Tropical Coast of Queensland

Pentecost Island, Whitsundays

Pentecost Island is an ininhabited island located between Hamilton Island and Lindeman Island. It was the first island in the Whitsunday group to be named and the only one in the group named by Cook, in June 1770 with the phrase 'More remarkable than the rest (of the Cumberland Isles), being small in circuit, very high and peaked and lies EBS 10 miles from Cape Conway'. The journal does not mention the name but his chart does. The bearing given by Cook is interesting. Translated into a modern bearing corrected for Variation of Cook's time it is 108 degrees True which indicates a location near Silversmith Island. The island in fact bears 035 degrees True 10 miles from Cape Conway so Cook's bearing is incorrect though on his chart the island is shown in its correct position. (Cook's journal and charts; Hakluyt Society The Charts and Coastal Views of Captain Cook's Voyages, Vol 1).

It was on the feast of Pentecost, during the festival of Whitsun, that the crew of the Endeavor found themselves sailing between inhabited island paradises dotted throughout the crystal clear waters of the Coral Sea. Pentecost is an ancient Jewish Festival and it was during Pentecost after the crucifixion of Christ that the Holy Spirit was visited upon the Disciples. This visitation is celebrated in the Christian Church on Whit Sunday and therefore the association between the names Pentecost and Whitsunday is obvious.

The island has the distinction of being one of the features sketched by the artist on Endeavour, Sydney Parkinson, during the voyage along the east coast of New Holland. Two pencil sketches were made, one from the south-west and another from the west, both illustrating the distinctive profile of the island. Another sketch was made by crew member Charles Praval but is more distant and less detailed.

The peace and tranquility of this passage belied its unpredictable and violent beginnings. Formed 110 million years prior; born of raging volcanoes and the violent realignments of the planets tectonic plates; centuries of debris fused into solid rock, and by the time Cook ventured north through the passage the beauty of the area was undeniable.

Pentecost Island is an interesting geological structure, composed of porphyry containing the mineral Pyrite (Iron Sulphide) which has given an orange stain to the sheer north-east face. Some thoughts are that it is a volcanic plug which has cooled and solidified high in the throat of a volcano but other thoughts are that it may be a dyke of lava which has forced its way through host rock to solidify without reaching the surface. Assays of the porphyry have shown a commercially interesting content of copper, lead and zinc and while it is unlikely in these days that it would be mined, the assays indicate the possibility of a wider presence of the minerals in the general area.

Despite its inhospitable structure, on 22 February 1934 one Edward Alexander Roberts applied for occupation licence 556 over the island, though it is difficult to fathom what use it could be put to as there is practically no level ground on it. In the event the Minister for Public Lands refused the application on 7 March 1934. The island was declared a national park in 1938.

In some older writings the island is called 'Lion Island' presumably because someone saw in its profile the shape of a crouching lion, but it takes some imagination to believe anyone could see the shape of a lion here.