Early days at North Island
North Island, the most northerly island in the Wallabi Group of islands in the Abrolhos, was used as an anchorage for many years by wet liners that fished around the Abrolhos Islands, and when at anchor the crews would live onboard their boats.
North Island once had large sand hills on the eastern side running the length of the island.
The sand hills were covered in lush green shrubbery which kept them stabilised.
A few years before North Island was settled by crayfishermen, a scrub fire swept across the sand hills, destroying most of the vegetation which had served as valuable landmarks before the days of echo sounders and radar. Unlike the rest of the Abrolhos Islands, professional crayfishing at North Island did not begin until mid-1947.
Eric Gudmundsen, who had been crayfishing exclusively at Big Pigeon Island since about 1940, owned the Betty Margaret, a 45ft two-masted ex-pearling lugger from Broome which he used as a carrier boat to transport crayfish from the islands to Geraldton.
By 1947, Mr Gudmundsen owned three motorised catcher boats at Big Pigeon.
He skippered one himself and the other two were skippered by George Barker and George Nelson.
In 1947, 17-year-old Jack Long was employed at Big Pigeon by George Nelson.
George Barker, Mr Nelson and Jack Long shared Mr Gudmundsen’s camp on Big Pigeon and it was the only camp on the island at the time.
But by the middle of the 1947 season, crayfish were becoming scarce and they decided to move to the untouched shallows of North Island.
They set up camp at the southern end in a camp they built from packing-case timber used to transport motor vehicle parts out to Australia.
Aksel Bertelsen, a well-known handline fisherman, bought the Maori Lass from Jack Baseden and Ray Page in 1947 with the express purpose of taking her to North Island and trying his hand at crayfishing for the first time.
Like many other wet-line fishermen who turned to crayfishing, Mr Bertelsen initially worked a small number of craypots made for him by Rince Miragliotta.
During the 1949 season, the Wandilla was skippered by Arthur Imison at North Island.
Alan Fox skippered the Suda Bay with Vic Davis and 16-year-old Neil McLaughlan as crew.
Neil, whose father was a policeman at Geraldton, had worked as a deckhand in 1948 for Mr Fox aboard the tourist and carrier boat Batavia Road at the Southern Group.
Vic Davis, Alan Fox, Neil McLaughlan and George Barker with a 14ft tiger shark at North Island in the early 1950s.