I have to report
that, leaving Suva on the 24th November, 1938, at 5.45p.m. per the
chartered vessel M.V. Yanawai, the New Zealand party arrived
off Gardner Island at 11.30a.m., 30th November. The afternoon was
spent searching unsuccessfully for an anchorage and a landing was
made on lst December, the vessel mooring to the wreck Norwich
City. Unloading of gear was commenced but was a very slow process
owing to there being no opening in the reef thus necessitating all
gear being landed through the surf onto the reef and then manhandled
ashore a distance of about 12 chains. H.M.S. Leander arrived
at 8.30a.m. and the assistance of the warship’s company was sought
and granted to assist with the handling of the gear. The reef is excessively
slippery – it is extremely difficult to walk on it unladen – and
as a result of the frequent falls of the carrying party practically
all the gear was landed wet and in some cases spoilt through the carriers
slipping and falling into the reef pools. Due to our inexperience in
New Zealand of the conditions to be met, the gear was packed in packages
far too bulky and heavy and, in some cases, perishable goods – hops
for instance – were packed in cases not waterproof and were consequently
ruined in landing.
For the information
of any further expeditions I consider that all gear and stores possible
should be packed in 4 gallon tins and well soldered. For ease of handling
all packages should be kept as much as possible to such dimensions
and weights that one man can quite easily carry the package.
During the first
day of landing Mr. Henderson had the misfortune to go down to suspected
lung trouble, due probably to an accident that he had previously sustained
on Sunday Island and, upon reporting to the M.O. H.M.S. Leander
was evacuated by the warship to Suva that day and thence to New Zealand.
This reduction in personnel was a serious one as it meant the loss
of our instrument man and the consequent slowing up of the progress
of the work.
It was the proposal
of the C.A.S. that the party should be put ashore with a calculated
minimum of water of one gallon per man per day, and as he informed
me that our stay was one of about three weeks, he had instructed the
Captain of the vessel to land 200 to 250 gallons of water and not
to land the distilling plant notwithstanding the fact that in his
memo of 16th November, 1938, to Squadron Leader Gibson he states:
“Owing to the onset of the westerly season the party should be
prepared to remain in the island until the end of March 1939 and must
consequently land sufficient provisions and drinking water for this
instructions, all the water – about 700 gallons – and the distilling
plant were landed and it is a significant fact that, upon relief,
nearly ten weeks later, we had left only 10 gallons. The water was
used only for drinking, cooking and shaving, our bathroom being the
sea. Had the instructions been carried out as laid down, the lives
of the party might possibly have been endangered if not sacrificed.
Two showers of rain were experienced during the stay, neither of any
consequence and water from wells is not only scanty but absolutely
undrinkable by Europeans. In this connection, I would point out that
from the arrival of the Gilbertese settlers on 21st December until
our departure, thirty-three wells were dug by the colonists of which
only two were usable by them – the water was brackish and totally
unfit for European consumption.
the gear was finally completed on the 6th December and the ship left
the island that day. By this time the camp had been pitched and survey
work started on 8th December. For the first fortnight all the party
found the excessive heat almost impossible to work in and the first
work, which consisted of cutting stadia lines through the bush, was
carried out in sweltering heat – up to 120 degrees – at a consequently
slow rate of progress. After this period of acclimatization however
better progress was made though the heat remained practically constant.
Sickness fortunately was experienced to a minimum degree – one case
of stomach trouble and a few cases of excessive sunburn – all of
which were soon remedied and caused little inconvenience.
On the 21st December
the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Administration’s vessel Niminoa [sic] with Messrs. Maude and Gallagher and a party of colonists
for Gardner Hull and Sydney Islands arrived and a pioneering party
of 10 adult males was left on Gardner Island to inaugurate the settlement
The survey work
consisted of traversing traversing an area of about 200 acres at the
northwestern corner of the island and stadia profiles were taken at
five chain intervals from which a contour plan has been prepared.
The lagoon and later the coast were traversed and a plan of the entire
island has been prepared in accordance with the instructions left
by the C.A.S. Upon completion of the preliminary investigations on
the aerodrome site, runways were buoyed in the lagoon in water clear
of obstructions with a minimum depth of 2 fathoms – the average depth
of the lagoon being 3 – 4 fathoms. It was for us a fortunate circumstance
that the relief ship was put into quarantine as we were thus enabled
to complete the field work which must otherwise have been left incomplete.
No actual westerly
weather was encountered during our stay on the island but exceptional
westerly swells were experienced during the first week of the new
year reaching their peak on 8th January when they reached a level
of 4 feet above the ordinary spring tide of 6th December. Due to the
restricted opening to the lagoon these swells had very little effect
on the lagoon the tidal range of which is approximately 2 feet.
On the 30th January
the relief ship Yanawai arrived and during the week following,
the lagoon was sounded, the party’s gear was loaded and the ship sailed
for Hull Island on the 5th February.
The area of land
available for a landing ground is situated at the N.W. corner of the
island and consists of coral ridges, covered with buka trees and scrub,
as well as a considerable area of tidal flat. In many places the coral
is concreted into hard masses while the general run of the coral is
such as to require breaking up to be suitable for surfacing. As fire
is necessary to break up the coral it might be necessary to practically
denude the island to provide sufficient fuel to achieve this end.
As it would be necessary to preserve the high coral ridge towards
the sea, the landing ground would be practically subtidal and the
possibility of stopbanking to exclude tidewater would be problematical
due to the presence of and the apparently unceasing excavating activities
of the myriads of land crabs which dig holes 6 – 8 inches in diameter
and leave spoil heaps 10 – 12 inches in height. This would also introduce
an item of constant surface maintenance if a landing ground were constructed.
The lagoon is
long and narrow and thus does not present a very suitable proposition
as a sea alighting area although the length is somewhat in the direction
of the winds prevailing during our stay. The western end or the lagoon
might possibly be used in other directions but the available runs
are very restricted. There are numerous coral patches of varying sizes
in the lagoon, the greater number of them being shoals – not pinnacles
– which call for dredging as it is not possible to get underneath
them with explosives as it is in the case of pinnacles.
I do not consider that Gardner Island holds sufficient possibilities
to recommend it either as a land or a sea alighting area.