Friday, March 28, 2014

On Monday morning, the National Geographic Orion arrived at Norfolk island. Here is the article published on the National Geographic Orion website after they visited.

Early this morning, we awoke to masses of birds welcoming our vessel as we approached Norfolk Island. Masked boobies, white terns, black noddies, red-tailed tropic birds, wedge-tailed shearwaters, black-winged petrels, and others escorted us the last distance to the anchorage site off the southern harbor known as Kingston. The island is an ancient volcano and appeared quite mysterious as it was partly obscured by the salt spray haze generated by a heavy swell breaking on the cliffs and fringing reef.


Today, Norfolk Island looks very different compared to when Captain Cook aboard Resolution discovered it in 1774.  He described the dense forests of Norfolk Island pines and surmised the trees would be ideal for use as ships’ masts and spars, as well as lumber. A few years later, a small colony was established here to process the ‘pines’ and grow flax for the production of cordage and fiber. The first colonizers were prisoners who built the notorious penal colony at Kingston Harbour and began harvesting the Norfolk pines. However, the trees soon proved unsuitable for ship supplies as the wood is too flexible and brittle for use as masts and not nearly as good as other woods for plank and deck works. 


We landed at Kingston right after breakfast, with near perfect conditions, and had a chance to visit the ruins of the stone buildings which housed the prisoners. The locals told us horrific stories of the utterly inhumane treatment the convicts suffered under during the late 18th century and first half of the 19th century. When the prison was shut down in 1855, the site was given over for settlement to the growing population of Pitcairn Islanders - the descendants of the famous mutiny on the Bounty. They moved into many of the abandoned buildings and their progeny make up a significant portion of the population of 2,300 people who reside on Norfolk today.


Local guides gave us all a tour of the island, and about half of our group also opted for a long hike on a nature trail in the Norfolk National Park. The hike took us through a dense forest composed of Norfolk Island pines, of course, as well as endemic tree ferns (the world’s tallest), endemic palms, Ti trees (also known as cabbage trees), and many other species of trees and shrubs, and then coursed along the coastline for views of steep embankments, cliffs, and offshore islands. Most of the endemic land birds were sighted by the keen birdwatchers during the hike.  Everyone had the option to enjoy a little free time in the main settlement of Burnt Pine located in the center of the island before returning to the landing in time to reboard the ship for lunch.


As we sailed away, the captain took a turn around Phillip Island a short distance off the south end of Norfolk Island, so we could enjoy more beautiful scenery and be entertained by flocks of masked boobies diving for fish before heading northward for Vanuatu, our destination in two days. 

There’s something wondrous about living on an island; surrounded by the wild sea crashing relentlessly against cliffs, beaches and rocky outcrops.  As a youngster the Anne books, set on Prince Edward Island, and the Famous Five’s Kirrin Island, fired my imagination.  Castaways, like the resourceful heroine in Island of the Blue Dolphins or the hapless schoolboys in Lord of the Flies, were especially fascinating.


The novelist, Ruth Park, who once lived on Norfolk Island, wondered:

“Is an island intimately connected with childhood, and the child’s desire to get away from the damnable surveillance of adults?  Perhaps this explains why Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, Coral Island and innumerable others in all languages remain basic literature…”


The allure of living in an enclosed space, bounded by the ocean; a world unto itself, can be experienced when you wander beside Norfolk’s rugged coast.  From Kingston, the cliffs rise up sharply from the swelling ocean, clad in luxuriant green growth and rows of tall pines.  Sometimes the sea haze rolls in, as weak afternoon sun filters through patchy clouds and trees, and steely grey, white-capped breakers pound the basalt headlands with a rush of noise and salt spray.  Windswept grasses and reeds bend and bow beneath the onslaught.


Gazing seawards, in misty, stormy weather, the stark grandeur of the waves rising and falling is almost hypnotic.  On sunny days the light glimmering off the deep, blue waters seems to burn your retinas while the surf surges endlessly over small, sandy beaches and crags.


In the lonelier places birds, white terns and boobies, glide and wheel above the steeply sloping shores.  Ancient, soaring pines grow in stands beside the coastline and the burrows of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, known as ‘Ghostbirds’, are dotted amongst the cliffs and ridges.


There is bounty to be had.  Rock and reef fishing are popular, but anglers are wary of being washed away by a sudden breaker.  From the coves and beaches, amongst the rocks, hi hi (the local black periwinkle) and small crabs can be gathered.  If you venture out in boats more fish can be caught, but the seas are changeable and often rough. 


As the Island has no safe harbour the swell and surf sometimes prevents the lighters from leaving Kingston or Cascade pier to unload supply ships.  In fact, the high seas and forbidding promontories of Norfolk made it difficult for its first visitors to even land.  William Wales, Cook’s astronomer on the Resolution, wrote:

“…I took the opportunity of seeing our new discovery, and found the shores exceeding steep and rocky, and in most places inaccessible…”


Perched atop Anson Bay today, looking down at the wooded incline, heaving waters and rock strewn coast, it is easy to sympathise with the French explorer, La Perouse, who anchored off Norfolk early in 1788.  After endeavouring for several days to come ashore, without success, he declared it was “…only a place fit for angels and eagles to reside in.”


Of course, he was wrong but perhaps it is the sense of islands as places of refuge, safety and freedom – havens from life’s storms – that attracts us.  Norfolk, to Ruth Park:

“...was like a ship, all alone in the ocean, secure, well-found, never sunk yet, and its pines were ten thousand masts.”

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Fishing Guru Matt Watson and his crew have hit the waters of Norfolk Island to get some footage for their New Zealand television series ITM Fishing, which you can catch on the Discovery Channel, or Channel One. I was privileged enough to have a chat with Matt and find out what he thinks about our little Island and it’s fishing. 

Me: What is your favourite fish to catch?

Matt: The next one! I love so many different sorts of fish that it’s hard to pinpoint one, but if I had to give one, it would be Marlon. I love the challenge of it.

Me: What about your favourite fish to eat?

Matt: Right now? Well, this is actually the first interview I’ve done whilst eating fish, so this Sweet Lips has got an unfair advantage, but I’ve got to say, it’s gonna win! I’m quite happy to say Sweet Lips—Trumpeter—which is what I’m eating right now. It’s the best fish.

Me: What is fishing on Norfolk like compared to what you’re used to? Is it good?

Matt: Its quite similar, in a lot of ways, to New Zealand, in that we get a lot of the same species, but also a lot of different ones as well, so I like it in the respect that I can measure the fishing here to what I’ve grown up with, and wherever you go, what people grow up with is what people like to measure themselves against, so it’s good to have something in common, but also something different, and I think Norfolk is somewhere that you can get the best of both worlds—you can catch your Kingfish and your Snapper like you get at home, but you can also catch Trumpeter (Sweet Lips) and Wahoo, which we don’t get at home.

Me: Do you like Norfolk as a place?

Matt: Absolutely! I’m pretty into it—I’ve been once before, but we basically just jumped straight on a boat as soon as we got here. This time I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to lots of places, and what I’ve found is that there are lots of beautiful places in the world, but what really makes a difference to the trip is the people, and I’ve found that the people here are just really relatable. I’ve just rocked up here—been invited—and that’s a privilege, to be invited to spend time with locals, for me. I like people, I like hanging out with people.

Me: Are we set to make a good appearance on your show?

Matt: Oh yeah. I have nothing bad to say about Norfolk. We’re always careful when we go filming, because a place like Norfolk relies on tourism, which is great, but I hope Norfolk keeps this personal touch, where tourists just aren’t tourists. I mean, essentially, I am a tourist, and here I am having a meal with the locals, which I think is pretty neat.

We love having you here! Thanks for me Matt!


The expedition cruise ship National Geographic Orion will be making her sixth call at Norfolk Island on Monday, 24th March 2014.

The National Geographic Orion is expected to arrive early on Monday morning from the Bay of Islands and sail at 17:00 for Tanna Island, Vanuatu. The National Geographic Orion is expected to have approximately 100 passengers on a 12 day cruise from Auckland to Honiara, visiting Norfolk Island, Vanuatu and the Solomons.

Subject to weather conditions, passengers are transferred ashore using the ships inflatable zodiac boats.  Agent for the National Geographic Orion is Duncan Evans of local shipping agency, Transam Argosy.

The National Geographic Orion has a capacity of 106 passengers & 75 crew.  The Orion was built in 2003 in Germany, a length of 103m with a Gross Tonnage of 4,050 GRT and flies the Bahamas flag.

It was acquired by Lindblad Expeditions last year, and has recently been re-named National Geographic Orion.

This call of the National Geographic Orion is the second out of 5 cruise ships that Transam Argosy has arranged to call at Norfolk Island this year.  The next passenger ship will be the The World on Saturday, 12th April 2014

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Far from a shy group of visitors Kate Simpkin and her fun loving troupe of Line Dancers were on island for the 2014 Norfolk Island Line Dancing Festival this week. The Line Dancers have certainly been visible in Burnt Pine with hot pink Norfolk Island Travel Centre Line Dancing shirts being SO in vogue this year.


Line Dancers travelled from New Zealand and Australia to be here for daily lessons and night socials with Kate Simpkin a popular line-dancing instructor and choreographer from Blacktown, Sydney.


Norfolk Island Travel Centre would like to give a big, BIG thank you to Kate for her enthusiastic, fun-filled dance sessions and for always going the extra mile when it came to the needs of our dancers including lots of fun group activities to keep everyone involved in the local scene during ‘out of class’ time. Kate and the dancers have been busy with a week of workshops, evening line dancing socials, sight-seeing, shopping, sampling of the local restaurants – and with some relaxation squeezed in!

It really has been all about fun this week with the socials being a great chance to recap on new dances and for dancers to let their hair down with theme nights including ‘Hawaiian’, ‘Party Night’ and ‘Op Shop Night’. The Op Shop night was a double whammy too of course - fun for visitors choosing their $10 outfits and great business for our Op Shop! Partners and friends who were not line dancers were totally entertained just watching the dance sessions and bearing witness to Kate and Vicky’s surprise Abba interlude!

Special thanks to Donald and Maree for their divine melt-in-your-mouth welcome barbeque, Donald’s superb music and entertainment and their sumptuous morning and afternoon teas. Maree caters each year for Line Dancing and is renowned for her island cooking amongst the visitors, thanks so much yorlyi.

Lastly and importantly thank you to all Line Dancers, family and friends for joining us for the ‘2014 year of fun’. Kate Simpkin and Norfolk Island Travel Centre look forward to welcoming you and your line dancing friends back for another Norfolk Island Line Dancing festival next year.

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Friday, March 07, 2014

The Foundation Day reenactment this year on the shores of Emily Bay brought to life the events of the first European landing on Norfolk Island on March 6th 1788.   The crowd of visitors and locals, many of whom had family connections with individuals of the first colonial settlement, enjoyed the spectacle of the two whale boats rowing across Emily Bay to pull up on the beach.  In bright sunshine the twenty three hardy souls with their provisions stepped ashore on the curving crescent of sand against the blue, blue backdrop of the bay.

His Honour, the Administrator, Mr Neil Pope opened proceedings and explained the significance of the day to past and present Norfolk Islanders with a message of unity based on a shared heritage. Narrator, Ken Christian, then entertained spectators as the boats approached the beach with an explanation of the background to the events of March 1788. Students of Norfolk Island Central school joined in, playing the parts of the future children of the men and women coming ashore.  The six students gave an entertaining outline of the hardships and lives of these first settlers.

The twenty three in the landing party were played by local volunteers, dressed in the muted tones of the convicts or the smart formal tunics of the eight officers and seamen.  Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King with his commission as Commandant of this new settlement, was confidently splendid in his gold braided uniform.  When the hard work of erecting the tent and stowing the supplies was complete and the Union Jack hoisted and fluttering before the make shift tent, he encouraged the spectators to join in the toasts to the British monarch and the success of the settlement.

The relaxed atmosphere of the day was continued with people staying to enjoy a picnic lunch or the hot chips and hamburgers supplied by the stall run by the local Rotary Club.  Local musicians and singers, Nat, Yoyo, Kath and Kaz provided live lunchtime music with an appropriate colonial seafaring theme playing lively renditions of sea shanties and poignant colonial ballads with the support of surprise visiting guest artist David.

The afternoon Flying High kite competition kicked off on the Kingston Oval after lunch with fun and a few tangles.  Kite making and flying has been a traditional pastime on Norfolk since Bounty settlement times. Despite variable wind conditions, students of Norfolk Island Central School, and any other brave souls wanting to join in, shared the challenge of presenting the best decorated kite with a Foundation Day theme and then seeing who could fly it best and highest. 

Judges Brandt McRitchie and the Honorable David Buffett had the difficult task of deciding the winners. Mirabelle Creek and Ryan Christian took out the honours of equal first best decorated kite.  Doug Snell was the highest flyer with a strong consistent performance and Mirabelle Creek and Anson King took out second and third place by the width of a kite’s tail from Lani Evans who was highly commended. 

The organizing team from the KAVHA Research Centre would especially like to thank everybody who came down to enjoy the day and joined in to make it a success. 

Thanks must also go to the many people who assisted with and supported the events.  Heartfelt thanks to:

  • the entire cast and crew,
  • our many volunteers,
  • the Kavha and Admin works teams and especially KAVHA works supervisor David Magri
  • a very special thanks to Franklin Randall and the “Resolution”  and John Pearson and the whaleboat “Rhonda”
  • the Norfolk Island Rotary Club who volunteered their time and hard work to provide yummy wetles
  • Mrs Maureen Tavener and the Yr 6 students  of Norfolk Island Central School
  • Mr Andre Nobbs for sound.
  • Nat, Yoyo, Kath and Kaz  (and mystery guest visitor David Meikle) for providing rollicking fine music
  • The generous sponsorship of the Kite competition by The Bounty Centre and Burnt Pine Travel
  • Mr Jason Ellem for his assistance with organizing the kite competition and Rachel Nebauer and Kath King for their patience with helping sixty primary students to make kites
  • Our kite competition judges, Mr Brandt McRitchie and the honorable David Buffett


CELEBRATING OUR 1788 BEGINNINGS ... by Lisa Richards

Foundation Day this year was a fabulous celebration of the beginnings of our Island’s first British Settlement on the 6th March 1788. The day is important to celebrate as Norfolk Island’s significance at the very start of the colonization of what was to become Australia, has been largely forgotten in the minds of most Australians. Our story from 1788 is inextricably bound up with Port Jackson as both settlements needed each other for their very survival. At one point Governor Phillip even considered making Norfolk Island the primary settlement above Port Jackson such was this island’s relative success. The wrecking here of HMS Sirius in 1790 was an event that put both places at enormous stress and resulted in Norfolk Island housing an equal number of people as Port Jackson for the next few years.


The Pier Store Museum has a number of books for sale that provide good information on the First Fleet, the wrecking of the Sirius and life on Norfolk in the First Settlement.


Taking us back to our understandings of why and how the British prepared for and undertook the First Fleet voyage is Alan Frost in his book “The First Fleet – the Real Story”. Through a meticulous examination of hundreds of previously neglected documents he debunks the myth that it was an ill conceived, shambolic affair primarily about dumping unwanted convicts. The importance of the resources that Norfolk Island offered to establish a Pacific naval boat building base in terms of pine trees and flax plants, were well understood and reinforce the important place of Norfolk Island at the very start of our Nation.


Two books that have been written about First Fleeters who lived on Norfolk Island provide a great picture for not only their ancestors, but anyone who’s ancestor lived here then, of what life was like. These are: “Prisoners In Paradise – The Story of Olivia Gascoigne and Nathaniel Lucas” by Trevor Lagstrom, and “Robert Forrester, First Fleeter” by Louise Wilson. These are both highly recommended.


The wrecking of HMS Sirius on the reef at (now) Slaughter Bay in 1790 would have been a soul crushing event to have lived through. The entire populations at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island were already at breaking point when the vessel of their salvation was wrecked before their eyes. The story of the wrecking is included in a book that looks at the role and culpability of her Captain, John Hunter in the disaster. “An Unlikely Leader, the life and times of Captain John Hunter” by Robert Barnes may surprise some with his conclusions. “One Ship, Two Names, Three Voyages – the Story of the Sirius” by Helen Sampson provides a clear and concise telling of her First Fleet voyage and eventual wrecking.


There are two beautiful ‘coffee table’ style books for sale in the Pier Store. “The Northern Plains – A History of Longford, Cressy, Perth and Bishopsbourne, Tasmania” by Nic Haygarth, picks up the story of what happened to Norfolk Island’s settlers at the close of the First Settlement. In 1813 many were settled in the Norfolk Plains in Tasmania and last year the Northern Midlands Council produced this book to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of that event.


“A Most Admirable Australian – Phillip Parker King” by Brian Douglas Abbott is a comprehensive biography of perhaps Norfolk Island’s most successful, yet little acknowledged sons - and a son of Philip Gidley King. As is well known, Phillip followed his father into the Royal Navy and completed Matthews Flinders unfinished survey of the Australian coast. He also however completed hydrographic work in the Magellan Straits which laid the platform for the famous voyage of HMS Beagle and Charles Darwin. His son actually completed the voyage with Darwin. Phillip Parker was the first Australian born to become an Admiral of the Blue.


For such a small island Norfolk’s place in the start of Australia’s British history is large. Our current job is to communicate that loudly and clearly to the rest of Australia! There are many who will visit this island specifically because of that history, whether they have ancestry connected to that time or not. Our Foundation Day celebrations on Norfolk Island can play a big part in that communication and deserve our support.

BEACH TENNIS ... by Fabien Levi

Thanks to a fantastic team work, the 1st beach tennis in Norfolk Island, at Emily Bay, was very successful last Thursday 6th March 2014 with more than 100 people!

For the Foundation Day and World Tennis Day, we couldn’t dream better weather, people, music, food, atmosphere with a lot of fun and dive on the sand...

Everybody enjoyed this new outside activity as it’s not only a fun and easy sport to play on the sand. It’s also the most beautiful beach and place to share a very friendly, familial and social afternoon.

All the women were so happy that they asked Fab when will be the next one?

As Cheryl Tennis Club events calendar and Fabien timetable are very busy and as we need to receive permission, the next CTC/Fab Beach Tennis may probably be just before the Bounty Day ! (Saturday 7 June afternoon to be confirmed)

With 3 months of patience, women and gentlemen will appreciate and enjoy the next Beach Tennis as much as the first one, or even much more!!!... Wait and see...

Enjoy more photos in the next couple of days on:


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