Lady Elliot’s history

Lady Elliot island is a special place on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

“It is the only coral cay along the entire 2300kms of reef that is capable of landing fixed-wing aircraft and the diving is both varied and exciting with easy access for shore entry. There are abundant rookeries for the wandering seabirds to nest and rear their young and inviting beaches for turtles to come ashore and lay their eggs. Human guests are made welcome at the small resort and encouraged to get close to nature.”

As we leave...

That’s how the guidebook describes our home for the last week, and I’ve have to agree. But the island hasn’t always been a mecca for nature…

The first recorded sighting of the island was in 1816 was when the ship ‘Lady Elliot‘ spotted the coral cay whilst in transit from Calcutta. The islands position was marked and she was named after the vessel whom had spotted her.

The first landing on the island occurred in 1843 when an expedition was sent out to chart and map the Capricornia Group of islands following an “increasing concern at the loss of ships and life on the Great Barrier Reef”. The party who came ashore sighted a huge number of birds, and noted the large number of turtles and sharks in the lagoon.

Lady Elliot’s history from 1863 to 1873 was not a pretty one; guano mining commenced on the island to provide fertiliser for the agricultural industry. In that ten year period a man called Mr J Askunas stripped the beautiful coral cay of all life and at least one metre of it’s land mass!! Back in those days it really didn’t seem that the environment and the care of the reef were the uppermost in people’s minds.

These days however everything is being done by the team here on Lady Elliot to preserve it’s future and the long-term health of the GBR; solar power is the name of the game with recycling and other environmental procedures in place to ensure that the human impact on this stunning little coral outcrop is as low as it possibly can be.

Peter McMahan, the assistant operations manager, talks about the work being done here at present: