The Torres Strait

We were anchored off Horn Island in the Torres Strait. The currents run fast and variable between the islands and the Trade Winds are strong. You need to time your dinghy trips well – and keep an eye on the local wildlife.

Photo by Molly Ebersold of the St. Augustine Alligator Farm

We were about to get in our dinghy at the pontoon when a local suggested we wait for “the lizard” to leave the Anchorage. He pointed out a five meter crocodile swimming between us and Artemis. We were happy to follow his advice and waited until it was beyond Artemis. During the journey we lost sight of the monster and were very relieved when it appeared on a neighboring sandbank. I have backed away from an angry elephant, been in a room with a coral snake and swam with sharks but this was a totally new feeling. This was something that wasn’t going to hurt me because of a misunderstanding. This was something that actually considers me a good meal.

Another day we took the ferry across to Thursday Island. It wasn’t far but our 2.5 horsepower motor is not up to braving seven knot currents against the wind. Once on the island we went to the council office and asked about the interesting tourist stuff. The lady was refreshingly honest and said “not a lot”. We also met a local who came for two weeks and that was thirty four years ago. He agreed there was nothing much to see but told us the islands are very relaxing places.

There is a fort on Green Hill with some history and panoramic views so we enjoyed that before the tourist buses arrived. A complete circumnavigation of the island is only five kilometers so we walked but for “normal” tourists there was a bus laid on.

At the back of the island there is a huge graveyard which is interesting as each person’s life story is written on their gravestone. If the stories are to be believed, the island was full of upstanding people who were without blemish. A whole section is for the seven hundred odd Japanese who died here while pearl diving. Mostly they have no stones. A particularly spectacular grave was the last resting place of the designer of the Torres Strait flag.

There is an art gallery with works by local artists. We are obviously too stupid to understand art. As always, most of it was over our head but they had stunningly clean toilets which we enjoyed. On the seafront we treated ourselves to a fruit juice and a chat with vocational teachers about the challenge of getting the local children to attend school. A sad but recurring story that, it seems, no one has an answer to.

We bought fresh bread and caught the ferry home. It was a nice walk but the council lady was correct with her “not much to see”.

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