New page has been added

I have just added a new page into the menu of my website. It is titled “World War 2”. As many people are interested about this time in the Island’s history I thought I would put all the relevant articles, documents and stories, on this website, together on the one page. You can see them here.

We were but sailing by – Captain Joshua Slocum

Another entry has been added to the page “We were but sailing by – early impressions of Christmas Island” (look under July 1897). This time it is by the famous sailor Captain Joshua Slocum, who was the first man to sail solo around the world. He makes his observation of Christmas Island as he sailed by and also relates an earlier recollection. Read it here.

A teacup in a storm – Christmas Island in WW2

Here is a wonderfully riveting article, by Ian Foster, about a very dark and frightening time in Christmas Island’s history. Read it here.

Voices of the past – The coolies of Kasumasu speak – 1910

The voices of the coolies on Christmas Island during the very early years of the 20th century remain largely silent. However, there is one exception and that is linked to the story of Dr James Cyril Dalmahoy Allan. Hear their voice collectively on a matter that was important to them. Find out what that was here.

A medical officer’s experiences on Christmas Island 1908 and 1919.

More fascinating insights into the very early days of Christmas Island. This time by Dr James Cyril Dalmahoy Allan, who was first posted to the Island in 1908. His experiences are related in letters that he wrote and they would have to be some of the best accounts of Christmas Island prior to 1921. Read them here.

The young translator – 1917

Sng Choon Yee relates the story of when he was sent to Christmas Island in 1917 as a young translator. He covers different aspects of his time on the Island, and his fascinating account opens a window so that we may look back to those early years. Read it here.

Observations of life on Christmas Island in 1926

In 1926, Victor Purcell was appointed as District Officer to Christmas Island. In his book “Memoirs of a Malayan Official”, he devoted an entire chapter to his time there. Read the extracts from that chapter that focus on the lives and lifestyle of the people living on the island at that time. An engaging story of an island interlude.

How Christmas Island missed a German bombardment in 1940.

Christmas Island was nearly bombarded by the infamous German auxilliary cruiser “Atlantis” (a commerce raider) in October 1940. Read Captain Bernhard Rogge’s log. A close call indeed.

We were but sailing by – John Turnbull Thomson

Another entry has been added to the page “We were but sailing by – early impressions of Christmas Island“. This time the traveller passing Christmas Island in the late 1830s was a young man by the name of John Turnbull Thomson.

We were but sailing by

It’s interesting to read early first hand accounts of travellers as they passed Christmas Island. Here are some of them. I will be adding more in the future. You can read them here.

Was Christmas Island a rebel supply base during the American Civil War?

Why did the Commander of the U.S.S. Wyoming visit Christmas Island in 1863 during the American Civil War? Find out by reading this article. And yes! This refers to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean and not the other Christmas Island in the Pacific known as Kiritimati.

A small update on the story of Sara Maude Robertson

I have been very fortunate to be in contact with Sheila Macdougall, a first cousin, twice removed of William MacDougall, husband of Sarah. She has been able to give me information that strongly indicates a link as to how Sara and William would have met and the tie between their families. I have therefore updated the story of Sara Maude Robertson accordingly.

New! Website image gallery

I’ve just added a new “website image gallery“. It can also be accessed from the menu above. By clicking on an image in the gallery, you will be taken to the page on which it appears. It’s a great way to quickly see all the images on this website.

Sara Maude Robertson – uncovering the real story

The 1907 grave of Sara Maude Robertson can be found in the Old European Cemetery on Christmas Island. Hers was the first burial in that little cemetery. She was a doctor, which was somewhat of a rarity for women of that era, so how did she come to be on the island? Was it to do with the beriberi epidemic? My search started with an erroneous narrative of her but I was able to uncover a very interesting timeline of her life. Read all about this woman who was ahead of her time.

William Joseph Ryan – The man beneath the grave

In a small graveyard on Christmas Island, known as “The Old European Cemetery”, is a headstone with the name William Joseph Ryan. Who was this man? How did he come to be on the Island and what happened to cut his life so short? Gillian Sandle, William’s granddaughter, spent decades piecing together her grandfather’s story culminating in her travelling to Christmas Island to visit his grave. Read her engaging account here.

A run in with mutinous Chinese coolies

A 1901 story of Christmas Island that was written by Alexander Macdonald in his book “In the land of pearl and gold; a pioneer’s wanderings in the backblocks and pearling grounds of Australia and New Guinea”. An interesting and colourful read from the most earliest days of Christmas Island. Macdonald tells of his experiences on the island including that of a run in with armed mutinous Chinese coolies who were justifiably upset. Find out why in this story.

Pirate ghosts and treasure on Christmas Island?

A 1927 account of an unplanned visit to Christmas Island on the way to Singapore as told by Robert M. MacDonald. Amongst his observations of the island he mentions pirate ghosts and treasure. Read his story here.

Exciting document about the archeology of Japanese World War II sites on Christmas Island

Archaeologist, Helena van der Riet, completed her thesis “The Archaeology of the Japanese World War II occupation of Christmas Island” in late 2018.

She was able to locate 19 sites from the Japanese war time occupation (but there’s probably more to be discovered) and you can read and see all about them in her thesis document here. I’m grateful that Helena generously allowed me to share the PDF of her thesis on this website.

The adventuring dentist

There was an adventuring American dentist in 1848 who felt the need for pistols, sword-canes, dirks etc when visiting Christmas Island. Find out why by reading the story here.

Testing part of Einstein’s theory

Two new newspaper articles about the British solar eclipse expedition to Christmas Island in 1922 lead by Harold Spencer-Jones. Could light bend? This was part of Einstein’s theory of relativity that they were going to test and they needed a full solar eclipse to do so.

I’m especially pleased that I have come across a wonderful photo of his telescope house that he had build at South Point. See it and read about the expedition here.

He was also accompanied by his wife Gladys. In this article we see some of the considerations she had to make whilst packing for the trip and what some of her expectations were. It would have been quite an adventure for a lady in 1922. Read it here.

A rare photo uncovered

Photographs of Japanese soldiers on Christmas Island, after their invasion on the 31st March 1942, are as rare as hens teeth. Therefore, I was really stoked to discover one in an archive. See and read all about it here.

A Japanese pillbox in Flying Fish Cove

Read all about a World War 2 Japanese pillbox that is in Flying Fish Cove, in plain sight, but invisible. Find out more here.

Christmas Island Ku Li – Remember and Respect

I’ve just finished making a video slideshow about the early Chinese coolies on Christmas Island. The hauntingly beautiful music, I believe, is a Chinese folk song and aptly titled “River of Sorrow”. Also, I wrote a verse titled “Coolie Ode”. You can watch and read them here.

An interesting little discovery regarding the location of the first hospital

After examining two early maps of Christmas Island, one prior to 1908 and the other dated 1908, I’ve realised that the first hospital site on Christmas Island was actually located behind the present Barracks Shops and Police Station. From photos dating 1908, the hospital buildings appeared to have been badly damaged by a storm in that year. As a consequence the hospital site was moved to a presumably less exposed site now referred to (by old Islanders) as “the old hospital site”. I’ve updated “The old hospital page” to reflect this finding.

The steps leading nowhere

A small Japanese ruin with steps that lead nowhere. What was this place? Read more about this site here.

The first painting of Christmas Island?

I had a little bit of an exciting find whilst searching through the online archives of the State Library of New South Wales. I came across a watercolour painting of Christmas Island. Could this be the first painting of the Island? The monochromatic watercolour is dated 1830 and labelled as “Christmas Island near Java”. Read more about it here.

Two New newspapers articles – 300 Thugs flee to Christmas Isle and Gangbuster ‘king’ of Christmas Island

I have just completed a write up about two interesting newspaper articles on the one page as I believe they are related to each other. The first is the amazing story, from November 1958, of 300 thugs (gangsters) who supposedly went to Christmas Island after escaping a Singaporean police dragnet. When researching that article I came across the “Gangbuster” article that appeared just the month before. It was an article about Australia’s first appointed representative to Christmas Island, Donald Evan Nickels.  He was a retired Singaporean Assistant Commissioner of Police but his background with regards to Singaporean gangs made me wonder. Was it a co-incidence that Nickels was appointed as Australia’s representative to Christmas Island when it was later reported that there was a large cohort of gangsters from Singapore on the Island? Summaries are made of the articles along with my observations and questions. Links are provided to the original articles. Read all about them here.

Mystery bottle fragment

When I was on the Island I found a glass fragment from an old bottle with a partial stamp on it. Read more about it here and see photos.

New historic newspaper article – The invasion of Christmas Island

Christmas Island is the only Australian territory to have been invaded by the Japanese during World War 2 (though it wasn’t an Australian territory at the time). What makes this newspaper article so interesting is that it is told in the words of a Japanese war correspondent of the naval press section who was there during the invasion.

The sight of the white flag thrilled our troops who saw through their binoculars that the flag was flying from the top of the piers and buildings.

Read the newspaper article here.

New Story – About our Island

What was life like on Christmas Island in 1946/47 just after the War and Japanese occupation? We find out through the perspective of a European woman, Gwen Pettigrew. Hers is an enlightening story explaining the norms of everyday life and other observations. She provides a window to look back into another era. You can read her story here.

The Mandors’ Quarters – An update

I have just updated the page about The Mandors’ Quarters aka “Virgin Castle”. Added is an early 1980s photo of the building before it was half demolished. Also some news about the future of the site that this ruin stands on as of February 2018.

Suffering through strength – A book review

“Suffering through strength: The men who made Christmas Island” by John Hunt. This is a fabulous book and I can highly recommend it. Read my review on the “Recommended reading” page.

New About page

I’ve just added an About page to my website. It explains my link to Christmas Island (I jokingly refer to myself as “the blow-in”) having not lived there in the past and how this website came about.

New article – The old hospital and the scourge of beriberi

From the very earliest days up until 1995 there had always been a hospital on the same site in Gaze Road, Settlement. Over the years the buildings had variously been burnt down, damaged or destroyed by storms, rebuilt, and extended. In those very early years at the turn of the 20th century many of the Chinese coolies were admitted there suffering from beriberi; hundreds died. This article includes some magnificent photos of the very early hospital and two that put the human face to the scourge of beriberi. Read all about it here.

New Article – The Assistant Manager’s/Chief Engineer’s house

The Assistant Manager’s / Chief Engineer’s house was once a very substantial house but is now a ruin. In this article I write about my discovery and visit to this site. Included are historic photos showing how this house once looked in its heyday as well as a gallery of photos I took of the site in 2017. Read all about this fascinating place here.

New Article – The Mandors’ Quarters

An interesting historic site in the Settlement area is the Mandors’ Quarters (aka The Virgins’ Castle). The Mandors were the overseers of the Chinese coolie workforce. Only half the building is left and it is in ruins. Interesting photos are included showing the change and then decline of the building starting from 1930. Read all about it here.

The Japanese ammunition cave and ruins

Driving along Gaze Road toward the casino site and just past the old hospital (now holiday accommodation) is a small ruin set into the steep hillside on the right. It is so easy to miss as it blends into the undergrowth and hillside. It’s not very large and from the roadside you would never know what it is hiding. This article also includes a rather atmospheric video of the site. Read all about it here.

Malaysian Island as Gulliver’s Lilliput

Was Lilliput, the fictitious island from the 1726 novel “Gulliver’s travels” by Jonathon Swift, based on the geographical location of Christmas Island? Dr Victor Purcell (1896 – 1965) seemed to think so. Read all about it here.