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THURSDAY ISLAND HISTORY

Located off the tip of the Cape York Peninsula, Thursday Island is noted for being the most northerly town in Australia.  Established in 1887 after being relocated from Somerset on the Cape York Peninsula, the island is also known as TI or Waiben by the community and is the administrative and commercial centre of the Torres Strait Islands.

The Torres Strait was named by the Spanish captain Luis Vaz de Torres in 1606, when he navigated through the strait which separates Australia and Papua New Guinea on his journey to Manila, Philippines.

Thursday Island has a rich cultural history dating back thousands of years with the traditional inhabitants being from Melanesian Torres Strait Islander descent. The pearling industry of the Torres Strait dates back to 1885, drawing workers from many parts of Asia including Japan, India and Malaya as well as various South Pacific Islands.  The combination of cultures is still very evident today. 

Since the beginning of the pearling industry, hundreds of Japanese pearl divers died from decompression sickness. The Japanese Pearl Memorial is dedicated to their memory.  A trip to the local cemetary is very interesting and is a "must do" for many travellers.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries vessels trading between the east coast of Australia and South East Asia regularly anchored at Thursday Island.  In 1890 a tragic shipwreck occurred when RMS Quetta struck an unknown reef and 133 people lost their lives. The All Souls Quetta Memorial Church on Douglas Street was built a few years later in memory of this tragic event.