Carnac Island - Its History - Woodman Point Quarantine Station

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Carnac Island - Its History

Sea gulls in flight
Carnac Island Panorama
Sailing ship
Originally named Île Berthelot in 1803, by the French explorer Louis de Freycinet, Captain of the Casuarina, had previously named the island Île Pelée (Bald Island), and it was also known as Île Lévilian and later called Île Berthelot.
Carnac Island is situated approximately 6 kms west of the Woodman Point Peninsular and is approximately 15.6 hectares in size. It was later named Carnac island after the English navigator and Captain James Stirling's, First Lieutenant, John Rivett Carnac who was with Captain Stirling on the HMS Success when he first explored the Swan River in 1824.
From the 'Swan River' Volume 17 we find that on the 2nd June 1829 John Margin landed with 28 people, including his family upon the sand spit now removed [observed 1953]. This landing was caused by the necessity to lighten the "Success" and they remained here for five days before finally settling at Garden Island. This gives Carnac the honour of receiving the first settlers and also the first family settler.
In 1838 the Government declared the island to be used as a native prison, together with an attempt to gain a knowledge of the natives. The settlement consisted of  Mr. Lyon, who was in charge, and the three natives, Yagan, Danmera and Ningina, and two soldiers. The settlement was made in October, but only lasted until November of the same year, as the soldiers disliking their solitary existence aided the prisoners to escape.
On the 8th September 1884, the Government Gazette proclaimed Carnac Island as the quarantine station, and later in the same year allocated £900 to be spent on buildings there.
In 1917 from maps from the 'Department of Interior', we can observe two huts in Section III
and a lighthouse beacon in Section V.
The island is now a Department of Parks and Wildlife Nature Reserve, and is home to Australian Sea Lions, Bottlenose Dolphins and a large range of marine bird life. It is particularly noted for the Tiger Snakes, which live there. There is no permanent fresh water, providing a challenge for the animals that live there. The origins of the Tiger Snake colony has attracted significant debate and research into how that species has adapted to a harsh island habitat. It is assumed that Lindsay "Rocky" Vane and an accomplice deposited his collection of reptiles there in late 1929, after snake exhibitions were officially banned in Western Australia, following the death of his wife Annie (1928) and his business partner William Melrose (1929) who both died from Tiger snake bites. The Island would be used extensively for quarantine isolation from 1852 up until the early 1900's, and there is no recorded references at all to any snakes of any description during this period. After a species survey conducted in 2013, it is now estimated there are approximately over 400 Tiger Snakes surviving successfully on Carnac island.
From the early 1850's the island would be used as a quarantine station prior to the official opening of the Woodman Point Quarantine Station. Carnac Island would however still be used in conjunction with the Woodman Point Station for isolation purposes up until the early 1900's.
It is recorded that the first persons to use Carnac Island for quarantine isolation were 226 civilians and military personnel from the vessel "Anna Robertson" suffering from Whooping Cough. This group would later be all transferred from Carnac island to the beach at Woodman Point because of fresh water contamination and housed in tents on the beach. The fresh water was originally being transported to Carnac island from Fremantle in wine casks. It is assumed that these persons would be the first to use the designated area at Woodman Point specifically for quarantine purposes.
Compass Rose North
Carnac Island Aerial Image
Carnac Island Cockburn Sound
Carnac Island Cockburn Sound
Compiled by Earle Seubert
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