The nicest thing about doing your own thing on Norfolk Island is you can take your time and stop anywhere you want. It’s hard to imagine but no, we hadn’t seen the whole island on our visit last year. This time we stopped off at every picnic spot along the cliffs to admire the wonderful scenery. We could wonder what was up that road and go and find out. Sometimes it was a disappointment – but not very often.
The open road speed limit on the island is 50kph (about 30mph) and that’s eminently sensible. Most of the road surfaces are joined-together-filled-in-pot-holes, a rattle and a bump guaranteed for every metre travelled. The narrow roads twist and turn around the hills and valleys and when you go around that blind bend you might encounter another vehicle, or maybe a cow ambling across the road to the greener grass.
The picnic spots are all at the top of towering cliffs. Gannets and terns wheel in the air, sometimes far below where we stood, while the Pacific ocean crashed itself against the volcanic rocks in a flurry of white foam.
This was taken from the Captain Cook memorial noting his ‘discovery’ of the island in 1774. The small islets you can see are protected, safe habitat for sea birds. You can see the guano on the nearer one.
We drove down to Cascade Bay where the whaling station used to be. It’s all gone now, leaving flat spaces where the buildings used to stand. The only reminder of those darker days is the boilers where the whale oil was produced from the blubber.
The sea is much calmer (today) than at Kingston and I seem to remember the locals saying they would have liked to build a better harbour here. But, just as in outback Australia, the Powers That Be (PTB) in the large capital cities don’t listen to the locals. They foist the same rules and regulations on the people in these remote places that work in Brisbane or Sydney. For example, after NSW took over, the locals were no longer allowed to sell unpasteurised milk. They’d managed to survive for several hundred years on the raw stuff – but no. It’s the law. About fifteen hundred people live on Norfolk. The cost of a plant to pasteurise milk was out of the question, so milk is imported from New Zealand and all the cows on the roads and the farm paddocks are beef cattle. The PTB wasted millions on the pier iat Cascade, making no difference to the arduous business of landing supplies on the island.
The cost of living here is high – but when you see what has to happen to bring cargo ashore, it’s no wonder. There are no ports on the island. Cargo ships drop anchor off either the Cascade pier or the Kingston pier (depending on the weather) in deep water. The locals tow lighters out to the waiting ship. Cargo is lowered into the lighters and transported back to shore, where another crane is used to unload the boats. If the cargo is large (such as a bus or car) two lighters in parallel carry a platform out to the freighter and the vehicle is lowered onto that. Insurance costs are high but the possibility of loss or damage is high as well.
Although there are a lot of solar panels on roofs, the main, reliable power is created with a diesel generator. Diesel is pumped from a ship anchored off shore via a pipe at Ball Bay. Power is expensive, so there’s no air conditioning. Anywhere. (Except cars – that’s different). The locals use the old fashioned methods – ceiling fans and open windows. But temperature isn’t an issue here. It’s mid-twenties pretty much all year round, with nights in the teens. The ocean flattens out temperature variations. It’s a sub-tropical climate, rather like Hervey Bay, but with much better soil.
That’ll do for this post. Next time I’ll talk about the penal colony.