed Tropicbirds. Norfolk Island also has a botanical garden, which is home to a sizeable variety of plant species.

However Kingston, built by convicts of the second penal colony, is Norfolk's star attraction. Many historic buildings have been restored – the best of these, along Quality Row, still house the island's administrators, as well as four small-but-engaging museums. By the shore are the ruins of an early pentagonal prison, a lime pit (into which convict murder victims were sometimes thrown) and the convict cemetery. Bounty Folk Museum is crammed with motley convict-era and Bounty souvenirs.

We started the day with a rather challenging disembarkation at Cascade Bay, due to the swell and the low tide. We were instructed to jump without question when Conrad gave the command to jump. Nearly everyone jumped at the right time, and there were no casualties.

After meeting our guides and loading the buses we were soon on a tour of the island and learning all about its rich history and colorful characters.

Oddly the cemstery was the highpoint of the tour for me. It stretched back to convict times as well as descendents of the Bounty mutineers.

We visited Kingston and the many wonderfully restored buildings of the penal colony, the museum and Bloody Bridge.

The busses took us to see the view from Mount Pitt before a barbecue lunch at Captain Cooks Lookout. The locals had organized a fresh fish and chip fry complete with salads and dessert. A salad with a difference was Ambrosia salad which included marshmallows, coconut and pineapple.I suppose only Australians could have salads that included marshmallows.

We opted for the long walk after lunch, which turned out to be more of a short rample through the woods, where, as a bonus we saw the rare Norfolk Green Paraqueet. Looked much like many other paraqueets to me, but I understand there are only about 100 on then left in the world and we saw 4 on a branch!

Sea conditions on the return to the ship were a bit easier than the landing.

Illustrating the complex relationships in Pitcairn following the arrival of the mutineers

Click on any of the small photos to get a larger version of that photo


On to Waitangi, Bay of Islands, New Zealand

South Seas Holiday