Tag Archives: Horn Island
Meet the woman preserving Horn Island’s most significant Word War II sites – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
My last blog post was all about the sea journey from Cairns, through the Coral Sea to the Torres Strait islands and northern Cape York Peninsula. The MV Trinity Bay is the only working cargo ship in Australia that also carries passengers, and it takes about 40 hours from Cairns to Horn Island. After almost two very gentle days at sea, it was time to find my land legs and go wandering on Horn and Thursday islands.
There’s plenty to see on both, and the ferry ride between the two takes you across water so blue you’ll need to come up with a new adjective to describe it. On Horn Island, my guides were Liberty and Vanessa See Kee – who run the Torres Strait Heritage Museum and some very enjoyable tours of the island
Horn Island was a very active military base during World War Two. Vanessa and Liberty will show you the aircraft wrecks and tell you the stories – they know their stuff and they’re lovely people. Highly recommended! I also enjoyed our tour of Thursday Island, including the improbable military fort that sits on one of its highest points. Green Hill Fort was built in the 1890s amid fears that Russia might invade Australia, a prospect now regarded as having been very remote.
I hope you enjoy the pictures.
Everyone should see Cape York Peninsula and the Torres Strait islands at least once. I’ve been lucky – I’ve been to both several times. I’ve been by road and air, but last week I did the journey by sea. Wow! I’d run out of adjectives within a couple of hours of leaving Cairns. Far north Queensland is a stunning place, but looking at it from a ship doing a steady 11 knots on the Coral Sea gives you time to take it in, to marvel, to get inspired.
I travelled on the MV Trinity Bay, the only working cargo vessel in Australia that also carries passengers. Its main job is to be a lifeline for remote communities on Cape York, and in Torres Strait. It carries food supplies in refrigerated or freezer containers, general freight, cars – the vast bulk of freight going north from Cairns goes on the Trinity Bay. It stops offshore of Lockhart River, and at Horn Island & Thursday Island, and then at Seisia, near the tip of the Cape. A fleet of smaller vessels take freight on to island communities around Torres Strait.
Trinity Bay can take up to 48 passengers – we had 30 – in 15 cabins. It travels inside the Great Barrier Reef, so the sea is usually calm. It’s within sight of the coast for most of the 1000 kilometre journey, but you do get to see offshore islands, sand cays, and you get a real understanding of how big the reef is, and of its environmental importance.
It’s not the best way to get to the top of the Cape – nothing can compare to the sense of adventure and accomplishment that goes with the long, dusty road trip. But the sea journey is a very close second. And you could always have the best of both – drive one way, and send you & your car back by boat. The view from the passenger deck of the Trinity Bay is always special. I hope you enjoy the pictures.
BUT WAIT – THERE’S MORE
Anzac Day services and commemorations will be held across far north Queensland tomorrow. Regular Anzac services have been held at Aurukun, on western Cape York Peninsula, for some time now – but this year they’re unveiling a memorial to indigenous men from the community who served in Australia’s defence during World War Two.
On September 13 1943, eleven men from the remote inidgenous community enlisted and joined the Torres Strait Light Infantry. An Australian Water Transport Group vessel had visited Aurukun, Weipa and Mapoon, specifically to recruit Aboriginal men. Many of those men had worked in the pearling lugger fleets that plied Torres Strait in those days. The military placed a high value on their knowledge of the remote Cape country & the challenging seas around Cape York.
Exact details of their military service are not known, but the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion played a vital role in protecting the maritime borders of far north Queensland and supporting the effort against Japanese forces in Papua New Guinea. It’s not well known that after Darwin, Horn Island, in the Torres Strait, was the second most attacked piece of Australian territory during WW2. In all, 870 men from Cape York & Torres Strait served with the Light Infantry.
The plaque lists the 11 men from Aurukun who joined up. They were:
Charlie Bob Ngakyunkwokka
Billy Buttons Woolla
Johnnie Lac Lac Ampeybegan
Billy Panjee Peinkyekka
The threat posed by Japanese forces to northern Australia back then was very real. The Royal Australian Air Force established a radar station at Wutan, at the Archer River mouth, in 1943. There were many stories told about a Japanese submarine attempting to get into the Archer River from the Gulf of Carpentaria. The western Cape then, as now, is sparsely populated, and military historians say Japan had considered the area as a place to get into Australia.
LISTEN Click on the red arrow to hear Linda Sivyer talk about the military service of the Aurukun men during World War 2.
Linda Sivyer works at Aurukun Shire Council and co-ordinates the Anzac Day ceremony at Aurukun. She’s lived there for 20 years and has extensively researched the history of the region.
Anzac Day 2013 at Aurukun – photos by Melanie Shaddock – teacher at Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy – Aurukun Campus