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Norfolk Island

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Around 1,500 kilometers due east of the New South Wales north coast and part of a submerged South Pacific mountain ridge, lies the tiny but remarkably beautiful and historic Norfolk Island. 

By thinboyfatter (originally posted to Flickr as Norfolk Island) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
Burnt Pine in Norfolk Island, Australia
By bertknot (Flickr: BURNT PINE, NORFOLK ISLAND (109)) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

The township of Burnt Pine

Norfolk Island jail5
By Steve Daggar [CC BY 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
Norfolk Island St Barnabas Chapel
By Steve Daggar [CC BY 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

There is evidence of ancient Polynesian habitation of the island, however, this had long since ceased when the explorer James Cook passed the island in 1774 as part of his journeys in the South Pacific. With the island’s rich soils and plentiful supplies of pine and flax for ropes and canvas, Norfolk was first thought of as a potential ship supplies depot and support for the Sydney colony. The ship supplies depot never eventuated but convicts arrived to the island for a short time after the Port Jackson (Sydney) settlement was established and supplied the colony with much needed food. These efforts ceased in 1814 and the island was once again abandoned.

In 1825 convicts that were considered beyond redemption were sent to the island and the prison colony established. This colony, even by British colonial standards was infamous for its cruelty and no hope of escape. The penal settlement is notable for its windowless buildings and walled courtyards designed to protect the warders from prisoner uprisings that occurred in the thirty years that the prisoners were kept there.

A year after the removal of the island prisoners to Port Arthur in 1855, people from the overcrowded Pitcairn Island were moved to Norfolk which gave the island its first permanent citizens. The people from Pitcairn were the descendants of the HMS Bounty mutineers and their Polynesian wives and brought their language, a mixture of 18th century English and Tahitian known now as “Norfolk”.

Norfolk Island Bomboras
By Steve Daggar [CC BY 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

The beautiful Bomboras Beach, a kilometer or so west of Kingston, shows many clues of the volcanic past of the island. The volcanic soils have seen the island rich in flora including the evergreen Norfolk Pine trees that are native to it.

The area around Bombaras and Slaughter Bay are the primary landing places on the island, with much of the other coastal areas rugged cliffs and all dominated by the two peaks, Mount Bates and Mount Pitt. The name Slaughter Bay apparently coming from the old English usage of the word meaning “slow moving water,” appropriate in this case as the only practical landing point of the island.

By Steve Daggar [CC BY 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
Norfolk Island Emily Bay

On the Kingston shoreline, Emily Bay is on the larger sweep of Slaughter Bay on the southern side of the island with Nepean Island in the background. Nepean Island, the smaller of the two and further south, Phillip Island, are part of the same volcanic submerged ridge as Norfolk. 

Kingston, Norfolk Island
By thinboyfatter (Kingston) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Nestled in the protected hills off Slaughter Bay is the main settlement of Kingston. 

Norfolk Island jail1
By Steve Daggar [CC BY 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

The infamous penal colony is well preserved and can be toured as part of the island’s varied history.