Next up in the Lizard Island Wine Series will feature Torbreck (Barossa Valley) vineyard on November 24-27, followed by Best’s Great Western (Victoria) on January 19-22 next year. More: • lizardisland.com.au. • mountmary.com.au • npsr.qld.gov.au • australianmuseum. net.au ally by a yellow spotted monitor that fossicks about in the garden. Captain James Cook named the island after this fellow’s ancestors in 1770 when he landed to scale a granite mountain in a bid to map a route through the reef; he saw no other animals but lizards. Thousands of years earlier, the Dingaal Aboriginal people named the island Jiigurru and used it exclusively for ceremonial purposes, including the initiation of young men.
All good with my gallop through the book, but there are two walks I must do, although I baulk at climbing Cook’s Look, as it is now known. Those who do, describe the view as majestic. My destinations are Watson’s Bay and Blue Lagoon. The 10sq km island is a national park, so the tracks are good and signs along the way describe wildlife (including beautiful birds) and vegetation. I am surprised Lizard Island is not lush and tropical and is certainly not “a chip off the old block”, which on the mainland is rainforest. But there are mangroves, a paperbark forest and pandanus. Evidence persists of the cyclones that hit hard in 2014 and 2015.
The walk to Watson’s Bay leads past a poignant site, the remains of a cottage and a marker of the clash of cultures between colonial settlers and indigenous people. Robert and Mary Watson started a hardscrabble bechede-mer fishing operation on the island in 1879, with South Sea islander labourers and Chinese servants. In October 1881, while Robert was at sea, Aborigines killed one of the Chinese. Mary fled with her son Ferrier and servant Ah Sam in an iron tank used for boiling sea urchins. They drifted, landed on an uninhabited island, but died of thirst after nine days. Mary’s diary was found and she was hailed as a legendary tragic heroine, while local Aborigines suffered brutal retribution. It is a troubling tale.
Next day, I enjoy the serenity of swimming with turtles as they graze on sea grass in waist-deep water at Casuarina Beach. I spot nine, mostly juveniles, which means up to 40 years old. They probably have 80 or more years left, lucky animals; marvel at their exquisite shells and old-man heads that pop up for air.
Nearby is the Lizard Island Research Station, established in 1973 by the Australian Museum when coral reef science was in its infancy. Lyle Vail, the co-director of the