we spent most of today off lumiel, we packed the dinghy with all our dive gear, water, cameras and oyster collecting tools and after breakfast headed into the beach on the north west tip of fantome island. there is a basic camp built by palm island residents that we could set up in, shaded by big trees, a big firepit, a little mooring for the dinghy, reef for snorkelling accessible off the beach and oyster covered rocks a short walk down the beach!
after unloading our gear we set off to explore the lazaret or leprosarium using the wikipedia article (link) as our guide to finding the elements. as i said in the last post, this site is a stark reminder of australia’s institutional racism, but its also such a picturesque site so there is a certain conflict evident while walking the ruins.
i will post some of the commentary for the photos from the article below,
The remains of St Mary’s Catholic Church are located adjacent to and immediately west of the main lazaret pathway. The remains include a large concrete pad. A low wall with a small square recessed section on the outer side, presumably for the placement of a plaque, is located on the end of the pad. In line with and south of the church building pad is a circular concrete feature with a rectangular plinth at its centre.
“The remains of the sisters’ quarters are situated parallel to the north beach front and immediately east of the main lazaret pathway. An extensive scatter of building rubble is found across the site, particularly asbestos fibro fragment, CGI sheets, galvanised iron, steel pipes, and some bricks. The most intact remains are those associated with the nuns’ changing rooms. The site is marked by a concrete pad which is recessed into the ground, with raised concrete surrounds. Internal spaces can be read through the presence of the bases of room dividers, marked by concrete strips. Two iron bath tubs are situated side by side in the centre of the floor area. Adjacent to and east of the changing rooms pad, is a CGI water tank and timber stumps representing a collapsed tank stand. An iron pipe runs from this tank and parallel to the beach front towards a second set of concrete pads. These pads contain the remains of an iron stove and system of concrete spoon drains. Their location set back from the access track and behind another, since-removed building suggests an ancillary use such as a kitchen or laundry.”
“Located east of the visitors’ quarters are the remains of the grotto. The grotto is accessed by a stone-lined path that leads off the main path in front of the remains of the visitors’ quarters. The grotto contains a large shrine consisting of a tall mound of local stone. The shrine features a statuary platform close to the apex though a statue is no longer present. Adjacent to and to the north-west is a concrete altar. The face of the altar is marked with three arched shallow recesses. The largest central arch features a rough outline of Australia that has been constructed of small shells applied to the surface. The path to the grotto terminates at the site of a small steep pyramid-shaped shrine constructed of stone. The shrine has a flat concreted top section probably for a statue, though a statue is no longer present.”
approach path to grotto
“Located at the southern end of the main lazaret pathway are the remains of multiple structures that comprised the supply centre for the lazaret. The supply centre complex consists of a cluster of attached concrete pads comprising: office and store, sewing room, oil room, butcher, and open-air cinema (between the sewing room and the office/store). Immediately east of this complex are the remains of a vehicle garage. Remnants include a concrete pad with a short ramp on the northern end. East of the garage are the remains of the lazaret’s school. Abandoned and partially deconstructed machinery (generator) is bolted to school building pad.”
The married quarters are located immediately adjacent to the single men’s quarters and include huts, two communal kitchens (one later converted into accommodation), a garden area, cess pits, a midden, and general laundry buildings. Former structures are marked by concrete pads. East of the married quarters and 160 metres (520 ft) along a small creek line, are the remains of several wells and pumping equipment. The area includes four circular concrete wells, one rectangular timber-lined well, the remains of a single piston water pump, and a scatter of steel water pipes.
“The cemetery is located on the southern bank of a tidal creek 60 metres (200 ft) from the married quarters. Positioned within a small bend of the creek, the cemetery is bordered by water to the north and east with resulting erosion problems, particularly at the northern end. The cemetery is marked on the east side by an incomplete line of timber fence posts. The individual graves are orientated east–west and are organised into six rows running north–south. The total number of marked graves is 120. Many of the graves are lined by stone surrounds, however, according to the oral history of a former patient these are possibly later additions and may not accurately reflect the number, size and/or location of all the graves. There are some timber crosses marking graves but none of the extant markers retain the name of the deceased; many of the timber crosses now also lack the horizontal member.”
our exploration of the lazaret took a couple of hours and we were glad to return to the shade of our camp site and the fresh water in the esky! after a rest we went snorkelling on the beautiful coral gardens around the north west tip of the island, full of stunning soft and hard corals and many small fish varieties, turtles and sting rays. the tides are pretty big here, about 5m at the moment so the current rips thru the narrow channel between fantome and orphelia islands making for a fast and furious drift dive!
after snorkelling it was back to camp, build a fire and collect oysters to cook. green casuarina fronds provided the smoke to achieve the extra flavour for the oysters!
after pigging out on oysters it was back to the boat for pre-dinner drinks and sunset, todays special was mojitos!
a long and amazing day, we were all deeply impressed, but in quite different ways, for sal the highlight of the day was finding the grotto and the powerful feelings it evoked about what life might have been like for the unfortunate souls incarcerated in the lazaret. for dave the confrontation of the cemetery and it’s stark statement about the horrors of fantome island was his main takeaway. brian was struck by the sheer scale of the site – its much bigger than we expected and sprawls over a large tract of the northern end of the island. it was obvious it must have been a significant population in total.
being a more shallow and simpler soul, my highlight was collecting, cooking and eating the oysters on the beach. for me that connection with country and environment of wild food collection and cooking is always an emotional high.
tomorrow we will explore the lock hospital site and see what we find there.