Schlagwort-Archiv: Thursday Island

At Sea to the Aru islands, 22 June 1893

In the morning of 22th June, the journey was continued. After many changes in the direction of the course that were necessary. the Adolphus islands North of the Australian mainland came into view and soon thereafter the islands of Thursday Island and Banks island on starboard with the high Mount Augustus.

As the quinine supplies of the ship pharmacy were getting low due to the numerous fever cases and the provisions had to be replenished and „Elisabeth“ had been unable to send news about its well-being and woes home since the departure from Sydney, the commander decided to pay a call to Thursday Island. Thus we passed through the Prince of Wales-Canal between Hammond Island and the North West Reef known to us from our first passage of the Strait of Torres, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon we anchored close to Thursday Island in front of the pilot station of Goode Island in the Normanby Sound, and sent out the steam barge to Thursday Island to buy quinine and supplies and to telegraph home.

The was no longer as beautiful as the day before as fog and rainstorms clouded the horizon.

I saw again, while we were anchoring at the same spot where I had observed a sea eagle during our first stay next to the pilot station, one of those birds circle around the ship. He swooped down on the kitchen garbage, came close to us about four or five times and finally at dusk flew away to Goode Island to rest for the night.

After an absence of three hours the barge returned — unfortunately without a mail package that the commander had announced — and the voyage was continued at 8 o’clock in the evening. We steamed out of Normanby Sound, past the lighthouse ship at Proudfoot Shoal on starboard, out of the island area of the Strait of Torres and reached the Arafura Sea which showed itself again as very calm but made us experience its muggy heat immediately after our entrance in its region. No fresh wind, the smoke rose straight as an arrow into the air, the tiring muggy heat stuck to the ship and in the cabins the temperature was between 28° and 30° Reaumur (35-37.5° Celsius) .


  • Location: Thursday Island
  • ANNO – on  22.06.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „College Crampton“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.
The Wiener Salonblatt issue 26, p. 6 notes Franz Ferdinand's good health and arrival at Thursday Island

The Wiener Salonblatt issue 26, p. 6 notes Franz Ferdinand’s good health and arrival at Thursday Island

Port Kennedy, 8 May 1893

The method of loading the coal was so primitive and so time consuming that in the morning, despite working without interruption and with great effort, the required quantity was still not on board and only towards noon the loading was complete. As the low tide and the strong counter current were noticeable at that time and we only had 1 foot of water below the keel we had to wait until the next day to continue our voyage to Sydney.

The morning I spent on board and killed a sea eagle from the iron deck — a beautiful specimen of Haliaetus leucogaster — it had snatched a piece of meat swimming on the water surface.

In the afternoon we had the choice of either to go hunting or fishing for corals and shells.

I decided to do the latter and thus the commander and I drove to a reef marked on the map between  Goode Island and Hammond Island, while the other gentlemen landed on Hammond Island, which nobody among us had yet set foot upon, to hunt there. We equipped ourselves with everything necessary to fish corals, with hoes, hammers and crowbars, and drove in the dinghy to the reef.

How incompletely the people of Port Kennedy know the surroundings of their town and how badly they are informed about it had already been proven by the hunting expert of Prince of Wales Island. Today we would make similar experiences. Even though the resident and all others we had asked about it had declared that there are no corals here — though the valuable red precious coral is not present in the tropical seas —  we saw ourselves surrounded shortly after we had arrived at the reef by the most beautiful and interesting corals. The whole reef that can be clearly seen during the lowest tide by individual points emerging out of the water might be about 100 m long and descended sharply down into the deep sea on one side while on the other side it flattened out by and by towards the land. At its deepest spot we anchored the boat and jumped onto the reef where the water only reached up to our knees.

We found ourselves in the most delightful spot for a collector I have ever seen. Even though I have held numerous illustrations of such coral reefs in my hand and read many descriptions of them, I found that my expectations were surpassed here by a wide margin and I was gladly surprised by what I could see here on the spot. The coral reef resembled a flower bed filled with flowers of all kinds and colors, magically produced by the unimaginable quantity and diversity of the animal kingdom present. There were first coral stocks that remind of antlers in their multiple branching; trunks thick as an arm that carry tree-like branches, fan-formed plates, large lumps that have at a closer glance a very delicate and fine composition despite their rough appearance. Then countless species of sponges, mollusks,  sea cucumbers and other animals of the lower order that are all notable by their colorful intensive flashy glowing color. No painter — and even if he had the palette of Makart — could represent the prismatic color effects, the glittering splendor, clarity, brilliance, the never ending scale of color tones with which these children of the sea are so splendidly ornamented.

On the gray frame of a Madrepore for instance hang hundreds and hundreds of echinoderms and mollusks that enhance in the finest nuances of the rainbow in all the shades the game of color. Between the bushes, vases, globes, branches of these polyps those so diverse limy skeletons of the coral animals, appear all kinds of strange fish, starfish, crabs, snails and even in the shaft of the corals all kinds of animals are hidden and buried. And here and there and there, over, beside, under each other, in hundreds and thousands of places in the coral reef, always an overwhelming number of organic beings — an unknown incomprehensible spectacle!

The commander, the sailors and I waded without interruption in the shallow water over corals and discovered something new at every step and put it into the boat for the collection. We were so eager that only the fast setting sun made us think about our return and have the boat filled up to rim taken in two by the steam barge. Leaving the reef proved to be difficult. The current was very strong and the anchor had been caught amongst the corals too so that we had to drive at full speed to free the shaft and the wings. Such a strong current as that between those canals between the strait of Torres I have not yet seen and believe that a rowing boat surely would not be able to keep up against it as even the steam barge managed to bring us on board only very slowly.

Only late in the evening the gentlemen of the other party returned from Hammond island having bagged but little prey as the woods were too dense and only a few representatives of the bird world could be seen. This party too had difficulties in embarking and had to leave behind one anchor.


  • Location: Thursday Island
  • ANNO – on  08.05.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Emperor returned home from Budapest.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Kriemhilde“ and the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera “Cavalleria Rusticana” and the ballet „Sylvia“.

Port Kennedy, 6 May 1893

The resident wanted to assist me in adding to my collection of bird bodies had proposed a journey to the Australian mainland for today, a day used for transporting coal to „Elisabeth“, and had graciously provided the government’s steam boat „Albatross“, a small yacht. Early in the morning the resident himself came to fetch us with this steam boat and we started the journey in the company of multiple gentlemen which would take us around Cap York to Somerset Bay. Three gentlemen participated as guests in the journey: a French missionary who had just arrived from New Guinea where he had gained exact information about the country and its people as his stories revealed. Then a captain of an English warship who used his extended holiday to catch butterflies in the north of the Australian continent and in New Guinea. Finally a botanist whose equipment did not reveal his peaceful goal as instead of the usual professional equipment such as a botanical box, shovel etc. he had only belted on revolver bullets and overall had the look of a true squatter.

The morning was beautiful but there was a stiff eastern wind blowing which threw around our somewhat aged „Albatross“ after we had passed the northern coast of Horn island and entered into the Flinders passage that we were by and by nearly all attacked by the mean evil of sea sickness. Furthermore we had the strong current against us so that the sea waves were short and caused a heavy pitch of the ship. After a drive of around four hours we finally entered into the Albany pass and set the anchor opposite the island of Albany in Somerset Bay.

The somewhat stormy journey and its regrettable consequences were compensated by two elements: the realization to now finally set foot onto the Australian mainland and the beautiful scenery of the land of the bay. On one side rises the island of Albany, on the other the mainland with its wooden hills one of which has a large building that is visible from afar and in its white color stands out very effectively from the green trees in the background and thus dominates the bay. Somerset Bay was originally intended to become what now is Port Kennedy, namely the harbor and coaling station for steam ships that pass the strait of Torres but the harbor of Somerset proved to be less well situated, too small and too shallow, so that Thursday island was selected.

We ascended the hill and entered the building we had already seen from the ship. Originally during the time when Somerset was intended to be the main harbor in the strait of Torres this building was to be the seat of the local government but now surrounded with wire fences serves a rich „leaseholder“ and his family as their accommodation. I call him here „leaseholder“ as we could not really determine who and what he actually was. Some called him a sportsman, others a squatter and stressed that he owned large cattle herds. The man himself we did not meet as he had preferred to spend the day out of the house despite his having been informed prior about our visit.

Grown curious about the person of the „leaseholder“ by this strange behavior we asked his two sons who the resident had presented to us already on board of the „Albatross“  and the wife of this strange man who received us most kindly in the house. She, named Jardine, in color and face a typical South Sea islander, only increased our curiosity by her declaration that she was the „niece of the King Malietoa of Samoa“. The two boys, however, told that their father had been at sea during many long years and owned many ships. Now he had quit going out to sea and now calls huge cattle herds his own.

This mention of his former trade and the wealth of the „leaseholder“, the circumstance that he had evaded our meeting, the connection to Samoa with his union to a chief’s daughter, finally many different conspicuous ship parts we noticed in his house, all this together could have been useful to create the impression that the „leaseholder“ had been once engaged in audacious pursuits between Samoa and the coral sea. Distant memories from Cooper and  Walter Scott, figures such as the „red swashbuckler“ or the „pirate“ came to my mind. An impression that was vividly refreshed after we returned from the hunt in the evening and saw the „leaseholder“ sail in a small cutter and maneuver swift as an arrow into the bay with great skill. The mythical cloud of his existence that surrounds so many others like him in Australia was never lifted and thus the romantic figure of the „leaseholder of Somerset“ looms all the stronger in my memory.

As leaders of the hunt to which we were now undertaking, that is as guides, the resident had appointed the two sons of the „leaseholder“. The youthful age of the two, one was twelve, the other not yet eight, did at first not offer me much confidence but during the hunt through the forest I changed my opinion as the two half-Samoans had expert knowledge as they apparently spent most of their days in the forest and bush.

As soon as we had told the boys that we wanted to hunt and shoot birds, they led us to the best spots, showed us tracks and scratching places of kangaroos, pointed out rare flowers and other plants — all like true children of the woods. The older already displayed a considerable drive, commanded and decided with assurance; the younger one was a true rascal who answered our question about which school he was attending with a certain pathos: „I used to go to school but now I have given it up.“ And he was still only eight years old!

We separated into various parties of two gentlemen each and I entered the forest with Regner led by the older boy. The forest was similar in character as the one visited the day before on Horn island.  Only the vegetation in the forest of Somerset seemed to be richer, more luxurious in those parts where more humidity was present or small streams were flowing and at times reminded me of a tropical forest. There were tall beautiful trees, in between palm trees and fern-like herbs; even orchids and entwining lianas were not missing. l bagged specimens of various species of the Australian birds but I failed to see a cockatoo or parrots. The day was fairly hot, the Australian sun was sending down its burning rays upon us. Finally I came upon a larger stream with a name reminding me of home to my joy, Pola River, and contained very dark brown water rich in iron like that of our highmoor streams. Here the vegetations had to be called especially rich and the most beautiful butterflies among them many of an astonishing size were flying around.

Following the shore of the Pola River I met Wurmbrand and Clam the latter of which had had hunter’s luck and bagged the first kangaroo — a dwarf kangaroo of the species of jumping hares which still had a length of  175 m from the nose to the tail. The small guide of the two gentlemen had taken along two house dogs into the forest. These suddenly had barked whereas the prey passed Clam in full flight so that he could kill it with a bullet.

In the shadow of tall trees we paused for a moment which Ramberg used to take a few photographic images. Then we went back through the forest and multiple graves of the natives to Somerset where already Prónay and Bourguignon were waiting. The latter one had an accident which could have easily had the gravest of consequences. Bourguignon had namely, as his bullets had become wet during the rain the day before, used Prónay’s cartridges with white powder that proved too much for his rifle. After some shots the chamber burst and created an opening of at least 10 cm in length, whereas the piece of the barrel blown away had considerably wounded the shooter in the arm. Had Bourguignon had the rifle at a greater angle then a very critical wound would have been inevitable. He had returned to Somerset where the wife of the „leaseholder“ had expertly bound his wound.

Actually the „niece of the King of Samoa“ performed her duties as a house wife most graciously. She had given me orchids and lemons from her garden and permitted us to view the rooms of the house in which everything was in a picturesque disorder and neglected mess. Only a real arsenal of rifles and revolvers was an exception to this. These weapons were all in excellent condition but one could see that they had been often used. Asked about this, our hostess explained that the territory of Somerset had been very insecure a few years ago so that the inhabitants of the settlement had to be prepared at any moment for a raid by the natives and thus always have weapons within reach. Even the eight year-old rascal had two rifles in his own name; one of which was for killing birds the other for the fight against humans. Even guns were not absent in this well armed home as a pair of old ship cannons  were laying under the billiard table in one room, a second pair was situated on the covered veranda of the house.

Saying good-bye to the occupants of this strange home we ate a miserable snack at the sea shore before embarking and steered back to Thursday Island.

We now had the current working for us; the wind too had abated so that „Albatross“ moved fairly calmly and the journey was very agreeable in the cool evening. While we drove past the resident pointed out the spot to me where in the year 1862 on the order of Bowens, the governor of Queensland, the British flag had been hoisted for the first time in order to take possession of this territory in the name of the Queen.  The sailors had posted a fishing tow line despite the relatively fast drive. Suddenly it was asked to stop the machines, a large fish had been hooked and with united force the captain and his men drew a fish of over 1 m length on board. The fish’s look was similar to a tuna and is called here a king fish.

On board of „Elisabeth“ everybody was still occupied with loading the coal which was no small activity at Port Kennedy as this harbor strangely did not possess lighters for this task nor other practical tools. The commander thus was forced to move „Elisabeth“ close to the coal-carrying hulk in the middle of the harbor and transport the whole coal over the deck — a long-winded and very dirty task. Also the maneuvering to the aged and already rotten coaling ship was not easy in the swelling sea and the currents. As without the greatest precaution our iron colossus with its protruding towers might have all too easily penetrated the hull of the hulk without warning.


  • Location: Thursday Island
  • ANNO – on  06.05.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Wiener Salonblatt and die Neue Freie Presse note the arrival of Franz Ferdinands at Thursday Island in good health.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing Goethe’s „Torquato Tasso“ and the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera “Die Hugenotten”.

Port Kennedy, 5 May 1893

Somewhat excited I ran up to the bridge this morning. We were just looking around the eighth hour upon the new continent of Australia that was discovered last and claimed by science to be the oldest. First, however, the island continent remained hidden from our view. Instead we sw a small part of Oceania, the northern tip of the Australian mainland, Prince of Wales island that lies in front of Cap York and Booby island with its light house that can be seen from far away. We were approaching it from south-west to enter into the Normanby sund.

With time the contours of these islands became more pronounced. Then more and more green islands emerged out of the blue sea until we could clearly distinguish the entrance between Goode island and Friday island. North of Goode island the sad remains of a sunken ship, the German full rigged ship „Olga“ starred at us Even though three years have gone since the catastrophe, the wreck is very well preserved and the three masts as well as the yards rise out of the surging sea.

All along the strait of Torres, a canal about 90 km wide with a rapid current, there were many wrecks such as this one to offer testimony how fatal these numerous often completely hidden coral reefs, granite cliffs and sand banks could be to ships in these waters that Luis Vaz de Torres crossed for the first time in 1606. In the dark depths of the strait many lost ships will be resting that had sunk here with all hands into the gurgling abyss of the sea.

At the same time as we a large steamship entered. At Goode Island the pilot appeared in a small boat. This one proved to be a son of Albion whose nose had turned so red and been transformed into a perpetual lighthouse probably by the consumption of the national whisky.

At the entrance of ships into Port Kennedy on Thursday Island there is the custom of letting the vehicles wait below the signal station of Goode Island until permission is granted by Port Kennedy to enter into the actual harbor. We had to comply with this custom too and thus we stood still with stopped machines and had to wait for the signal which finally came after some time while a mighty sea eagle was circling over us. Even though larger warships usually have to anchor in the outer harbor, the pilot still led us through a very small passage into the inner harbor where we anchored in front of the city at a very low depth,

At first glance the harbor appears friendly as it is surrounded by ring of green islands covered with trees but here the vegetation is not as luxurious as on the islands of the Malayan archipelago despite it being part of the equatorial zone. The Australian vegetation is missing the diversity of forms, the colorful mix of plants. Monotonous calm is its signature.

In front of us lies the island of Horn; to our right is the largest island of the archipelago, the island of the Prince of Wales; to our left is the smaller Thursday island with Port Kennedy. The individual islands in the row part of which the latter is carry mostly the names of the week days perhaps in memory of the days they have been discovered. Thus we find from the east in quick succession the following islands: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.

Port Kennedy offers us an example of the true British-Australian entrepreneurial spirit and industry which has managed to create in a surprisingly short time much of importance on the coasts of the continent we were approaching.

In the year 1878 the settlement of Somerset had been moved from Cap York where it had been before to Thursday island. Eight years before, as the sailing hand books note, it had only five houses, it has since grown into a rather respectable community which included as the pilot told with pride a government building, five hotels and 36 — billiards. To this banal statistics of the old sea dog may be added the information that currently fortifications are being erected on Thursday Island; already there are barracks and the foundations of a fort. This is still organized for the present with old guns; but already the next English steam ship is said to bring modern cannons and the future garrison troops of 30 artillerymen.

Port Kennedy’s rapid development is due on the one hand that the island is more conveniently located for the ships passing through the strait of Torres than Cap York, on the other hand it lies in the middle of the territory used for the important fishing of mother of pearl. The harbor is called by many steam ships partly to replenish coal partly to receive passengers for the line from Singapore to Hong Kong.

The first man who came on board after we had set the anchor was the British resident Mr. Douglas, a very old gentleman who had spent most of his life in Australia and New Guinea. We assailed him with questions how the surrounding of Port Kennedy was for hunting and how we could buy mother of pearl and corals, he did not know much about this and only spoke about an afternoon tea he would organize in my honor. Thus I decided to set up on my own an expedition to the island of Horn which was somehow wrongly marked as uninhabited on our map.

Multiple gentlemen joined me and in a boat drawn by the steam barge we set off from our ship. For safety purposes we also had taken along the cleaning dinghy for shallow water areas. At first we had to drive around two long-winded coral reefs whose presence was clearly visible by their clear coloring in the sea. Then landing proved very difficult. As it was low tide, there were long mud banks along the coast. Also dense strips of mangroves prevented the passage with their roots in the air. After we failed three times to land, our boat was finally stuck in the mud and had to liberated by the steam barge. Fortunately we finally found a small foot path in the mud close to a small settlement. Due to it we managed to land with the assistance of the cleaning dinghy.

With great astonishment the inhabitants of the huts at the shore noticed our appearance. They were Austral Negroes, the first we saw. Truly strange humans with horribly ugly faces with bulging curled lips and the not wooly but curly hair. These people seemed to have absorbed some of civilization. As they were not like most of their tribes painted and also wore some parts of European clothing such as flashy jackets and the most incredible head dresses such as black conical felt hats, railway caps etc. The women and children had timidly withdrawn into their huts as soon as we had landed.

These huts were probably the strangest accommodation that I have yet seen. They actually consisted only of crutches covered by parts of bark and offered almost no protection against the weather. Only by crouching the people could move in it. And such a hut with a length of barely 2 m and a height of 1 m is filled with humans, dogs, cats and pigs — everything lives in the same limited space in intimate communion. In the huts too the fish and tortoises are dried which provide the food reserves for the human inhabitants and give the interior of the huts a horrible smell. Countless flies whizzed around in it. As decoration of the external walls served empty petrol cases, bottles, tins etc. The disorder and the strangeness of a gipsy camp is not even close to the chaos and eccentric design of such a Negrito settlement.

The people hardly work, their only trade is fishing for which they use strangely constructed boats covered with colorful cloths. With these canoes they often venture out for many miles between the reefs and sand banks of the strait of Torres, mostly hunting giant tortoises that go to the sand banks during the night to lay their eggs.

A large dark-colored guy who seemed to be the chief of the settlement came towards us and spoke with us in broken English. We asked him to show us the spot where we could cross a wide stream that was situated a hundred paces from the coast. He agreed and we first crossed the stream under his guidance and then entered spread out in a long line into the interior of the island. Here it was much easier to advance than in the tropical jungle of Pulu Besar where we had also undertaken an island expedition, as the forest on the island of Horn had a very strange imprint: low trees that were spaced very far from each other with fixed leathery leaves set off from the axes. The trees themselves were ugly. Their trunks did not have any of the tropical ornament of lianas. The color was no intensive green but grey-blue or blue-green. Few flowers, the soil without sprawling undergrowth, with only a puny level of earth and yellow grass or bare and sandy. Everywhere there was a lack of shade, lifeless rigidity, monotony in forms and colors. Of forest trees I noticed namely the sad horsetail-like Casuarina, myrtles and eucalyptus.

The sad character of this forest was consistent in its animals. We found no mammals, only a limited number of birds. At the shore we observed a few waders, as well as bee eaters, a species of Drongo (Chibia bracteata) and a few small singers: Representatives of two species were especially remarkable: one of which looked like small hornbills but were part of the very diverse and rich in forms family of honey eaters (Meliphagidae) characteristic for Australia and were determined to be Philemon argenticeps; the members of the other species were Australian giant kingfishers or blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii) that reach a height of over 50 cm and are amongst the most well known kingfishers. The Australian giant kingfisher also carries the name of „Laughing Jackass“ as its loud cries in the woods betray its presence from afar.

We had advanced about 3 km into the interior of the island, the black „mayor“ as well as a hunter who had joined us as a guide during our hike having vanished, when suddenly the rain poured down on us which had been looming in the sky for quite some time and made us soaking wet in a few minutes.  Such sudden torrential rains is a feature this part of Australia shares with all equatorial areas. With an intensity that we in Europe can hardly imagine the rain pours down and in an instance everything is under water; everywhere there are streams and watercourses as the soil is unable to absorb such enormous quantities of water that was pouring down despite its extraordinary porousness. Now it was time to think about our way back because it was high time. We thus waded back to the beach where Mallinarich had in the mean time gathered a nice collection of shells and insects.

When we returned to our ship, the rain still continued so that we were unable to dine as usual on the afterdeck. Only towards 10 o’clock the storm relented and the moon arduously pierced its way through the thick clouds.


  • Location: Thursday Island
  • ANNO – on 05.05.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing the comedy „Das Hochzeitsnest“, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the ballet „Die goldene Märchenwelt“.