On the 26th July Endeavour anchored a mile off Croker Island in Minjilang (Mission) Bay. This was quite an unplanned visit and all became about when Captain Ross was chatting to supernumerary Patrick Thomas. Patrick had asked Captain Ross if he had any intentions to visit Croker Island on this voyage and when Ross had explained that he was under the impression a permit was required, Patrick said that he might be able to get the permission required through the family contacts he has on the Island.
Croker Island is 310 km2 and has a population of approximately 271 people. The main settlement is Minjilang. Cyclone Ingrid came through and destroyed a lot of the infrastructure in 2005 and a lot of buildings were condemned and replaced in recent years. The traditional owners of the land are the Iwadja people and one of the current traditional owners of the land is a lady named Mary Yamma. There are three major languages on the Island (not including English) and Bobo translates as Goodbye. The original main source of trade was turtle pearl, trepan, cattle and even in current day pearl farming is the main industry.
Captain Ross contacted the local school on the Island, Mamaruni and also contacted the council and made them aware that Patrick Thomas was onboard and that we would very much like to visit the Island. It was purely unintentional and fortunately enough for us that when we approached the Island the winds would allow us to make a sheltered stop over.
When we first arrived 40 of the school children were down at the beach waving. Once we had finished furling the sails, we launched the rescue boat and sent Ross and Patrick ashore to meet Mary, one of the traditional owners and seek approval for the rest of the crew to come ashore.
Our main focus was to interact with the school and for them to be able to see the ship and learn what we are doing. After we had initially contacted the school to make them aware that we were planning to visit, they had gone online and found the website to track our progress and read our updates.
We had a special welcoming which was most warming. Fiona and her colleagues were wonderful hosts and took great pleasure in showing us their small and humble community.
Captain Ross went back the following day to visit the school and speak to the 60 pupils that attend the school. He saw four different classes which were from kindergarten to secondary school pupils. All the children were exceptionally friendly and inquisitive. They were asking questions such as; ‘Where would have Cook and his men slept?’ to ‘how long was
a voyage?’ Captain Ross found the experience rewarding and was touched by the enthusiasm of the children. They had kindly drawn a couple of pictures of the ship, that now hang in pride of place.
The Island doesn’t get many visitors and so it was an absolute pleasure that spontaneously and by chance that we got to experience the Island. The only regret that we have is that we couldn’t spend longer there. Some of the other crew onboard also have family on the Island that they haven’t seen since they were six. There is a really good atmosphere in the
community and we can’t thank everybody enough for such warm hospitality.
Wade Hewitt one of our crew, has a great uncle and Aunt and auntie’s and uncles on the Island. Although he only saw them two years ago in Darwin, it has been ten years since he visited the family on the Island. The Island has changed a lot since he last visited and said that there was more life in the community with the new amenities there. Although it is more culturally mixed than ten years ago, the Island is able to offer support to all that live there. Wade said that it was great to be able to just turn up on the ship and surprise his family who were oblivious to his arrival.