1852 Survivor

In 1852 the three survivors from the Dutch sailing ship Vice Admiraal Rijk spent 57 days marooned on Christmas Island. They drifted ashore at the North West Pt on a makeshift raft after their vessel ran headlong into the South West Pt of Christmas Island on its voyage to Batavia, modern day Jakarta in Indonesia. After giving up hope of being seen at the North West Pt by passing ships they walked southward, reaching the South Pt of the island after 8 days. To walk on the jagged limestone coastline, and before losing their one knife, the survivors carved wooden soles from planks salvaged from the makeshift raft which they strapped to the bottoms of their shoes. At the South Pt they found plentiful water and were soon rescued by a passing ship, the Amicitia who received a medal. During the shipwreck survivors’ stay on Christmas Island they ate raw birds, as they had no means to make fire, and predominantly drank rain water from rock holes.

Over Christmas 2014, several Parks Australia staff walked the entire perimeter of Christmas Island. Of course they had their own protective clothing, water and were specifically not relying on protected seabirds (raw or not) for food. Jason Turl a team member said they took 3 days to walk from where there is flowing water on the island’s West coast (the Dales) to South Pt. The first day was a long one, 12 hrs, and took them to South West Pt. There are numerous dales to cross on that leg and Jason imagines that one of these could be where the survivors used felled trees to facilitate crossing rather than going inland. The second day took the Parks team from South West Pt to the Boulder Track, just past the ‘Blowholes’. An area on the coast and popular with sightseers today. The third day took them around South Pt. Obviously all the Park’s team members had much better shoes and food and there is even now an old track to follow on part of the third leg too. Jason doesn’t know of any fresh water today at South Pt , but 1852 was before the area was heavily mined for phosphate. Since the original settlement of Christmas Island was also on South Pt, one can only imagine that at one time there was water available.

Image: Depiction of Christmas Island by Daniel Beeckman 1718 showing North West Pt (left), South West Pt (centre) over to South Pt (right).

Image: Painting of Amicitia

Image: Medal awarded for saving the lives of the 3 crew members from Vice Admiraal Rijk


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