A first hand account of the shipwrecking of the Dutch barque Vice Admiraal Rijk and the nearly two month struggle for survival on Christmas Island by three survivors. Read this fantastic story here.
An extra verse has been added to “The Coolie Ode”. You can read it here.
New images! Japanese naval forces come ashore on the 31st March 1942. See rare images of them shortly after their arrival along with an English translation of the Japanese commentary. Go here to see them.
I’ve been able to add a fantastic photographic portrait of Ong Sam Leong (1857-1918), to the article titled “Heaven and Earth on Christmas Island“. He was the first labour contractor to Christmas Island.
Life’s choices often lead to new paths that one could not imagine. This is what happened when Edna Thomas took up a teaching position on Christmas Island in 1957. Read her story here.
Descriptions of the early coolie houses, their location, images and more can be found in this fascinating article. Read all about it here.
The first brotherhood on Christmas Island were the Hungmen (洪門) or the Heaven and Earth Society (天地會). But what did they do? Find out here.
Two accounts with mentions of secret society activity on Christmas Island dating from 1946 and 1956 with a claim of triad activity at South Point in 1934/35. Read them here.
Another addition has been added to the page “We were but sailing by – early impressions of Christmas Island” (look under c1857). This time it is an entry from a sailor-boy’s log. Read it here.
Two wonderful old photos, that were rescued, are revealed. They date from the earliest days on Christmas Island and their subject matter is quite unique. Check them out here.
The year is 1947 and Joan Richardson is frantically packing. The “Islander” leaves Fremantle shortly for Christmas Island. Read the story here.
A lost hospital found, eye diseases, an interesting method of eye massage, “dry ice” treatments, and an upset deity are just some of the interesting things to be found from an amazing document featured on the Archives. Also photos, maps and charts! Read it all here.
One of the accounts of the 1888 annexation of Christmas Island reveals an interesting fact. Find out what it is here.
In 1896 Arthur Louis Keyser visited Christmas Island in his capacity as Commissioner. He writes about life on the Island; the natural environment and of the small Clunies-Ross settlement. All of this at a time before the commencement of phosphate mining. Read his account here.
An unfortunate end to Sikh policeman Sochot Singh. Read all about this 1908 case here.
Find out about the amazing historical detail hidden in photos of the first kongsi at Settlement. You can read all about it here.
I have just updated the webpage “The old hospital and the scourge of beriberi” I added two overlay maps showing where the original hospital buildings and wards were located. It is always great to know what was where when. I’m also excited to be able to share a never before seen photo of the beriberi hospital when it was a standalone building.
Read about the 1852 shipwreck off Egeria Point, Christmas Island and the rescue of three survivors. They were marooned on the island for nearly 2 months. You can find the story here.
I’ve just added two new short book reviews for: “Golden Leaves: An introduction to the Chinese Cemeteries of Christmas Island” and “We were the Christmas Islanders 1906 – 1980”. You can read them here.
The early mandors of Christmas Island and the events that lead to the murders of two of them in 1902. Read about them here.
Lewis Clayton’s Colonial Report No. 319, dated 1900, opens a door to the earliest days on Christmas Island. He covers all aspects of life at that time, but trouble was brewing on the horizon. Read his report here.
An excerpt from V.E. Mathew’s autobiography that focuses on the time he was on Christmas Island during the Japanese invasion and occupation. Read about his experiences and a very close brush with death here.
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.
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.
Here is a wonderfully riveting article, by Ian Foster, about a very dark and frightening time in Christmas Island’s history. Read it here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Read all about a World War 2 Japanese pillbox that is in Flying Fish Cove, in plain sight, but invisible. Find out more here.
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.
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.
A small Japanese ruin with steps that lead nowhere. What was this place? Read more about this site here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.