Friday, January 7, 2011

The History of Restoration Island


Restoration Island or “Resto” as the locals call it is a very beautiful 100 acre volcanic, mainland island surrounded by fringing coral reefs and super-white beaches located in Cape York, 800 kilometers north of Cairns, on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Although the island is small (100 acres) and very remote it has an amazing history, and has hosted many different types of celebrities over the years. Russell Crowe, Errol Flynn and Captain William Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame have all visited the island.

Today the only resident of the island is David Glasheen who is searching a Girl Friday to share his island, and a joint venture partner to help develop the island.  

Captain William Bligh & The Mutiny on the Bounty

The island’s first European and most famous visitor was the famous Captain Bligh of the Mutiny of the Bounty fame. The mutiny on the Bounty remains one of the best-known stories in the history of seafaring. About being cast adrift in the Bounty’s Longboat by Fletcher Christian, William Bligh managed to sail the tiny craft 4,000 miles over open ocean from Tofua Island in Tonga, to modern-day Indonesia; one of the greatest feats in the annals of maritime history. 

After the mutiny Bligh stopped at Restoration Island to restore his crew’s health was in 1789, after a long sea voyage all the way from Tofua Island in Tonga. Restoration Island was their first landfall and rest after a long ocean crossing and getting through the Barrier Reef with no charts. Bligh in best castaway style dug a well for water, made a small fire using the magnifying glass of his sextant, and made a stew of rock oysters and heart-of-palm. To see a copy of Bligh's notebook about the island Click Here

In the 1990s Australia’s ‘Bush Tucker Man’, Major Les Hiddens featured the island and showed the foods that Bligh and his men would have found when they were living on the island.

Bligh and his crew stayed on the island from 28-31st of May 1789. Most assume that Bligh named it Restoration because of the rest it provided after the long open water voyage, but in fact he named it as follows …

“This being the Day of the Restoration of King Charles the 2nd, and the name being not inapplicable to my present situation (for it has restored us to fresh life and strength), I named it Restoration Island, for I think it probable Cap.n Cook may not have taken notice of it.”

Lieutenant William Bligh's Voyage in the Bounty's Launch by William Bligh, London 1789

The story of the Mutiny has been the fodder of Hollywood since 1916, and no fewer the 5 versions of the story have been filmed. The amazing thing is that every actor who played Fletcher Christian in film fell in love with Tahiti, and bought their own private islands! Except Clark Gable.

  • Errol Flynn (1933 version) bought Navy Island, Port Antonio, Jamaica.
  • Marlon Brando (1962 version) most famously became besotted with Tahiti, he married his co-start Tarita Teripea, fathered Simon Teihotu Brando and Cheyenne Brando and purchase his private atoll of Te’tiaroa. Where The Brando Resort is currently being developed by Richard Bailey.
  • Mel Gibson who starred in “The Bounty” (1984 version) and bought his own private island of Mago in the Lau Islands of Fiji in 2004. 
The Wreck of the Pandora

The British Navy’s reaction to the Mutiny on the Bounty was swift, and a little more than a year after the mutiny, the Admiralty Lords commanded Captain Edwards to set sail in search of the mutineers in HMS Pandora. With eight shipmates, Tahitian women, and some Polynesian men, Christian settled on uninhabited Pitcairn Island, a spot so remote that even Polynesian sailors were uncertain as to its whereabouts. His direct descendants live there to this day, along with many on Norfolk Island. They mutineers burnt and scuttled the Bounty a few weeks after arrival, and the wreck was first discovered by the famed national Geographic photographer Luis Marden. In another Hollywood link to the Bounty story Marden was the advisor for the 1962 version of Mutiny on the Bounty with Marlon Brando. Brando was fascinated by the story of the mutineers and Pitcairn Island.

But the fame of the story of the Bounty overshadows the equally epic story of the Pandora and 24 other mutineers who were captured in Tahiti, placed in a cage on the deck of the ship, and eventually shipwrecked not far from Restoration Island. On August 29th, 1791, as the Pandora struck a submerged outcrop of coral and began to take water.  The Pandora wreck lay undetected in its coral graveyard almost 200 years. Today HMS Pandora is one of the most significant shipwrecks in the Southern Hemisphere, with immense archaeological significance.

The Pandora wreck is located within Pandora Entrance, approximately 5 km to the north-west of Moulter Cay, Latitude 11°22'40"S, Longitude 143°59'35"E, approximately 140 km east of Restoration Island, on the edge of the Coral Sea. To read the full story of the Pandora Click Here

Errol Flynn

The island’s next celebrity visitor was 20-year-old Errol Flynn in 1932, who attracted by the island’s historical connection with Bligh. Flynn described his stay on Restoration Island in his book “Beam Ends”. Flynn and his three mates sailed the leaking yacht Sirocco from Sydney up to Papua New Guinea, gambling, womanising and fighting in each port. Flynn even boasted of smuggling opium from Green Island to Cairns for a Chinese merchant.  Flynn’s fascination with Bligh eventually resulted in his first feature film, playing the lead role of Fletcher Christian in the second film version of “Mutiny on the Bounty”. He had been cast in the lead because of his good looks and his educated accent. To watch Errol Flynn in the 1933 version of Mutiny on the Bounty Click Here

In the late 1940s Flynn was sailing the Caribbean on his yacht Zaca when a hurricane blew him ashore on Jamaica. It was love at first sight and Flynn turned the 64 acre (25ha) Navy Island into a resort, and built his private home on a hill overlooking the harbour. The island was also connected to the story of Mutiny on the Bounty. After the mutiny on the Bounty an Admiralty enquiry exonerated Bligh, and he was sent on a second – and this time successful - voyage to collect the breadfruit for the West Indies. On February 5, 1793, Captain Bligh’s ship, The HMS Providence, landed in Jamaica, with a cargo of Breadfruit trees and the were based at Navy Island.  Today, the breadfruit tree can be found all over Jamaica and is still used in Caribbean cuisine.

In 2009 Errol Flynn’s grandson 34-year-old model/actor Luke Flynn, is planning to shoot “In Like Flynn” which will be loosely based on Flynn’s book “Beam Ends”. The film will depict Flynn’s life before he became and actor, and an internationally renowned celebrity. It will show his adventures as an adventurer, opium smuggler, gambler, street fighter, womanizer, and gold prospector.

The film is being produced by independent production company, Wingman Productions in Los Angeles.

Russell Crowe

The island’s next celebrity visitor was Russell Crowe and his wife Danielle, who came to the island while on their honeymoon in April 2003. to read about Crowe's honeymoon visit to the island Click Here

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