Lord Howe Island (formerly Lord Howe's Island) is an irregularly crescent-shaped volcanic remnant in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, directly east of mainland Port Macquarie, and about from Norfolk Island. The island is about 10 km long and between 2.0 km and 0.3 km wide with an area of 14.55 km2, "of which only 398 hectares is in the lowland settled area". Along the west coast there is a sandy semi-enclosed sheltered coral reef lagoon. Most of the population lives in the north, while the south is dominated by forested hills rising to the highest point on the island, Mount Gower. The Lord Howe Island Group of islands comprises 28 islands, islets and rocks. Apart from Lord Howe Island itself the most notable of these is the volcanic and uninhabited Ball's Pyramid about 23 km to the south-east. To the north there is the Admiralty Group, a cluster of seven small uninhabited islands.
The first reported sighting of Lord Howe Island was on 17 February 1788 when Lieutenant Henry Lidgbird Ball, commander of the Armed Tender HMS Supply was on its way from Botany Bay to found a penal settlement on Norfolk Island. On the return journey Ball sent a party ashore on Lord Howe Island to claim it as a British possession. It subsequently became a provisioning port for the whaling industry, and was permanently settled in June 1834. When whaling declined, the worldwide export of the endemic kentia palms began in the 1880s, which remains a key component of the Island's economy. The other continuing industry, tourism, began after World War II.
The Lord Howe Island Group is part of the state of New South Wales that, for legal purposes, is regarded as an unincorporated area administered by the Lord Howe Island Board which reports to the New South Wales Minister for Environment and Heritage. The island's standard time zone is , or [[Wikipedia:UTC+11|UTC+11]] when daylight saving time applies. The currency is the Australian dollar. Commuter airlines are linked to Sydney, Brisbane, Port Macquarie and Norfolk Island.
The Lord Howe Island Group is recorded by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site of global natural significance. Most of the island is virtually untouched forest with many of the plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Other natural attractions include the diversity of its landscapes, the variety of upper mantle and oceanic basalts, the world's southernmost barrier coral reef, nesting seabirds, and its rich historical and cultural heritage. The Lord Howe Island Act of 1981 established a "Permanent Park Preserve" (covering approximately 70 per cent of the island). The surrounding waters are a protected region designated the Lord Howe Island Marine Park.
1788–1834 First European visits
It appears that, prior to European discovery and settlement, Lord Howe Island was uninhabited, and unknown to Polynesian peoples of the South Pacific. The first reported European sighting of Lord Howe Island was on 17 February 1788 when Lieutenant Henry Lidgbird Ball, commander of the Armed Tender HMS Supply (the oldest and smallest of the First Fleet ships) was on its way from Botany Bay with a cargo of 15 convicts (9 male, 6 female) to found a penal settlement on Norfolk Island. On the return journey of 13 March 1788 Ball observed Ball's Pyramid and sent a party ashore on Lord Howe Island to claim it as a British possession. Numerous turtles and tame birds were captured and returned to Sydney. Ball named Mount Lidgbird and Balls Pyramid after himself and the main island after Richard Howe, First Earl Howe, who was First Lord of the Admiralty at the time.
The island was subsequently visited by many government and whaling ships sailing between New South Wales and Norfolk Island and across the Pacific, including many from the American whaling fleet, so its reputation as a provisioning port preceded settlement, some ships leaving goats and pigs on the island as food for future visitors. Between July and October 1791 the Third Fleet ships arrived at Sydney and within days the deckwork was being reconstructed for a future in the lucrative whaling industry. Whale oil was to become New Holland's (Australia) most profitable export until the 1830s, and it was the whaling industry that shaped Lord Howe Island's early history.
Permanent settlement on Lord Howe was established in June 1834 when the British whaling barque Caroline, sailing from New Zealand and commanded by Captain John Blinkenthorpe, landed at what is now known as Blinky Beach. They left three men, George Ashdown, James Bishop and (unknown) Chapman, who were employed by a Sydney whaling firm to establish a supply station. The men were initially to provide meat by fishing and by raising pigs and goats from feral stock. They landed with (or acquired from a visiting ship) their Maori wives and two Maori boys. Huts were built in an area now known as Old Settlement which had a supply of fresh water, and a garden was established west of Blinky Beach.
This was a cashless society; the settlers bartered their stores of water, wood, vegetables, meat, fish and bird feathers for clothes, tea, sugar, tools, tobacco and other commodities not available on the island — but it was the whalers’ valuation that had to be accepted. These first settlers eventually left the island when they were bought out for £350 in September 1841 by businessmen Owen Poole and Richard Dawson (later joined by John Foulis) whose employees and others now settled on the island.
1842–1860 trading provisions
The new business was advertised and ships now trading between Sydney and the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) would also put in to the island. Rover's Bride, a small cutter, became the first regular trading vessel. Between 1839 and 1859 between five and twelve ships made landfall each year, occasionally closer to 20 with seven or eight at a time laying off the reef. In 1842 and 1844 the first children were born on the island. Then in 1847 Poole, Dawson and Foulis, bitter at failing to obtain a land lease from the New South Wales Government, abandoned the settlement although three of their employees remained. One family, the Andrews, after finding some onions on the beach in 1848, cultivated them as the 'Lord Howe Red Onion' which was popular in the southern hemisphere for about 30 years until the crop was attacked by smut disease.
In 1849 there were just 11 people living on the island but it was not long before the island farms expanded. In the 1850s gold was discovered on mainland Australia where crews would abandon their ships, preferring to dig for gold than to risk a life at sea. As a consequence many vessels avoided the mainland and Lord Howe Island experienced an increasing trade which peaked between 1855 and 1857. In 1851 about 16 people were living on the island. Between 1839 and 1859 between five and twelve ships made landfall per year (occasionally closer to 20) with seven or eight at a time laying off the reef. Vegetable crops now included potatoes, carrots, maize, pumpkin, taro, watermelon — even grapes, passionfruit and coffee. Between 1851 and 1853 there were several aborted proposals by the NSW Government to establish a penal settlement on the island.
From 1851 to 1854 Henry Denham captain of HMS Herald, which was on a scientific expedition to the southwest Pacific (1852–1856), completed the island's first hydrographic survey. On board were three Scottish biologists, William Milne (a gardener-botanist from the Edinburgh Botanic Garden), John Macgillivray (naturalist) who collected fish and plant specimens, and Assistant Surgeon and zoologist Denis Macdonald. Together these men established much basic information on the geology, flora and fauna of the island.
In about 1853 a further three settlers arrived on the American whaling barque Belle, captained by Ichabod Handy. As well as George Campbell (who died in 1856) and Jack Brian (who left the island in 1854), the third, Nathan Thompson, brought three women (called Botanga, Bogoroo, and a girl named Bogue) from the Gilbert Islands. When his first wife Botanga died he then married Bogue. Thompson was the first resident to build a substantial house in the 1860s from mainland cedar washed up on the beach. Most of the residents with island ancestors have blood relations or are connected by marriage to Thompson and his second wife Bogue.
In 1855 the island was officially designated as part of New South Wales by the Constitution Act.
1861–1890 scientific expeditions
From the early 1860s whaling declined rapidly with the increasing use of petroleum, the onset of the Californian goldrush, and the American Civil War — with unfortunate consequences for the island. To explore alternative means of income Thompson, in 1867, purchased the Sylph which was the first local vessel to trade with Sydney (mainly pigs and onions). It anchored in deep water at what is now Sylph’s Hole off Old Settlement Beach, but was eventually tragically lost at sea in 1873 which added to the woes of the island at this time.
In 1869 the island was visited by a magistrate P. Cloete aboard the Thetis investigating a possible murder. He was accompanied by Charles Moore, Director of the Botanic Gardens, Sydney and his assistant, William Carron who forwarded plant specimens to Ferdinand Mueller at the botanic gardens in Melbourne who, by 1875, had catalogued and published 195 species. Also on the ship was William Fitzgerald a surveyor and Mr Masters from the Australian Museum. Together they surveyed the island with the findings published in 1870 when the population was listed as 35 people, their 13 houses built of split palm battens thatched on the roof and sides with palm leaves. At about this time there began a downturn of trade with the demise of the whaling industry and sometimes six or twelve months passed without a vessel calling. With the provisions rotting in the storehouses the older families lost interest in market gardening.
From 1860 to 1872 forty-three ships had collected provisions, but from 1873 to 1887 there were fewer than a dozen. This prompted some activity from the mainland. A 1876 a government report on the island was submitted by surveyor William Fitzgerald based on a visit in the same year. He suggested that coffee be grown but the kentia palm was already catching world attention. In 1878 the island was declared a Forest Reserve and Captain Richard Armstrong became the first resident government administrator. He encouraged schools, tree-planting and the palm trade, dynamited the north passage to the lagoon, and built roads but, having managed to upset the residents, parliamentarian John Wilson was sent from the mainland in April 1882 to investigate the situation. With Wilson was a team of scientists that included H. Wilkinson from the Mines Department, W. Condor from the Survey Department, J. Duff from the Sydney Botanical Gardens and A. Morton from the Australian Museum. J. Sharkey from the Government Printing Office took the earliest known photographs of the Island and its residents. A full account of the island appeared in the report from this visit published as "Lord Howe Island 1882", which also recommended that Armstrong be replaced. Meanwhile the population had increased considerably and included 29 children; the report recommended that a schoolmaster be appointed. This study sealed a lasting relationship with three scientific organisations, the Australian Museum, Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens and Kew Royal Botanic Gardens.
In 1883 the company Burns Philp started a regular shipping service and the number of tourists gradually increased. By 1932, with the regular tourist run of the SS Morinda, tourism became the second biggest source of external income after palm sales to Europe. Morinda was replaced by Makambo in 1932, and she in turn by other vessels. The service continues into the present day with the fortnightly Island Trader service from Port Macquarie.
The palm trade began in the 1880s when the lowland Kentia Palm (Howea forsteriana) was first exported to Britain, Europe and America but the trade was only placed on a firm financial footing when the Lord Howe Island Kentia Palm Nursery was formed in 1906 (see below).
The first plane to appear on the island was in 1931 when Francis Chichester alighted on the lagoon in a Gipsy Moth converted into a floatplane. It was damaged here in an overnight storm but repaired with the assistance of islanders and then took off successfully nine weeks later for a flight to Sydney. After World War II, in 1947, tourists arrived on Catalina and then Sandringham flying boats operating out of Rose Bay, Sydney, and landing on the lagoon, the journey taking about 3.5 hours. These seaplanes were replaced by twin-engined aircraft (in 2011 Dash 8 turbo-props) when the Lord Howe Island Airport was completed in 1974. In 2002, the Royal Navy destroyer struck Wolf Rock, a reef at Lord Howe Island, and almost sank. In recent times tourism has increased and the government of New South Wales has been increasingly involved with issues of conservation.
On 17 October 2011, a supply ship, M/V Island Trader with twenty tons of fuel ran aground in the lagoon. The ship refloated at high tide with no loss of crew or cargo.