Booby Island

In the beginning of June 1987, I arrived at Booby Island in the Torres Strait between Queensland and New Guinea for an overnight stay, travelling first by plane to Thursday Island and then by boat to Booby Island.  Based on the name of the island, it must have originally been a seabird colony.  There was no trace of them when I was there so either they only appear seasonally or more probably, they scarpered when the lighthouse and buildings appeared.

Booby Island Aboriginal Cave Paintings 6x4.5-Edit

The image is an aboriginal painting on the wall of a cave.  Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders were likely frequent visitors for millennia though I assume a lack of sources of fresh water would have precluded settlement.

This is also the famous Post Office cave.  From the early nineteenth century there was a log book in the cave for passing ships to record comments on their situation and plans.  It was also a place to leave letters so that other ships could take them back to England.  Some decades later supplies were also left in the cave for shipwrecked sailors.

Officially, the European discoverer of the island was the Dutch vessel Rijder in 1756 though it is also quite possible that Cristóvão de Mendonça passed by here on his way to mapping the east coast of Australia in the 1520s.  Captain Cook landed here in 1770 and named it Booby Island and Captain Bligh also stopped by here in his longboat on the way to Batavia after he was ejected from the Bounty by Fletcher Christian.

Booby Is-Edit

This is the lighthouse complete with three houses for lighthouse keepers’ families and assorted other buildings.  Lighthouses from the classical era always had three keeper cottages so there were three people to work eight-hour shifts each day.  This view is not from an airplane, it’s from a very tall tower at one end of the island.

Booby Island - low res scan from book-Edit

Low resolution scan from the book

Here is another view though later in the day and maybe higher.  This one is from a 35mm camera and a fisheye lens rather than from a 5×4 camera.

Booby Island at Dusk 6x7-Edit
Lighthouse and keeper cottages in the early evening, from the edge of the helipad.

Booby Is - Low tide with rowing boat 6x45

The shoreline with a small dinghy that the keepers presumably used for fishing though the tide is too far out for it to be of any use at that time.

17 comments on “Booby Island

  1. Michael Taylor says:

    Does anybody live there and who would I contact about working there to restore it to its former glory


    • Murray Foote says:

      I don’t know whether anyone lives there. There were lighthouse keepers when I went there but they would have been gone by 1991 and the light automated. The light then only needs occasional maintenance visits.

      Some lighthouse quarters have been sold and some are available for rent. Maatsuyker you can potentially visit as a volunteer, for a six month term if I remember. Many have a National Parks caretaker. That would be a prerequisite for a volunteer program in Booby Is because it would have to generate its own electricity and rainwater would be the only source of water. You would have to ask the Queensland Government, I don’t know which Department.


  2. bretto says:

    I’m on my way up to keep the history going and lasting for many years to come with a full renovation.look out retored by bretto ha ha


    • Murray Foote says:

      OK. It would be a great place to work for a while. I presume it’s administered by Queensland National Parks these days.

      I met quite a few lighthouse keepers in my travels. They were all very different people but the one thing they had in common was that they all kept the lighthouses in absolutely immaculate condition.


  3. Wahidah says:

    Hello! Are you able to provide any information or direct me to a resource about the lighthouse keepers that worked on Booby Island between 1950-1970? Thanks.


  4. wendy swingle says:

    does anyone know the type of trees that grow on Booby Island?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jaap Termes says:

    Ï ever have contact by letter in early ’90 s with a lighthouse keeper Bob Carter.

    He moved , due automation , to Low Isles, I suppose. I’ve to look for in longlife worldwide “postcrossing


  6. Matt says:

    This is a fantastic blog! Thanks for sharing!
    I’m wondering where the cave is in relation to the lighthouse? Is the cave easy to spot from a boat?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Murray Foote says:

      Thanks very much Matt! If I remember correctly, it’s on the East side of the island and not particularly close to the lighthouse. I don’t remember whether it’s visible by sea (after all, it was 33 years ago).


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