Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island spans the entrance to Gulf St Vincent, and is 112 kilometres south-west of Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia. It is 150 kilometres long and its width varies from 900 metres to 57 kilometres. At its closest, it is just 13 kilometres from the mainland, separated by Backstairs Passage from Cape Jervois, the southern-most point of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Its most western point is about 75 kilometres south-south-west of Cape Spencer at the foot of Yorke Peninsula, from which it is separated by Investigator Strait. Matthew Flinders named the island in 1802, the year in which whalers and sealers established the first, unofficial settlement on Kangaroo Island.

There is evidence of ancient Aboriginal occupation of the island, but the early European visitors found it uninhabited. It does, however, feature in both Ngarrindjeri and Tangane dreaming stories as the Island of the Dead.

In the first decades of the nineteenth century groups of deserting sailors and runaway convicts established makeshift settlements on the remote island. They were described in unflattering terms by the next official visitor, Captain George Sutherland, who spent some months on the island in 1819, while charting its shores. He described them as ‘little better than pirates’ and particularly disapproved of their treatment of numbers of Aboriginal women, whom they had kidnapped from the mainland and from Tasmania and kept ‘in a state of slavery’.

The escaped convicts were rounded up by the colonial government of New South Wales before the arrival of the South Australian Company settlers, but the fate of the Aboriginal women is unknown.  Sutherland reported that they were simply left to fend for themselves on the mainland. The unofficial, but free occupants remained, with Aboriginal women. They had established houses, with vegetable gardens and traded seal skins, salt and fresh meat to passing ships.

Google Map of Kangaroo Island

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