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District Council of Yorke Peninsula - History of Wardang Island

The 8.4 kilometre (5 mile) long by 2.4 Kilometre (1.5mile) wide island lies about 11.2 kilometres (7 miles) from Port Victoria and covers 2025 hectares (5000 acres)*. *Wide Sails and Wheat Stacks. Page 86

The natives knew it as "Waural Tee", "Waural" for the bandicoot which abounded there, and "Tee" meaning "island"*. Robert Cook, who discovered it, called it "Wardang" the native appellation for the "crow"*. *Cockburn's Nomenclature of South Australia. **Wide Sails and Wheat Stacks. Page 13

In 1910 the Broken Hill Associated Smelters Limited took out a lease to enable them to ship away the lime sand as a flux in the smelting operations at Port Pirie. Over a million tonnes of sand were removed between 1910 and 1968. When a more suitable deposit was located at Coffin Bay they shifted their operations to there*. *Wide Sails and Wheat Stacks. Page 90

In the early 1970's the State Government gave the island to the Aboriginal Lands Trust to operate as a tourist resort. This was not a viable project so it then became an educational resort to which the Education Department could have various schools attend*. *"The Advertiser", 4th June 1981

This too failed, and the project closed down after a Public Accounts committee reported that in 1981 it cost $150,000 for the scheme which employed five aborigines from Point Pearce*. *"The Advertiser", 28th January 1982

The Minister for Education said he believed the project had lost between $1.5million and $2 million in the six years it had been in operation*. *"The Advertiser", 29th January 1982

The income from the island for the period between 1977 and 1980 was $7174*. *"The Advertiser", 4th June 1981

Wardang Island. SA Memory

Known as Wauraltee Island until 1940, the first lease on Wardang Island was issued to Stephen Goldsworthy for a term of 14 years. This lease gave the Narungga the continued right to travel to and from the island, to camp there and fish, hunt and gather. The Narungga had been travelling there for generations, traversing the waters at low tide.

Goldsworthy transferred the lease to the Yorke's Peninsula Mission (later Point Pearce) in 1884, and they used it to graze sheep. Shearing sheds and living quarters were erected, and a school established for the resident families.

In 1900 a number of mineral leases were issued over portions of the island. Broken Hill Associated Smelters (BHAS) started acquiring leases in 1910 and by 1939 they held all of the leases on the island. Their interest was in the lime sand, which they quarried to use as flux in the smelters of Port Pirie. The extracted sand was loaded onto barges and shipped to Port Pirie one or twice a week.

During this time, the population of the Island grew further, and BHAS built homes, infrastructure and a school to serve its workers and their families.

When limeshell deposits were found in Coffin Bay in the late 1960s BHAS surrendered their leases and in 1969 Wardang was declared a fauna sanctuary. Between 1910 and 1968 more than one million tons of sand was removed from the Island.

With so many ships in the area, servicing Wardang Island and nearby Port Victoria, a lighthouse was built on the island in 1909, but poor visibility in the area limited its effectiveness and several ships still ran into trouble in the vicinity.

In recent years the Department of Environment and Heritage has installed an underwater trail leaving from Port Victoria to feature the many wrecks on the ocean's floor. Eight wrecks are included on the trail; Aagot, Notre Dame D'arvor, Songvaar, Monarch, SS Australian, SS Investigator, Macintyre and Moorara. A ninth wreck, Maid of Australia, lies in the area, but very little remains.

The lease for Wardang Island once again resides with the Narungga of Point Pearce, and those wishing to visit must first obtain permission from the Point Pearce Community Council.

Wardang Island Again

Thursday 15 August 1929, Register News-Pictorial (Adelaide, SA : 1929 - 1931) Trove

MRS. H. M. Parker, of Wardang Island, who won a prize in the Register Shopping Bureau about a fortnight ago, has answered as many of the questions which was asked her concerning the island as she possibly could.

"The island is 7 miles by 4 miles,'' she writes, ''and about 11 families live here. The men are employed by the B.H.A.S. Coy., removing sand to Port Pirie for the smelters. The barque and tug come from Port Pirie every other week, and sometimes not so frequently.

''We have our tennis' court, wireless and our dance room, and we hold our dances every Saturday night. Our music, ponies from an accordion. There are about 14 children going to the local school.

"We go to Port Victoria every other day in a motor launch for our bread, meat. &c. There is a little store on the island. There are hundreds of birds, turkeys, and rabbits and plenty of fish are caught.

''I sent to John Martin's when I received the prize and bought a 21-piece teaset for 9/11 as a keepsake from the luck I had at receiving the prize, and it came yesterday and I showed it to all my friends. They all thought it was lovely.''


'Graveyard Of Ships' Is Little Industrial Centre


ONE of the loneliest of South Australian settlements is that at Wardang Island, in Spencer Gulf. On this little island less than a dozen families live in happiness and contentment, despite the isolation. Although their sole means of communication with the outside world is a small motor launch which crosses to the mainland three times a week, the islanders keep themselves well informed of current events through the medium of radio.

Almost everyone possesses a wireless set, and the freedom from interference and excellent range of reception would make the city radio enthusiast green with envy.

Wardang Island is the largest island of the Wauraltee Group, six miles from Port Victoria, it is 4½ miles long and two miles wide, and has an area of approximately 5,000 acres.

Because of the number of bandicoots found there it was originally named Wauraltee Island— "Waural," in the language of the local natives, meaning bandicoot, and "tee" Island. But the name has long since been changed. The bandicoots have disappeared, and the island is now infested by penguins and rabbits. The rabbits were introduced by fishermen about 10 years ago.

Aboriginal Legend

THE early aborigines had an interest-ing legend explaining the genesis of Wardang and the Wauraltee group of islands. They told of a mighty tribal god named Nugna. This god was in the form of a man of gigantic stature and prodigious strength. On one occasion when his people had invoked his wrath Nugna took up his huge club and dealt the earth a terrific blow. The force of the blow caused several fragments of land to fly into the gulf, to form the Wauraltee Islands; while the great depression caused by it was invaded by the sea to form Port Victoria Bay and Point Pearce.

Wardang Island is the property of the Point Pearce Mission Station, and is used for grazing purposes. Unfortunately, low rainfall and the absence of artesian water strictly limit the number of stock that can be pastured there, while the prevalence of coast disease necessitates frequent transference to the mainland.

Principal Industry

THE island's principal industry is the carting and shipping of sand to Port Pirie. The polyzal sand is exceptionally pure, and ideal for use as a flux. Consequently, large areas of the island are leased by the Broken Hill Associated Smelters, which are shipping thousands of tons of sand annually, to be used in the Port Pirie Smelting Works.

A jetty has been built, and a large storage bin erected. In this the sand, which is conveyed from the sandhills in horse-drawn trucks, is stored to await shipment in the fortnightly barge. Several weatherboard cottages have been provided for the laborers, and a small general store, the property of the company, supplies the employes at wholesale rates.

The island has seen much busier days. For many years polyzoal sandstone — of which there are large deposits — was quarried and used for flux. Then, as many as 60 men were employed at the quarries, but soon after the war it was discovered that the sand from the sandhills contained essentially similar properties to the stone. The carting of sand then supplanted the quarrying of sandstone, and the facility with which the sand could be obtained led to a reduction in the number of hands employed from 60 to about 12.

In addition to those employed by the B.H.A.S., there are several fishermen at Wardang Island, and a few aborigines engaged in looking after the Mission Station property, and tending the flocks and herds.

Notorious For Wrecks

WARDANG Island at one time became notorious in shipping circles because of the number of vessels that met their doom in its vicinity. The island was referred to as a "graveyard of ships." Even now the gaunt, red hull of a once trim barque, the twisted plates and girders, red with rust, still to be seen on the weather side, testifies to the treachery and relentnessness of this reef-bound shore.

Even after the provision of a light-house, wrecks continued to occur with alarming regularity. No less than 11 ships met with disaster on the shores of Wardang Island, eight of which became total losses. The last wreck occurred in 1927. The island is now striving to live down its sinister reputation.

This composite picture shows: — (Left) The settlement at Wardang Island — the school is at the right; (lower centre) Point Pearce Mission Station sheep; (upper centre) the French barque Notre Dame d'Arvor, wrecked at the island in 1920, as she is today; and (right) storage bin for polyzoal sand awaiting shipment to the Port Pirie smelters.

Life on Wardang Island

Friday 25 August 1950, Pioneer (Yorketown, SA : 1898 - 1954) Trove

By Edna Davies. Have you ever been to Wardang Island? It is well worth a trip, and if you can manage to stay till evening, you will see the penguins come in after their day's fishing. You will not only see them come in, you'll hear them; their loud raucous evening cries fill the air with noise.

The Wardang Island penguins are, I imagine, what are called fairy penguins. They are much smaller than the king penguins and are grey and white, not black and white like their bigger brethren. Indeed, not all the king penguins have white breasts either. We saw some in the London Zoo with brilliant orange waistcoats, and others with pale lemon-colored ones.

The little grey and while penguins lay eggs which look exactly like hens eggs in size and color, and to look at, give the egg collector no thrill whatever. Other island birds, however, produce some very handsomely shaped and marked eggs. Amongst the birds which frequent Wardang are seagulls, shags, gannets, starlings, sparrow and chicken hawks and occasionally a few mutton bird.

The first thing that strikes you on landing after your seven-mile, trip acrossc Spencer's Gulf from Pt. Victoria to Wardang Island is the huge bin erected by the Broken Hill Proprietary Coy. for storing sand, carting of which provides the islanders with their means of livelihood.

Eight men are employed by the Company to move a particular kind of sand found on the south-west of the island, by five ton trucks, to the storage bin on the eastern side. Periodically a barge comes from Port Pirie, sometimes every two, sometimes every three weeks, to lift the sand and take it back to the iron and steel works at Pirie, where it is used in the process of smelting.

The barge brings from Port Pirie, especially in summer-time, fresh water for the islanders. A certain amount of rainwater is obtained by roof-catchment, but people mostly depend on the barge. So that the second thing that strikes you on the island as you climb the cliff road is the windmill which drives the water from the tank where the barge discharges, thirty feet up the cliff to be piped to each of the nine island homes—eight occupied by the B.H.P. employees, and one by the schoolteacher, who teaches the island's nine school-going children.

On each house property is a water meter—not there so that the householder can be rated for the water used, but so that each one may see that he is not using more than his quota of the precious liquid.

There is no other water on the island, so that in summer, rabbits driven by thirst go down to the sea to drink—and die of it.

There is a small hall on the island, where films are shown fortnightly. Each afternoon, a small grocery store is open for business, but most supplies come from Port Victoria by means of the Company's launch, which makes the trip across thrice weekly.

The houses are gaily painted, and gardens are neat. A refrigerator is installed in each home, and the houses all have grand front fences of brush—especially brought from Tasmania by one of the Company's ship.

Some time ago, tamarisks were planted, but they did not do well; now the islanders are very pleased with the growth of a number of young mallees, which look strong and healthy.

Strong seas beat against the island's western shores, driving the salt spray way up onto the cliffs—a most spectacular sight that, once witnessed, will live in your memory.

There is now no longer any sign of the French barque "Jean Barte," which went ashore on the south end of the isle little more than forty years ago. Time and the sea have done their work with her. At the northern end a buoy marks the spot where the "Songvaar" foundered about the same time.

Sharp-nosed dark grey porpoises, leaping high out of the water, may be witnessed on the crowing from mainland to Wardang. Those I saw were much more torpedo-shaped than any others I remember. Porpoises somehow always manage to convey a feeling of joy in living, like light-hearted children who leap for joy on a fresh sunny day. The people who live on Wardang Inland, seem to enjoy life to enjoy life.


State Library of South Australia - B 16577/5 - Lime sand deposits at Wardang Island 1925


State Library of South Australia - B 16577/2 - Lime sand deposits at Wardang Island 1925


State Library of South Australia - B 30702 - Trucks? horses carting sand on Wardang Island 1920


State Library of South Australia - B 30704 - Residents of Wardang Island 1920


State Library of South Australia - B 16577/14 - Old cottage on Wardang Island 1925


Saturday 14 September 1901, Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912) Trove

The Commissioner of Police has received the following report from Mounted Constable R. Hillier, stationed at Maitland, dated September 12:—About 6.30 p.m. yesterday I received a telegram from Port Victoria stating that Joe Alexander, a fisherman, had been drowned at Wardang Island. I left at 7 a.m. and hired a boat at Port Victoria to make enquiries into the matter. The only witness of the affair was John Bews, a boy 14 years of age, who was fishing for Alexander. He stated that at about 7 a.m the latter left the cutter Jenny Lind with a sailing dingey, with the object of fishing. At about 9 am. the boy saw the man and boat returning, and when about 300 yards away a puff of wind capsized the dingey. Alexander swam about 50 yards and then sank. The boy then got the anchor up, and went to the flux quarries and reported tbe affair. The three Simms brothers, fishermen, went out with three sailing boats and searched till sundown. They recovered the dingey - about four miles from where the accident happened, but nothing was seen of Alexander's body. The tide went out very fast with a strong wind. M.C. Hillier sailed about the bay for some hours, but could see nothing of the body, and it is thought by the Simms brothers that the sharks must have killed Alexander, as he was known to be a strong swimmer.

A Trip to Wardang Island.

Friday 5 December 1902, Petersburg Times (SA : 1887 - 1919) Trove

"Make fast. Go ahead. All clear. These were the orders given by the skipper of the "Florrie" as she takes us in tow. We gather way, and off we go bound for Wardang. The "Florrie" leaves us at No. 5 beacon, and by this time we have all our sails filled by the strong S.W. sea breeze which is blowing at the time. " De old box not do too good beating " is the comment of the boy and he is right, for after an hour's sailing we find we have made no headway, the skipper determines to let go, when we get into the shallow water, which we are gradually nearing. It is now dusk, and the order is given to " drop the mud-hook.'' which is done in about 7ft. of water. Tea now. What hearty appetites sailors have, and how they enjoyed their frugal meal of corned mutton, boiled potatoes and the inevitable "flap Jack". I would like to tell about the tales current in reference to the pan-cake or " flap jack," but they might prove dry. Tea over, we relate yarns for a while, smoke several pipes, and finally partake of the skipper's hospitality in a tot quite a " bosun's tot," too, and then we turn in, but not so the skipper he is waiting for his "slant," which in this case is the east land breeze, so he sits on the door of the skylight, arms folded, and smoking. See him there, puffing great clouds of smoke, and musing-for a pensive mood is upon him ; he looks just the dear old happy-go-lucky "sea dog" that we used (and perhaps some of us do now) to love in Kingsley'a books of the sea and its life. His thoughts must be of home, for see a smile lights up his sunburnt features, and I catch him murmuring " Aye, she can sing, can my girl - how proud he is of his daughter's voice. Suddenly there comes a change over his face; he is all thought of work now, home dreams are kept reserved for another time. He says, " Come on, boys, heave her short, set everything, hoist the stay sail, let her pay off. Here you 'Jonah' take the first watch-watch the lead, and don't let her come in anything under 9 ft of water. Good-night, I'm going to turn in for a while. Call me when Lowly is tearing north." And so saying he retires, and I follow his example.

Morning! What a beautiful dawn. How fresh, how lovely it is. You feel its exhilarating influence thrill through your very soul. Yet there are people who say there is no God. Let them feel his love permeating through the golden beams of rich warm gleams of the rising sun. You hear His tender voice in the low sweet cadence of the gentle zephyr. Per chance you have doubted at some time, but feel these ecstatic influences around you, and all doubts are for ever stilled.

On we go! Now past Tickera township ! Now past Point Reily : all in quick time, thanks to the northerly breeze which is freshening. Tipara lighthouse now appears in sight, a little to the westward; at first it looks not unlike a stick projecting a few feet out of water, but as we draw near I see for to first time its peculiar construction. "Take the topsail in,' shouts the skipper. " Topsail in it is, sir," say the men. The wind is still freshening, and by this time we are opposite Tipara. We fly past it. I cast a glance to the eastward, and catch a sight of pretty Moonta. Tipara is lost to sight, and almost simultaneously appears what seems to me a point jutting out, but as we draw nearer I am informed " That's Wardang."

Wardang appears quite clearly now, but night is approaching, and I am barred from getting a proper view. We sail right close to the land, and when we heave the lead and get three fathoms the vessel is "rounded to," the anchor is dropped, the riding-light lit and "hung out" we are safe and cozy for the night on the flats because a northerly breeze is blowing, and as the jetty is on a lee shore it is not safe to lie there.

Daylight! We are all up, once more ready for the day's work. The staysail is hoisted and we sail up to the jetty, and berth. This jetty is a pile one, which juts out about a hundred yards into the sea. The crafts are loaded by means of portable iron shutes, worked with the ship's tackle. Down these shutes the flux is tipped out of trucks which carry about 16 cwt.

"Come up and get introduced," says the skipper, to which invitation I readily respond. Tom Madigan is the first person we meet he is the foreman under Mr. Kerrison. Tom very kindly gives me an account of the workings. I will give them in his own words :" There are about thirty men employed here, quarrying, trucking and driving the horses. We quarry that cliff, which is 20 ft high, and so far we are at present engaged ahout a quarter of a mile long. This cliff is solid flux of a rich brown hue. Flux is a composition of lime and sand. I myself believe it is all minute shells which have been collected together by nature's far-reaching power. We send about one hundred tons a day to Pirie by the crafts, which trade here. Sometimes we are blocked by a "fall' ; the fall is caused by that top strata there of about ten feet deep, which is not flux, falling after we have quarried the flux uderaeath. There are two horses employed here, drawing the trucks up and down the jetty. Water ! How do we manage ? We have to get nearly all of it from Pirie by the crafts, as there is not a drop of fresh water to be found on the whole island. ' Eh ! here Tom, what about this ?' He is called away and our little talk is at an end. " Come on," says the skipper, so I follow. " Good day, captain !" I hear shouted. " Good day, Mr. Kerrison!" says the skipper. What a genial, rubicund face is before me. This is Mr. Kerrison, or I might say, " The King of Wardang," always ready with his hearty laugh, and always ready with his joke is the king ! A happy "King" he is. "There's a dance to-night, captain, will you come ? It is up at the blackfellows' camp." " Rather," we reply. So that night about 7-30 I commenced to put on my best clothes, and off the skipper and myself went to that dance. Oh ! how can I describe it ? Picture a long low shed about 20 ft. wide and about 40 ft. long. Sitting down were whites and blacks, all conversing freely. There is " Julia,' a black lady, playing the concertina, which provides the music for the dance. This shed is where they shear the sheep which are on the island, and there lingered there an aroma not unlike that peculiar smell which we find in the back yard of a butcher's shop. The dancers all have on their working boots ; so that the nails therein will prevent them from slipping on the greasy floor, I suppose. A song is given, a dance, and so on. There in state sits Mrs. Yates, the " mother " of the black folks. I would not dare guess her age. Laugh ! she can laugh ! and when she laughs her eighteen stone quivers and shakes like unto a blanc mange.

We wend our way aboard, and I muse of the quaintest dance I have ever seen.

Daybreak! We are "at it" arain. We let go from the pier, and after we get clear of the island lay becalmed till nightfall, when we get it " hot and strong." A " southerly buster" are the words they used aboard to describe the weather. My ! It did " pipe." We had to run under single-reefed mainsail and no mizen, so you can tell what it was like. Thank goodness! I am blessed by being a heavy sleeper. Thev told me next) morning there had been a big sea running, wd I quite believed them.

"Hullo, there's No. 10," said the "old man "um-how many hours that-mister -since we got the wind, and how long have we been Y Fifteen and a haif, eh ! By jingo ! She 'as 'umraed. She never went as fast before. !)0 Miles in 15 hours. How many miles an hour is that?' "Six," I reply. " Yet the skipper swears sliedid her ten once; I don't believe 'im, there, that's straight." He did not say that to the skipper, though. This "s what he said :-" Yes, sir. 1 quite believes ;er when yer say a* 'ow she 'ad done her ten, vhy, larst night she only seemed to he :rawlin' like, an' by my reekernin' she did 'er


Such is life for the ways of men. We are by this time at No. 5. where we wait the arrival of the " Florrie," to be ouce more towed to Pirie, after a most healthy and enjoyable trip.

A Trip to Wardang Island

Saturday 9 January 1904, Port Pirie Recorder and North Western Mail (SA : 1898 - 1918) Trove

BY ONE OF THE PARTY. A small party of Pirieans had a pleasant trip to Warding Island on New Year's Eve in the launch Florrie. Leaving the wharf at 4 p.m. on Thursday a very enjoyable run was made down the Gulf. Wallaroo was passed at midnigh, and a few euthusiasts on board welcomed the new year by firing off guns and rifles and beating kerosene tins, while the more sedate quietly drank success to temperance. Wardang Island was reached at 6 a.m and the party was welc welcomed most heartily by Mr. J. Kerrison, who is looked upon as King of the Island. On this occasion he unbent, and was a geninl, kindly host, hearty in his welcome and profuse with his hospitality.

At 9 a.m. a start was made, for Port Victoria for the purpose of conveying excursionists to the Island to witness a capital programe of sports arranged by a joint committee from the Island and mainland.

The party divided here, some going inland to visit adjacent towns, others remaining to inspect the port, the remainder returning to Wardang. A very merry time was spent by those who stayed at Port Victoria, although one of the number is not the same opinion of his skill as a bagatelle player as heretofore. Tne party reunited at dinner, kindly provided and presided over by Mr. Kerrison. During the afternoon the various land and aquatic sports were witnessed, in a desultory fashion and a visit paid to the caves on the west side of the island. The running high jump was worth seeing, and was won by one of the mission station backs, who cleared 5 ft. 4in. with the greatest ease. The sailing race was won by the Young Mclntyre, sailed by Capt. W. Kerrison. The boat was rigged and fitted by the Captain, and had of late been the subject of many jokes. In the race it was given a good handicap, and won with that in hand and a bit to spare, so the jokers are now trying to forget their smart sayings. About 303 visitors were on the island during the day, and it was a mystery from whence they came. All seemed bent on enjoyment, and it would have been difficult to find a merrier or happier crowd than that assembled on Wardang Island on New Year's Day 1904. Mr. J. Kerrison's hospitality was again enjoyed at tea, and the Pirieans are deeply indebted to Mr. and Mrs. Kerrison for their kindness and hospitality. After tea we had a stroll on the cliffs, said adieu with regret to the ladies, and made a start for home at 7. 25.

All went well until shortly after midnight, when strong gusts from the south presaged stormy weather, and not long after the witching hour the little launch was in a very coltish mood, plunging and kicking in a very lively manner. These pranks induced a quiet pensiveness in some of the party quite foreign to their usual nature, and it was not long before the bright moon looked down on convulsive figures hanging over the bulwarks. A good deal of spray came aboard, and the frequent lurch was indicative of a portion of a wave slipping between the rug and a would-be sleeper's skin. The climax was reached at 6 o'clock when the wind culminated in a gale, accompanied by torrents of rain and seas mountains high, at least they seemed that high to most of us. Any dry spots that were left were speedily soaked, and we just piddled and slopped in water from the crown of our heads to the soles of our feet. It was a very wet and bedraggled crowd who landed at Queen's Wharf at II am., and there was just a little oil left, just enough for two. We were wet and uncomfortable, but we had had a ripping good time, and I could tell funny little incidents ; but there may be another trip soon.


Saturday 20 November 1909, Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 - 1931) Trove

PORT VICTORIA, November 11. For some years ship owners and masters of boats , trading in Spencer's Gulf have considered that a light was necessary on Wardang Island, and at last one has been erected. On Wednesday night it was set going by Capt. Weir and Mr. Lucas, from the Marine Board Office. This light, which is a Swedish patent, called the Aga, is the first of its kind to be erected in Australasia, and if it proves a success others will be placed where needed. It is an automatic arrangement, lighting itself at sunset and shutting at daylight, and only requires attention once in six months, being worked by compressed acetylene gas. The candle power is estimated at about 400, and will give a flash as regulated, at present showing every three seconds, and visible at a distance of 10 miles. This should prove a boon to all craft trading in the vicinity.

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GA706 - State Records of South Australia

Wardang Island Primary School Date Range: Inventory of Series

Contents Date Range Series Date Range Number of Units Public Access Series Id Series Title

1938 - 1968 1938 - 1968 1 Open GRS/4872 SCHOOL COMMITTEE MINUTES
1958 - 1967 1958 - 1967 1 Restricted GRS/4871 Inspector`s register - Wardang Island Primary School
1959 - 1967 1959 - 1967 1 Open GRS/4870 Admission registers - Wardang Island Primary School