On 17 February 1788, Lieutenant
Henry Lidgbird Ball, made the first recorded sighting of Lord Howe
Island as he sailed between Port Jackson and Norfolk Island.
Ball (1756-1818) was in command of the HMS Supply, a vessel of
the First Fleet. Ball had been praised for his navigational
skills by Admiral Arthur Philip, Governor of New South Wales and it
would appear that Philip's enthusiasm was warranted; Lord Howe
Island was a significant sighting for it was uncharted, uninhabited
and even unknown to the local Polynesians. It was by all
accounts, a 'true' discovery.
It wasn't until the
return voyage on 13 March, 1788 that Ball and his crew sent
a party ashore. First Fleet Surgeon, George B Worgan, in a
letter to Sirius dated 12 June, 1788 perhaps best summarises the experience:
discovered an Island in these Seas, never before seen by our Navigators.
We have named it, Lord Howe's Island. It affords Turtle in the
Summer Season, and the Supply Brig, brought away 18 very fine Ones, on
which, we feasted most luxuriously, it also, abounds with Birds of the
Dove Species, which are so stupid as to suffer us to take them off the
Bushes with our Hands. As this Island is not above 4 or 5 Days sail from
Port Jackson, we hope, to have Turtle Feasts frequently: if this be the
Case, I suppose We shall have a Ship-load of Aldermen coming out to New
George B. 'Sirius, Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, June 12th 1788' - Journal
of a First Fleet Surgeon (1788). (Online)
Lt. Henry Lidgbird Ball
Commander of Supply circa 1792
on the History of the Island, visit the
Howe Online Library
Lord Howe Island became a
regular destination for the various government ships that sailed between
New South Wales and the convict settlement at Norfolk Island. It was
also popular with the whaling vessels, particularly those from America and
Britain. It is said that the first settlers to Lord Howe arrived in
1833; three men, three Maori women and a group of boys. The first
settlers relied on the whaling vessels for their livelihood, supplying
food and water to the crew. In the early 1840s more settlers arrived
and by 1853, more Europeans had arrived from the Gilbert Islands. It
said that the Island's current population descends through these lineages.
As many as fifty ships
passed through Lord Howe every year. When
whaling began to lose momentum the islanders turned to thatch palm for
economic stability. The island was abundant in Kentia palm.
Kentia palm was initially utilised as a thatched roofing material but as a
decorative indoor plant, Kentia Palm emerged as a marketable commodity,
much sort after by Europe and the USA.
Lord Howe Island became a
desirable community location but as its popularity increased, so too did
the burden on the Island's resources. Thus in 1882,
a government recommendation stated that the island's preservation was dependent
upon maintaining a populous status quo. A report from the mainland
suggested that only those already in residence be permitted to
settle. Although it may have been perceived as a drastic culling
measure, this decision would prove to be well founded. No more so
than in 1918, when rats inadvertently escaped onto the island from a
visiting ship and subsequently decimated the Kentia Palms.
replaced export. A pre World War II cruise ship run boosted the island's
economy without placing undue stress on the island's resources, as might
have occurred if a settlement quota had not been previously established.
Following World War II, a sea plane service ensured a steady flow of
mainland visitors; and in the 1970s an airstrip was finally built.
Today Lord Howe Island is home to approximately 350 residents and an
established tourist destination for hundreds of mainland and international
more about the island's history ....