The jungle and scrub hides much on Christmas Island. But during the dry season as the lush vegetation dies back tracks become visible again and structures may be revealed. It was during the 1987 dry season that Ian Foster (author of “A teacup in a storm” article) found himself exploring an area near the downhill conveyor.
Ian said “It was a very dry season that year and many trees on the steep slopes were virtually leafless. It was unusually easy to get into scrubland that was normally almost impossible.”
These conditions proved ideal for a historic footnote to be revealed. Carved into the rock face in upper case letters, six years before mining even commenced on the Island, was the following. Explanatory notes are in [ ] brackets:
ROAD TO PHOSPHATE HILL
MADE BY C C-ROSS [Charles 1845 -1910]
A F C- … [Andrew Ferguson 1855 -1915]
J S C- … [John Sydney 1868 – 1944]
AND 6 COCOS BOYS
17 SEPT 1894
Ian’s black camera case can be seen in the lower part of the photo to provide a scale of measure.
As a point of interest two parts of the Clunies-Ross 1894 track to Phosphate Hill are shown on a 1916 map. In his book “Suffering through strength” John Hunt says that the path was called Ngau Che Lo (Bullock-Cart Road). After the settlement on Phosphate Hill was established in 1905 company European staff and white visitors were given ponies or horses to ride up this path.
The Clunies-Ross carving is a very significant historical marker and probably the earliest known written mark left on Christmas Island. This archaeological site is quite amazing!