Queensland Places – Albany Island

Albany Island (Papaju) is situated at the tip of Cape York, within the Adolphus Channel, some twenty kilometres to the east of Bamaga.  It forms part of the Manar Group of islands as well as being part of the Torres Strait Islands.  Albany Island is around six kilometres in length and approximately 580 hectares in area and today is a popular destination for visitors to the region, particular those interested in fishing.

It was surveyed in detail in the mid 1860s, with part of the island being set out as a small settlement and port which would be accessible for passing ships, to be called Port Albany.  Some earlier survey work was also undertaken in the late 1840s when HMS Rattlesnake visited as part of its hydrographic voyage.  This work was undertaken by Captain Owen Stanley, Lieutenant C.B. Yule as well as the Second Master, Mr. J. Pollard.  A beche-de-mer station had also been established here in 1862, by C. Edwards and J. Fraser, who were partners in the venture, which operated successfully for some years after this.

Albany Island was visited by the Queensland Governor, Sir George Bowen around this time, as the government intended to develop a larger settlement to support shipping and communication through the area.  However, these plans were abandoned and the settlement was established at an alternate location on the adjacent mainland, at Somerset, sheltered by Albany Island.

The island was named Albany in 1846 by Lieutenant Yule of the HMS Rattlesnake, in honour of Frederick, Duke of Albany, who was the brother of King George IV.  Albany Island is also closely associated with one of Queensland’s worst maritime disasters, this being the tragic sinking of the RMS Quetta.  The passenger ship Quetta, struck an uncharted rock in the Adolphus Channel, just off Albany Island in 1890, with the loss of 134 people.

Albany Island, ca. 1920. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 189613

Albany Island, ca. 1920. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 189613

This image, dating from the 1920s, shows the Albany Island shoreline with a scattering of buildings.  Included amongst these is “Saville-Kents” artificial pearl-shell experimental station.

Brian Randall – Specialist Librarian, State Library of Queensland.