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Sydney, Australia 1800s.

Australia: ° Adelaide ° Brisbane ° Darwin ° Fremantle ° Hunter Islands ° Lord Howe Island ° Melbourne ° Perth ° New South Wales (Sydney) ° Norfolk Island ° Van Dieman's Land: Tasmania (Hobart Town, Port Arthur)

Norfolk Island

The English navigator Captain James Cook sailed into the island in 1774 and, impressed by the abundance of local flax and the potential of the indigenous pines to provide ships’ masts, named the island for the Duke of Norfolk.

It became the second Brititish acquisition in the Pacific when it was claimed by the Australian colony of New South Wales in 1788 and settled by a small party, including 15 convicts. After 26 years as a British penal colony, with a maximum of 1,100 convicts and free settlers, the island was abandoned in 1814 and the population removed mostly to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania).

Australia: Origins to Eureka. Thomas Keneally.

Reestablished as a penitentiary (1825-55) for the reception of the most desperate criminals from the British convict settlements in Australia, Norfolk Island became notorious as a place of merciless discipline and punishment, holding an average of 1,500 to 2,000 convicts. The evacuation again of all convicts to Tasmania resulted as much from the difficulty of supervising administrators as from the difficulty of supervising the prisoners.

In 1856 the population of Pitcairn Island, descendants of the mutineers from the HMS Bounty, was resettled on Norfolk; two small, disaffected parties returned to Pitcairn. Norfolk Island was originally made “a distinct and separate settlement” from the mainland colonies on June 24, 1856. Rapidly the islanders established their own systems of land tenure and society generally. In 1897 Britain conferred administrative status on the governor of New South Wales, though the island remained a separate British colony.

From 1788 to 1814 Norfolk Island existed as an extension of the penal settlement in NSW but by the early 1800s the Island was no longer needed as Van Diemen's Land was available to convicts. Though the settlers were reluctant to move, the settlement was steadily reduced over the years. Rough seas and suitable landing sites posed difficulties in supplying provisions and communications. By 1810 the population had decreased to 117 and in 1813 plans were put in place for the abandonment of the Island. It was finally deserted in February 1814.

In 1824, as pastoralists were settled across the mainland, the Colonial Office decided to revive the penal settlement on Norfolk Island as a place of banishment for the worst re-offenders. On June 6, 1825. Major Turton, with 34 troops, six women and children, and 57 convicts, reoccupied the Island. By 1829 there were 211 convicts on Norfolk and by 1834 there were close to 700 convicts, all employed by the government which, according to personal accounts of convicts and visitors, inflicted on them harsh punishments verging on the inhumane. It was not until Alexander Maconochie was appointed as Commandant of Norfolk Island in 1840 that the convicts started to be treated more humanely. In February 1844 Maconochie was replaced by Captain Joseph Childs and Norfolk regained its reputation for brutality. The penal settlement finally closed in 1853.

March 8, 1871, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California


Norfolk Island.
Settlement at Norfolk Island, c.1835
Thomas Seller

It is pleasant to know that the sad note from the distant dwellers in Pitcairn's Island, which reached the world through the Alta, is calling attention to the forlorn condition of those people. The letter from the island, sent to the Alta by Captain Purdy, has been quite extensively copied throughout the United States, and the romance of the early beginnings of the colony has been revived and commented upon. The New York Times, which has published all that could be told of the history of the colonists, says that their existence was unknown until 1808, when Captain Folger, a Nantucket whaler, discovered them. Several ships visited the island subsequently, and in 1856, through the efforts of European well-wishers, tho whole community was taken to Norfolk Island, but, 1859, dissatisfied with the change, two families, consisting of seventeen persons, returned to Pitcairn, leaving 202 on Norfolk Island; the latter settlement has since increased to 300, and that on Pitcairn, according to Captain Purdy, now numbers about 70.

The Alta published a letter, a few weeks since, from a retired voyager now living in the State of Nevada, giving substantially the same facts relative to the Norfolk Island emigration. The English- press allude to a work (quoted by the New York Times) lately written by Lady Belcher, giving a full account of this romance of the South Seas, from the time of the mutiny of the crew of the Bounty to the middle of the year 1869. Singularly enough, just following the publication to the world of the facts which form tho curious history of the settlements of Pitcairn's and Norfolk Island, came this voice fiom the charmed seclusion of those lonely dwelling-places. Let us hope that their call for human sympathy will not be unheeded.

September 2, 1901, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Range of Submarine Mountain Right in Track
Steamers Soundings Show Variations of 2500 Fathoms in Depth --
Norfolk Island a Station of British Route for Reptition of Messages.

WASHINGTON, September 1 An interesting report, showing the work on the British Transpacific cable to be the longest one ever laid, has been received at the state department from Consular Agent Robinson, at Norfolk Island. The report states that on the passage across to Norfolk Island from Brisbane, Australia, soundings were taken every ten miles by the British cable steamer Britannia, which is being used to mark out a track for the cable. About a hundred miles from the coast an obstruction was met with in the shape of a range of submarine mountains, lying directly in the track, and a deviation to the south had to be made in order to clear it. The greatest depth obtained was 2800 fathoms and the most shallow 238 fathoms, the latter being the depth recorded when the ship was right above the tops of the mountains.

It has been decided to land the cable at Anson bay, on the west side of Norfolk Island. Anson bay Is six miles from Kingston settlement, and a cable house Is to be built close into the shore.

Norfolk Island will be one of the most important stations of this cable route as all messages to Australia and New Zealand will converge there to be repeated.

October 30, 1903, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Cruisers and Merchant Vessels Sail in Search of the Ovalau

SYDNEY, N. S. W., Oct. 29. The British cruisers Pylades and Mlldura and four merchant steamers have sailed in search of the British steamship Ovalau, belonging to the United Steamship company of New Zealand, eight days overdue from Norfolk Island, with twenty-flve passengers on board, including Lord Boringdon, eldest son of the Earl of Morley, and Judge Oliver, president of the New South Wales appeal court.

November 1, 1903, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Fail to Find Overdue Vessel

Sydney, New South Wales, October 31 -- The British cruiser Mildura, which, with the British cruiser Pleiads and four merchant steamers, sailed from her Thursday in search of the British steamer Ovalu, then eight days overdue from Norfolk Island, with twenty-one passengers on board, has returned to this port without having found any trace of the missing vessel.

November 2, 1903, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Sydney, N.S.W., November 1st -- It has been learned that the British steamer Overlau (Ovalu), belonging to the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand, caught flre and sank off Lord Howe Island (between Port Jackson and Norfolk Island and about 400 miles east of Sydney) on October 20. All the steamer's passengers and crew were saved.

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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