I recently saw a place name on a 1916 map of Christmas Island that I hadn’t come across before; “Arthur’s steps”. I was immediately curious.
I have a view of them too. Yes, they are still there! I know fisherman on the Island, both past and present have walked, and still walk, these steps.
But who was Arthur? Is this a surname or a first name? As the steps are located close to Tai Jin (Buck) House and the government flag staff, it is likely they were named after a District Officer (but I stand corrected if this is not the case). Sure enough there are two possible contenders:
The first was Arthur Walter Bailey who was the District Officer from 1904 to 1907.
The second was James Startin Wills Arthur, Acting District Officer between 1911-12.
Therefore if the steps are indeed named after either of these two men then the steps date between 1904 and 1912. At the very least they were in existence in 1916. That, I believe, is quite exciting because this means they are an important little historical site on Christmas Island and hark back to its earliest colonial days.
Update: Arthur’s Steps was used by the District Officer to get from the DO’s house (which became the Administrator’s House when Christmas Island became an Australian Territory and has become Tai Jin House) to the area where the cantilevers are via launch. This was until the track/road to the house was built in the 1950s. Kevin Lourey was the engineer in charge of the road’s construction.
This update information was very kindly supplied by David Powell. From 1958 to 1975 he was employed as a surveyor on the Island. In 1975 he became the first Conservation Officer for BPC then the PMCI. From 1984 to 1999 he returned to CI as a consultant on behalf of Elders, the Union and Asia Pacific Space Station. This was due to his extensive knowledge of CI geology, geography, flora and fauna.
In earlier days the District Officer would have a rowing boat to take him to the beach at Flying Fish Cove settlement. I assume a ladder of some sort would descend to the water edge.