Norfolk Island was first settled by East Polynesian seafarers either from the Kermadec Islands north of New Zealand or from the North Island of New Zealand. They arrived in the fourteenth or fifteenth century, and had survived for several generations before disappearing. Their main village site has been excavated at Emily Bay, and they also left behind stone tools, the Polynesian Rat, and banana trees as evidence of their sojourn. The harakeke, or New Zealand flax plant (Phormium tenax) was brought to Norfolk Island either from New Zealand directly or from Raoul Island (Sunday Island) by these Polynesian settlers.The final fate of these early settlers remains a mystery.
The first European known to have sighted the island was Captain James Cook, in 1774, on his second voyage to the South Pacific on HMS Resolution. He named it after the Duchess of Norfolk, wife of Edward Howard, 9th Duke of Norfolk (1685-1777). The Duchess was dead at the time of the island's sighting by Cook, but Cook had set out from England in 1772 and could not have known of her May 1773 death.
Cook went ashore on Tuesday 11 October 1774, and is said to have been impressed with the tall straight trees and New Zealand plants, which, although not related to the Northern Hemisphere flax plants after which they are named, produce fibres of economic importance. He took samples back to the United Kingdom and reported on their potential uses for the Royal Navy.
At the time, the United Kingdom was heavily dependent on flax (Linum usitatissimum) (for sails) and hemp (Cannabis sp.) (for ropes) from the shores of the Baltic Sea ports. Any threat to their supply endangered the United Kingdom's sea power. The UK also relied on timbers from New England for mainmasts, and these were not supplied after the American War of Independence. The alternative source of Norfolk Island for these, (or in the case of flax and hemp, similar) supplies is argued by some historians, notably Geoffrey Blainey in The Tyranny of Distance, as being a major reason for the founding of the convict settlement of New South Wales by the First Fleet in 1788.
Sir John Call, member of Parliament and the Royal Society, and former chief engineer of the East India Company, stated the advantages of Norfolk Island in a proposal for colonization he put to the Home Office in August 1784: “This Island has an Advantage not common to New Caledonia, New Holland and New Zealand by not being inhabited, so that no Injury can be done by possessing it to the rest of Mankind…there seems to be nothing wanting but Inhabitants and Cultivation to make it a delicious Residence. The Climate, Soil, and Sea provide everything that can be expected from them. The Timber, Shrubs, Vegetables and Fish already found there need no Embellishment to pronounce them excellent samples; but the most invaluable of all is the Flax-plant, which grows more luxuriant than in New Zealand.”
George Forster, who had been on Cook’s second voyage to the Pacific and had been with him when he landed on Norfolk Island, was at the time professor of natural history at the University of Vilna (or Vilnius) in Polish Lithuania: Forster discussed the proposed Botany Bay colony in an article written in November 1786, “Neuholland, und die brittische Colonie in Botany Bay”. Though unaware of the British intention to settle Norfolk Island, which was not announced until 5 December 1786, Forster referred to “the nearness of New Zealand; the excellent flax plant (Phormium) that grows so abundantly there; its incomparable shipbuilding timber”, as among the advantages of the new colony.
The proposal written by James Matra under the supervision of Sir Joseph Banks for establishing a settlement in New South Wales, stated that Botany Bay was: “no further than a fortnight from New Zealand, which is covered with timber even to the water’s edge. The trees are so big and tall that a single tree is enough to make a mast of a first rate man of war. New Zealand produces in addition flax, which is an object equally of utility and curiosity. Any quantity of it might be raised in the colony, as this plant grows naturally in New Zealand. It can be made to serve the various purposes of cotton, hemp and linen, and is easier manufactured than any of them. In naval affairs, it could not fail of being of the utmost consequence; a cable of ten inches (250 mm) being supposed to be of equal strength and durability to one of European hemp of eighteen inches.
In 1786 the British Government included Norfolk Island as an auxiliary settlement, as proposed by John Call, in its plan for colonization of New South Wales. The flax and ship timber of New Zealand were attractive, but these prospective advantages were balanced by the obvious impossibility of forming a settlement there in the face of undoubted opposition from the native Maori. There was no native population to oppose a settlement on Norfolk Island, which also possessed those desirable natural resources, but the island was too small of itself to sustain a colony. Hence the ultimate decision for a dual colonization along the lines proposed by Call.
The decision to settle Norfolk Island was taken under the impetus of the shock Britain had just received from the Empress Catherine of Russia. Practically all the hemp and flax required by the Royal Navy for cordage and sailcloth was imported from the Russian dominions through the ports of St Petersburg (Kronstadt) and Riga. Comptroller of the Navy Sir Charles Middleton explained to Prime Minister Pitt in a letter of 5 September 1786: “It is for Hemp only we are dependent on Russia. Masts can be procured from Nova Scotia, and Iron in plenty from the Ores of this Country; but as it is impracticable to carry on a Naval War without Hemp, it is materially necessary to promote the growth of it in this Country and Ireland”.In the summer of 1786 the Empress Catherine, in the context of tense negotiations on a renewed treaty of commerce, had emphasised her control over this vital commodity by asking the merchants who supplied it to restrict sales to English buyers: “the Empress has contrary to Custom speculated on this Commodity”, complained the author of a subsequent memorandum to the Home Secretary. “It is unnecessary”, said the memorandum, “to remark the Consequences which might result from a prohibition of supply from that Quarter altogether”. This implicit threat to the viability of the Royal Navy became apparent in mid-September (a month after the decision had been taken to settle Botany Bay) and caused the Pitt Administration to begin an urgent search for new sources of supply, including from Norfolk Island, which was then added to the plan to colonise New South Wales.
The need for an alternative non-Russian source of naval stores is indicated by the information from the British Ambassador in Copenhagen, Hugh Elliott, who wrote to Foreign Secretary, Lord Carmarthen on 12 August 1788: “There is no Topick so common in the Mouths of the Russian Ministers, as to insist on the Facility with which the Empress, when Mistress of the Baltic, either by Conquest, Influence, or Alliance with the other two Northern Powers, could keep England in a State of Dependence for its Baltic Commerce and Naval Stores”.
On 6 December 1786, an order-in-council was issued designating "the Eastern Coast of New South Wales, or some one or other of the Islands adjacent" as the destination for transported convicts, as required by the Transportation Act of 1784 (24 Geo.III, c.56) that authorised the sending of convicted felons to any place appointed by the King in Council. Norfolk Island was thereby brought officially within the bounds of the projected colony.
An article in The Universal Daily Register (the forerunner of The Times) of 23 December 1786 revealed the plan for a dual colonization of Norfolk Island and Botany Bay: “The ships for Botany Bay are not to leave all the convicts there; some of them are to be taken to Norfolk Island, which is about eight hundred miles East of Botany Bay, and about four hundred miles short of New Zealand”.
The advantage of Britain's new colony in providing a non-Russian source of flax and hemp for naval supplies was referred to in an article in Lloyd’s Evening Post of 5 October 1787 which urged: “It is undoubtedly the interest of Great-Britain to remain neutral in the present contest between the Russians and the Turks” and observed, “Should England cease to render her services to the Empress of Russia, in a war against the Turks, there can be little of nothing to fear from her ill-will. England will speedily be enabled to draw from her colony of New South Wales, the staple of Russia, hemp and flax.”
Settlement by Pitcairn Islanders
On 8 June 1856, the next settlement began on Norfolk Island. These were the descendants of Tahitians and the HMS Bounty mutineers, resettled from the Pitcairn Islands, which had become too small for their growing population. The British government had permitted the transfer of the Pitcairners to Norfolk, which was thus established as a colony separate from New South Wales but under the administration of that colony's governor. They left Pitcairn Islands on 3 May 1856 and arrived with 194 persons on 8 June.
The Pitcairners occupied many of the buildings remaining from the penal settlements, and gradually established their traditional farming and whaling industries on the island. Although some families decided to return to Pitcairn in 1858 and 1863, the island's population continued to slowly grow as the island accepted settlers, often arriving with whaling fleets.
In 1867, the headquarters of the Melanesian Mission of the Church of England were established on the island, and in 1882 the church of St. Barnabas was erected to the memory of the Mission's head Bishop John Coleridge Patteson, with windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones and executed by William Morris. In 1920 the Mission was relocated from the island to the Solomon Islands to be closer to its target population.
After the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, Norfolk Island was placed under the authority of the new Commonwealth government to be administered as an external territory.
During World War II, the island became a key Norfolk Island Airport and refuelling depot between Australia and New Zealand, and New Zealand and the Solomon Islands. Since Norfolk Island fell within New Zealand's area of responsibility it was garrisoned by a New Zealand Army unit known as N Force at a large Army camp which had the capacity to house a 1500 strong force. N Force relieved a company of the Second Australian Imperial Force. The island proved too remote to come under attack during the war and N Force left the island in February 1944.
In 1979, Norfolk was granted limited self-government by Australia, under which the island elects a government that runs most of the island's affairs. As such, residents of Norfolk Island are not represented in the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia, making them the only group of residents of an Australian state or territory not represented there.
Norfolk island was not a target on Doomsday but nonetheless felt the impact of it. In 1984 Norfolk modified its agreement of limited self-government with Australia so they became an Associate State while retaining some elements of self governance. The ANZUS sent food, medical supplies and other necessities to the island to ensure its survival. When the ANZC was formed they became an Associate state of that new entity rather then just of Australia. During the Gathering Order, many NATO ships docked in Norfolk Island - permanently or as a stop on the way to Australia or another outpost. Like in the Second World War, Norfolk island became an important military base used by the Army, Navy and Air Force. To this day Norfolk Island remains a key strategic military installation for the ANZC.
Norfolk Island is located in the South Pacific Ocean, east of the Australian mainland. Norfolk Island is the main island of the island group the territory encompasses and is located at. It has an area of 34.6 km² (13.3 mi²), with no large-scale internal bodies of water but 32 km of coastline. The island's highest point is Mt Bates (319 m above sea level), located in the northwest quadrant of the island. The majority of the terrain is suitable for farming and other agricultural uses. Phillip Island, the second largest island of the territory, is located at, seven km south of the main island.
The coastline of Norfolk Island consists, to varying degrees, of cliff faces. A downward slope exists towards Sydney Bay and Emily Bay, the site of the original colonial settlement of Kingston. There are no safe harbour facilities on Norfolk Island, with loading jetties existing at Kingston and Cascade Bay. All goods not domestically produced are brought in by ship, usually to Cascade Bay. Emily Bay, protected from the Pacific Ocean by a small coral reef, is the only safe area for recreational swimming, although surfing waves can be found at Anson and Ball Bays.
The climate is subtropical and mild, with little seasonal differentiation. The island is the eroded remnant of a basaltic volcano active around 2.3 to 3 million years ago, Norfolk Island Tourism. With inland areas now consisting mainly of rolling plains. It forms the highest point on the Norfolk Ridge, part of the submerged continent Zealandia.
The area surrounding Mt Bates is preserved as the Norfolk Island National Park. The park, covering around 10% of the land of the island, contains remnants of the forests which originally covered the island, including stands of subtropical rain forest.
The park also includes the two smaller islands to the south of Norfolk Island, Nepean Island and Phillip Island. The vegetation of Phillip Island was devastated due to the introduction during the penal era of pest animals such as pigs and rabbits, giving it a red-brown colour as viewed from Norfolk; however, pest control and remediation work by park staff has recently brought some improvement to the Phillip Island environment.
The major settlement on the Island is Burnt Pine, located predominantly along Taylor's Road, where the shopping centre, post office, liquor store, telephone exchange and community hall are located. Settlement also exists over much of the island, consisting largely of widely-separated homesteads.
Government House, the official residence of the Administrator, is located on Quality Row in what was the penal settlement of Kingston. Other government buildings, including the court, Legislative Assembly and Administration, are also located there. Kingston's role is largely a ceremonial one, however, with most of the economic impetus coming from Burnt Pine.
Norfolk Island has a marine subtropical climate, which is best characterized as mild. Temperature almost never falls below 10°C/50°F or rises above 26°C/80°F. The absolute maximum recorded temperature is 28.4°C/83°F, while the absolute minimum is 6.2°C/43°F. Average annual precipitation is more than 1300 mm/52 inches, with most rain falling from April to August. Other months get stable and significant amount of precipitation as well.
Norfolk Island is the only non-mainland Australian territory to have achieved self-governance. The Norfolk Island Act, passed by the Parliament of Australia in 1979, is the Act under which the island is governed. The Australian Government maintains authority on the island through an Administrator (currently Owen Walsh), who is appointed by the Governor-General of Australia. A Legislative Assembly is elected by popular vote for a term of not more than three years, although legislation passed by the Australian Parliament can extend its laws to the territory at will, including the power to override any laws made by the Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly.
The Assembly consists of nine seats, with electors casting nine equal votes, of which no more than four can be given to any individual candidate. It is a method of voting called a "weighted first past the post system". Four of the members of the Assembly form the Executive Council, which devises policy and acts as an advisory body to the Administrator. The current Chief Minister of Norfolk Island is Andre Nobbs. Other ministers are Minister for Tourism and Health, Minister for the Environment, Education and Social Welfare, Minister for Finance and Minister for Commerce and Industry.
All seats are held by independent candidates. Norfolk Island has yet to embrace party politics. In 2007 a branch of the Australian Labor Party was formed on Norfolk Island, with the aim of reforming the system of government.
Residents of Norfolk Island are entitled to enroll in a mainland Australian division in a state to which they have a connection, or the Division of Canberra in the ACT, or for the Division of Solomon in the NT. Enrollment for Norfolk Islanders is not compulsory, but once enrolled they must vote. The island's official capital is Kingston; it is, however, more a centre of government than a sizable settlement. The largest settlement is at Burnt Pine.
Tourism, the primary economic activity, has steadily increased over the years. Before Doomsday Norfolk Island prohibited the importation of fresh fruit and vegetables, most produce is grown locally. Beef is both produced locally and imported. The Military bases on the island has also provided a significant amount of jobs for the island's inhabitants.
The population of Norfolk Island was estimated in July 2003 to be 1853, with an annual population growth rate of -0.01%. In July 2003, 20.2% of the population were 14 years and under, 63.9% were 15 to 64 years and 15.9% were 65 years and over.
Most Islanders are of either European-only (mostly British) or combined European-Tahitian ancestry, being descendants of the Bounty mutineers as well as more recent arrivals from Australia and New Zealand. About half of the islanders can trace their roots back to Pitcairn Island.
This common heritage has led to a limited number of surnames amongst the Islanders, a limit constraining enough that the island's telephone directory lists people by nickname (such as Cane Toad, Dar Bizziebee, Kik Kik, Lettuce Leaf, Mutty, Oot, Paw Paw, Snoop, Tarzan, and Wiggy)
The majority of Islanders are Protestants. In 1996, 37.4% identified as Anglican, 14.5% as Uniting Church, 11.5% as Roman Catholic and 3.1% as Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Literacy is not recorded officially, but it can be assumed to be roughly at a par with Australia's literacy rate, as Islanders attend a school which uses a New South Wales curriculum, before traditionally moving to the mainland for further study.
Islanders speak both English and a creole language known as Norfuk, a blend of 1700s English and Tahitian. The Norfuk language is decreasing in popularity as more tourists travel to the island and more young people leave for work and study reasons; however, there are efforts to keep it alive via dictionaries and the renaming of some tourist attractions to their Norfuk equivalents. In April 2005, it was declared a co-official language of the island.
The sole school on the island provides education to Australian Year 12; therefore, any student seeking to complete tertiary study must travel overseas. Additionally, the small economy of the island causes many skilled workers to emigrate as well.
There are no railways, waterways, ports or harbours on the island. Loading jetties are located at Kingston and Cascade, but ships cannot get close to either of them. When a supply ship arrives, it is emptied by whaleboats towed by launches, five tonnes at a time. Which jetty is used depends on the prevailing weather on the day. The jetty on the leeward side of the island is often used. If the wind changes significantly during unloading/loading, the ship will move around to the other side. Visitors often gather to watch the activity when a supply ship arrives. There is one airport, Norfolk Island Airport. There are 80 km (50 mi) of roads on the island, "little more than country lanes", but local law gives cows the right of way.
While there was no "indigenous" culture on the Island at the time of settlement, the Tahitian influence of the Pitcairn settlers has resulted in some aspects of Polynesian culture being adapted to that of Norfolk, including the hula dance. Local cuisine also shows influences from the same region.
Islanders traditionally spend a lot of time outdoors, with fishing and other aquatic pursuits being common pastimes, an aspect which has become more noticeable as the island becomes more accessible to tourism. Most island families have at least one member involved in primary production in some form.
As all the Pitcairn settlers were related to each other, Islanders have historically been informal both to each other and to visitors. The most noticeable aspect of this is the "Norfolk Wave", with drivers waving to each other (ranging from a wave using the entire arm through to a raised index finger from the steering wheel) as they pass.
Religious observance remains an important part of life for most Islanders, particularly the older generations. Businesses tend to be closed on Mondays, for example.