WESSEL ISLANDS

 

WESSEL ISLANDS

DISTANCE TRAVELLED: 100 NM
 
STEAMING TIME: 10 Hours
 

After a short overnight passage and a night at anchor nearby, the Coral Adventurer will arrive early at the Wessel islands for a morning of shore exploration and storytelling.

The Wessel Islands is a group of islands that extend in a more or less straight line from Buckingham Bay and the Napier Peninsula of Arnhem Land, and Elcho Island, to the northeast. Marchinbar Island is the largest of the group. Other islands include Elcho Island, Rimbija Island (the most outlying island), Guluwuru, Raragala, Stevens Island, Burgunngura, Djeergaree, Yargara, Drysdale Island, Jirrgari Island, Graham Island, Alger Island, Abbott Island, and Island. The Wessel Islands constituted the homelands of the Nango or Yan-nhaŋu. The islands were mapped and named by a Dutch expedition that sailed from Banda Neira to explore the coasts of New Guinea and the South Land following up on discoveries made in 1623 by Jan Carstensz and Willem van Colster (who named Arnhem Land after his ship Arnhem). The islands were named after one of the two small vessels used on discovery voyages of the coastline, the Wesel. The unfolding archeological story of the Marchinbar Coins provides a fascinating insight into the regions past. In 1944, Australian soldier Morry Isenberg found nine coins buried in the sand one day while fishing when he was stationed on Marchinbar Island. In 1979 he sent these coins to be authenticated. Four of the coins were found to have come from the Dutch East India Company, while the other five were determined to be from the Kilwa Sultanate in Tanzania. Their re-examination has given rise to much speculation about how these medieval African coins came to Australia. Another coin, believed to be from Kilwa, turned up on Elcho Island where it was found by Past Masters amateur archaeologist Mike Hermes in 2018. Mike is a regular guest lecturer onboard Coral Expeditions and will be on hand to share his stories and knowledge.

Now we are homeward bound on the final leg of the journey across the Arafura Sea, wide around the Tiwi Islands and we then conclude our voyage in Darwin.