25 June 2012 (Eastern Hemisphere)
The Torres Strait Islands are a group of islands, (a few dozen) of which 18 are inhabited. They lie between just a few miles from Papua New Guinea in the north and Australia in the south. They are the islands which differentiate the \”Pacific\” from the Arafura Sea; gateway to the Indian Ocean.
The uniqueness of these islands is the both their geography and the make up of the peoples who have inhabited them for over 40,000 years. Genetically, they are Melanisians who may have arrived originally from India. Their culture is a hybrid between the peoples of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Aboriginals of Northern Australia. Those in the north have language characteristics like PNG and those in the south more like the Northern Aboriginals of Australia.
The Torres Strait was first sailed by the Spanish Explorer Torres in 1606. The locals of this area were anything from friendly to down right head hunters depending on the island. The sea here, like the entire inside of Australia\’s Great Barrier Reef, is extremely shallow by ocean standards. Depths rarely exceed 200 feet and often are under 50 feet. Due to the extensive reef systems and until recently very poor charting, these waters have been home to many ship wrecks over the centuries. Even today, many areas on our charts (especially from here west), say \”Inadequately Surveyed\” or worse, \”Unsurveyed\”.
Today, we took the one hour ferry ride from Sesia where we are anchored to Thursday Island. Thursday is the main center of the Torres Strait Islands and is only 20 miles north of the Australian continent. Tourism and Government Offices are it\’s livelihood today, but in years past, it was the Pearl Shell trade. During WW2, Horn Island, just 2 miles from Thursday was the second most attacked part of Australia after Darwin by the Japanese. We visited the Japanese Diver\’s cemetery where hundreds of peal divers were laid to rest, victims of then poorly understood \”bends\”. We visited the most northern pub (bar) in Australia, the \”Quetta\” church (dedicated to those lost in a famous shipwreck here in 1890) and other historic places.
The ride was fun and we saw old friends, s/v \”Uliad\” at anchor on their recent arrival from the Solomon Islands en-route to join the Sail Indonesia Rally with us (and over 110 other boats). We unfortunately couldn\’t make contact with them but will catch up when we get to Darwin.
The day was long and fun, we came back, went to the local market and thoroughly enjoyed the day.
We\’ll have a maintenance, clean up and get ready to go day tomorrow. Our next sail will be Nikki\’s first overnighter on \”Beach House\”. A planned 3 day, 2 night sail across the Gulf of Carpintaria to the Aluminum mining town of Gove.
KIT, Scott and Nikki