The flight across to Sweers Island takes only 15 minutes. It is breathtaking. All I see is a John Olsen painting. There are many little uninhabited islands scattered across the gulf. Most are managed by Aboriginal Corporations and permission must be granted to go there. Sweers is also controlled by Aboriginal Corporations, but an amazing couple, Tex and Lynne, have leased the island for the last 31 years for tourism. Tex is now 76 and still going strong. Lynne was travelling in Australia from Ireland and at the age of 25 moved to an uninhabited island with a wild Queenslander, 20 years her senior.
Sweers has a surprisingly interesting history. At one stage, 2000 people lived on the island. They were moved there from Burketown in 1866 because malaria arrived. Houses were built and a community grew. They ran sheep, cattle and goats until the turn of the century. In 1872, however, most residents left the island to establish Normanton. It was gold rush time. It was largely uninhabited until Lynne and Rex took over the lease.
The island is tiny and Lynne and Tex can host about 26 people at a time. We were their only guests. There were 5 staff and us. Very cosy. One of the reasons we wanted to go there was because there were no crocodiles so swimming was all good. We mentioned this to the pilot who just laughed. Apparently, the crocs won’t get you, but the sharks will. One activity less to do. That left fishing – John’s least favourite activity but I love fishing. It is a fishing island and people come from all over just to fish. John could either fish or do nothing. He chose fishing. And what an afternoon I had. Red emperor, sharks, rays, lots of sweet lip and even a tuna. John unfortunately caught nothing. He still hates fishing.
After a few hours on the water, we returned to the island to clean up the fish (the red emperor, tuna and sweet lip) ready for dinner. Watching the sun set, preparing our catch for dinner on the beach was lovely. Then it was shark feeding time. Just off the beach in less than 30 centimetres of water, 6 sharks fought for the bones and scraps. Now I understood why we couldn’t swim. I have a video!
The pictures say it all. I had a great day. John not so – if you don’t catch anything, fishing is boring. So the next day, fishing was on for me and John stayed at home. I wasn’t quite as successful as they day before, but I just love being on the water.
We both managed to do a lot of reading when we weren’t fishing. I highly recommend “The Overstory”. And of course “The Gulf Country”. Lynne also gave me a book “Gulf Women” about women who work and live in the gulf.
It’s not a place for everybody, but if you love fishing, put it on your list.