For tens of thousands of years, there has been a place where beauty betrays in the shape of a great stingray. Known as Dyiigurra to the Dingaal Aboriginal natives, this group of islands was regarded as a sacred place reserved for the initiation of young males and the harvesting of shellfish, turtles, dugongs and fish. The Dingaal had deep faith that these consecrated grounds were created in the Dreamtime with the main island seen in the body of a stingray and the outlying islands forming its tail.
Happening upon, what was for him, a newly discovered shore, on August 12, 1770, Captain James Cook commented that, “The only land Animals we saw here were Lizards, and these seem’d to be pretty Plenty, which occasioned my naming the Island Lizard Island.” Ascending this rocky island’s summit, the explorer marveled at the maze of reefs laid before him and from thenceforth the peak on which he stood was christened ‘Cook’s Look.’
More than a century on, the New World that had been beckoned by Cook’s exploration tragically clashed with the Aboriginal Old. As the story goes, an English migrant to Queensland, Mary Watson followed her betrothed to a then-uninhabited fishing station on Lizard Island. In September 1880, setting off for an extended fishing trip, Watson’s beloved left his wife and four-month old son, Thomas Ferrier, behind with two Chinese servants, Ah Sam and Ah Leung. A few weeks in, as part of a seasonal trip to the island, a party of mainland Aborigines arrived at a place of ceremonial significance from which flowed the island’s only source of fresh water resulting in the killing of Ah Leung.