Monday, August 10, 2009

In the tent with the graves for a week

Gaye and I are working across at Denham Bay this week, hence the flurry of posts before we are out of reach of all technology.

Actually, the second of our three generators blew up here yesterday so we are limping along on a solitary source of electricity at the moment. The island may well be permanently incommunicado by the time we return.

Denham Bay has been the centre for many of the abortive attempts to settle Raoul Island, mainly because the water supply is more reliable. It is also one of the few areas on the island which has flat ground and if our experience of Sunday’s preliminary visit is anything to go by, it is a wonderfully sunny and peaceful place to stay.

It also has a rather tragic history.

The Herald, a Royal Navy ship surveyed the island in 1854 and the bay was named after its captain. He had with him his 17 year old son and unfortunately the boy died of a fever while the ship was moored in the bay. His grave is still maintained just beyond the sand dunes.
Fleetwood Denham's grave
....and the inscription
Then in 1863 a Peruvian slave ship the Rosa Y Carmen called into the bay with 271 Pacific Islanders aboard. These unfortunate people were the victims of a blackbirder, a captain who tricked naïve villagers into coming aboard his ship and then sailed off with them locked in the hold, to be sold into slavery. Many of these islanders had contracted an infectious illness, perhaps typhoid, and some 156 of them died and also are buried here.

The settlers in the bay at the time were infected with this illness and many of them died too. The survivors were taken off the island by Captain Marutani on the Rosa Y Carmen, and their cattle, chickens and other provisions were appropriated by him at the same time.

Nice guy!

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