There’s a lot to see up here besides the ‘top’. Another day trip was to a place called Somerset, where you can see the remains of the Jardine homestead, a few graves, a beautiful beach and a cave with Aboriginal paintings.
It was pouring and the rocks were slippy when we arrived, so we didn’t quite make it to the Aboriginal cave, and the homestead burnt down in the ‘60’s, but hey, can’t complain. There’s a few cannons, and a memorial to one of the seriously hard bastards who helped shape the Cape – Frank Jardine.
Son of a Scottish immigrant, Frank was the guy you wanted on your side in a fight. In 1864, when his father moved to Somerset as Commissioner, he and his brother drove 250 cattle from Rockhampton, all the way to the top. An epic journey through rainforests, savannah plains, rivers and hostile territory. And Frank killed 47 people along the way. Quite the tally.
The journey caught the attention of the Royal Geographical Society, to which Frank and his brother were elected Fellows, and his impressive disregard for human life obviously caught the attention of the British authorities, as he was appointed Magistrate of the Territory, and Chief Police Inspector.
On top of the crocs, snakes, wild weather and sheer remoteness of the Cape, there were also head hunters, cannibals and waring local tribes to deal with at the time. The authorities must have been pleased with their choice, then, when they heard the locals had a new name for Frank – Debil Debil Jardine.
This Devil was nobody’s man however. He knew how to blur the lines between his own interests, and that of the crown. He also married a Samoan Princess. Rescued shipwrecked sailors. Salvaged Spanish treasure and held extravagant dinner parties for anyone who dared visit this far north.
He and his wife, Sana, are buried by the beach down at Somerset, and it’s rumoured his body was dug up and turned upside down, so his spirit couldn’t come back to torment the locals. Who knows.
What is for sure is that he lived quite the life, and of all the characters over the years it’s Frank who embodies the rugged and pioneering nature of the Cape more than anyone else. Good on ya Frank.
Watching the sunset over Punsand Bay, with a cold beer in hand of course, was a lovely way to end the day. The kids would sit watching an outdoor movie, and if you looked over to the left you could see a little bit of an island beyond the headland.
We didn’t visit Possession Island, but there’s a memorial over there on the exact spot where Captain James Cook raised the English flag, claiming the land as New Wales, which eventually became Australia.
So we had now travelled from Cook’s first landing, Botany Bay in Sydney, through his second port of call, Seventeen Seventy, to Cooktown where he lived for 18 weeks, and now, we had finally arrived at the place where history had taken a turn. If Cook hadn’t planted that flag over there on Possession Island, Australia could well have been Dutch, and I probably wouldn’t be here right now.
I wonder if that’s the end of our Captain Cook story. He’s been a regular feature all the way up the coast, naming virtually every spot we’ve been to, and I don’t know enough of his journey to say if we’re going to hear any more about him. I suspect not, but time will tell.
Even the Devil’s descendants couldn’t withstand a World War however, and having purchased Somerset from the Crown, it was WWII that finally pushed the Jardines out of their home. 10,000 troops were stationed at the top of Cape York during the war, and the rusting remains of their presence are lying hidden throughout the bush.
Near the landing strip that is known as Bamaga Airport, there’s a wee deserted road that leads you into the trees, through what used to be a military airport. Creeping along the track you pass congregations of oil drums, slowly rusting back into the soil, and further down you come to a crashed Beaufort Bomber.
Closer to the main road there’s a DC3 in a similar state of disrepair, and there’s a Kittyhawk fighter plane hidden round here somewhere, but we didn’t find it.
There are, apparently, over 160 aircraft crashed north of the Jardine River, although the majority of them have never been found.
We spent a few hours tracking down what we could, and then we went fishing off Seisa wharf with the girls.
I say fishing, but really, once again it was just Katie and Skye fishing, while I untangled lines, and Erin made sure nobody fell in the shark and crocodile infested waters.
I was really loving it up here, although the weather could have been better, but hey, even still, you felt as if you were a million miles away from the rest of the world. And that’s a pretty nice place to be. I think the rest of the world has gotten a wee bit crazy of late.