Sunday, March 07, 2010

A great collection of people, locals and visitors, gather at Emily Bay on the morning of 6th March. This is Norfolk Island's Foundation Day, which commemorates the day in 1788, when the first white "settlers" arrived, just 6 weeks after the First Settlement in Port Jackson. Those first arrivals - a group of trustworthy convicts and their guards, under the leadership of Lieutenant Gidley King, came ashore at what was the only easily accessed area of the island. Although it is a couple of hundred metres away from the original landing spot, a re-enactment takes place at Emily Bay, which is within the reef.

Among those visitors who gather to watch are many who can trace their family tree back to some of those original arrivals.
Life would have been difficult for them in this, one of the remotest outposts. However, it may well have been easier for them than those back in Port Jackson, who had to deal with food shortages, bushfires, drought, and some unfriendly natives. When they came to Norfolk Island, it was uninhabited, although there was evidence of Polynesian visitations and short-term settlement.
The original intention for these first settlers, apart from securing the island for Britain at a time when the French  were anxious to gain a foothold in the Pacific, was to develop an industry whereby the native flax could be  turned into linen for sails, and perhaps use the tall pines for masts. Neither of these ventures were successful.
However, Norfolk Island was to prove something of a lifeline and a bread basket for the settlement in Sydney. Norfolk Island's fertile soils were able to produce food to feed both colonies for a period.

This year marks the 222nd anniversary of that first settlement.  Those first convicts who came to Norfolk Island were carefully chosen for their skills and good character.  King even chose one of them for his mistress! Many went on to become respectable citizens. It would be in later years of the penal settlement that Norfolk Island became known as the "hell-hole of the Pacific."
Quite a number of groups and individuals get involved in the re-enactment. There are very few Norfolkers who can trace their lineage back to those times - most are connected with the Bounty Mutiny which happened around a similar time in another area of the Pacific! But that does not lessen the enthusiasm and spirit of camaraderie during the re-enactment of the events.
Toasts are drunk to the King, and the Union Jack is hoisted.

Visitors are invited to have photos taken with the actors.
John from Canberra has his picture taken with our son John.
John is visiting Norfolk Island for the 22nd time. Only 200 visits to go John!!

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