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Charm - Australia 5

Leaving Cairns in the afternoon, we made it to Lizard Island the next afternoon and headed straight to the beach. The kids suggested a picnic and we found an ideal spot with picnic tables and shade and the perfect branches to hang hammocks and swinging chairs. That evening we joined Atla’s crew of Peter and Eva aboard Alora, with Steve, Linda, and Linny for drinks and a game of Empire. They are new boats to this year’s World ARC rally, joining after time off from doing the first half in a previous year. The World ARC offers the option to drop out in Australia and then resume in a future year. This is a great option for those with the time to explore all of these beautiful places in more depth.

The next day, we packed all our hydrapaks and set out for a hike up to Cook’s Lookout, the high point on the island where Captain Cook went to find a way out of the maze that is the Great Barrier Reef while his boat, the Endeavour, was being repaired in Cooktown. Thanks to him and other early explorers, we now have charts that keep most of us off the reefs. The kids once again did great and we made it to the top with minimal complaining. That afternoon we played on the beach and the kids did laps on a slab climb near the stone house where poor Mrs. Watson lived. These islands are full of history and most of it is quite tragic. Although the Australians have since discovered that Lizard Island had several sacred sites to the natives living there which may explain why they acted so aggressively with Mrs. Watson.

Mrs. Watson was the wife of a sea slug farmer who had gone out to sea with his business partner and left her, their infant son, and two Chinese servants on land. In their absence, some natives on the island killed one of the Chinese servants and Mrs. Watson defended the other servant with a gun while he made his way to her in the cottage. Mrs. Watson and her servant took the baby and escaped the island in a tub used somehow in the sea slug trade. They drifted in the tub onto a reef where natives approached them but they luckily made it off (most natives in these parts ate anyone they caught) and onto an island about 30 kilometers away from Lizard Island. Unfortunately, they died of thirst on that island. We know the story because Mrs. Watson kept a journal of her experiences that is now apparently on display with the tub in a museum in Brisbane.

A recurring theme in the stories I have read involved shipwreck victims flagging down friendly-looking natives in passing canoes. The sailors are taken back to the natives’ villages where they are eaten. No wonder they looked so friendly – they were truly very happy to see a boatload of meat floating about on the ocean. I heard one story about a group of shipwrecked sailors on an island. Each day, the natives from a nearby island would come take two of the sailors home for dinner, then return the next day for a resupply.

I just finished reading the book, “Getting Stoned with Savages” and it has a section on cannibalism in Vanuatu in addition to covering many of the places we visited in Fiji and Vanuatu. It’s a quick and enjoyable read – fun to read the author’s very accurate descriptions of the yachties. Anywhere he mentioned seeing yachts was a place where we had been with Charm. His conclusion about why cannibalism was so widespread in these parts is simply that humans were a source of meat. As the man on Erromango, Vanuatu told us, “White people are tasty!”

Australia 5 - 2

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