Cairns Stories and Tips

Thursday Island: The Hub of the Torres Strait

Pearlers' Graves Photo, Cairns, Australia

Story and photographs by Roderick Eime

Just how tiny Thursday Island got its name is still a topic of some debate. Most defer to the much-maligned Captain William Bligh, who sailed through the straits en route to Batavia after the famous mutiny, but Capt Owen Stanley also has some claim after his mapping voyage of 1848.

Surrounded by larger islands with names like Prince of Wales, Horn, Wednesday, and yes, Friday, Thursday Island is the administrative hub of the Torres Strait Group and as such boasts facilities and infrastructure that overshadow that of the frontier settlements of Bamaga and Seisia back on the mainland.

The broad grins and cheery faces of the Torres Strait Islanders are something the first-time visitor always notices. Culturally and ethnically separated from the mainland Aborigines, they nevertheless have a very long history of contact with their southern neighbours, but also the Melanesians to the north.

Numerous maritime industries were attempted by Europeans over the last 150 years, most notably pearling, which brought many Japanese to the island. Their culture, although heavily masked during WWII, remains in the form of an expansive cemetery where hundreds of divers and pearlers are buried.

A day trip to TI is easy. The MV Strait Magic, run by the Peddells family, runs daily shuttles between the mainland port of Seisia and TI township. Peddells can also arrange a wide variety of sight-seeing tours around the island taking in such sites as the Green Hill Fort, Quetta Memorial Cathedral, Cultural Centre and Milman Hill WWII fortifications. An inspirational trip over to Horn Island and the abandoned WWII airbase is also available for those wishing to delve into Australia's wartime history.

Peddells Thursday Island Tours
www.peddellsferry.com.au

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