Lizard Island National Park

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Lizard Island is a national park on the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland (Australia), 1624 km northwest of Brisbane and part of the Lizard Island Group that also includes Palfrey Island.

Contents

Geology

Lizard Island is a granite island about 10 square kilometres in size, with three smaller islands nearby (Palfrey, South and Bird). Together these islands form the Lizard Island Group and their well-developed fringing reef encircles the 10 metre deep Blue Lagoon.

Aboriginal History

Lizard Island was known as Dyiigurra to the Dingaal Aboriginal people and was regarded as a sacred place. It was used by the people for the initiation of young males and for the harvesting of shellfish, turtles, dugongs and fish. The Dingaal believed that the Lizard group of islands had been created in the Dreamtime. They saw it as a stingray with Lizard Island being the body and the other islands in the group forming the tail. The local Dingiil Aboriginal people call the island Jiigurru.

European History

The name Lizard Island was given to it by Captain Cook when he passed it on 12 August 1770. He commented, "The only land Animals we saw here were Lizards, and these seem'd to be pretty Plenty, which occasioned my naming the Island Lizard Island."[1] Cook climbed the peak on Lizard Island to chart a course out to sea through the maze of reefs which confronted him and the island's summit has since been called ‘Cook's Look’.

By the 1860s the island was being used by bêche-de-mer fishermen who found that the waters contained substantial quantities of the sea cucumber or trepang which was a popular delicacy in Asia.

In 1879 Captain Robert Watson with his wife Mary Watson, two servants and baby son, modified an abandoned cottage left on the island by the crew of the Julia Percy. The ruins are still visible. Captain Watson, was a bêche-de-mer fisherman and during one of his absences Aborigines from the mainland killed one of the servants. Mrs. Watson was only 21 when she arrived at Lizard Island and is famed for her courage and endurance. After the attack, accompanied by her child and the other Chinese servant, she attempted to flee to the mainland in an iron boiling tank (it can be seen in the Queensland Museum - it is a large rectangular tub) used for boiling bêche-de-mer. The vessel floated away from the coast and all three died of thirst nine days later on the waterless Howick No 5 Island. Their bodies were found three months later along with Mrs. Watson's diary. The State Library of Queensland holds two diaries by Mrs Watson. One is about her last 9 months on Lizard Island and the other is notes documenting her last days. In retaliation to the attack, a punitive expedition was mounted against Aboriginal groups, but they were almost certainly the wrong Aborigines.[2] A photo of Mrs Watson (image 67193), the unveiling of her memorial (image 22232) and her memorial (image 194899) have been digitised and are held by the State Library of Queensland.

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