Australia – Haggerstone Island

“Arthur, we want you to go on an adventure to some of the most isolated, remote and beautiful destinations on earth.”
. . my eyes lit up and I can remember trying my best to remain professional!
“Once there you’ll fly different types of aircraft with a wide range of pilots and tell the stories of the people who live there”
. . . “Hmm let me think on that one for a while!!”

This is, more or less, how ‘flying to the ends of the earth’ came about. You can imagine my excitement to start work on this project. For me it was an absolute no brainer! It took quite awhile for it all to sink in. . . . I was being sent to Australia, West Papua, Nepal, and Canada virtually back to back. I felt like I was in the marines again packing all the camping plus hiking gear and it felt awesome!

haggerstone island

Cut to episode two and I found myself travelling from lake Nash to Haggerstone island. Again behind the controls of a real beauty, the De havilland Canada Beaver.
In front of me thundering away, a massive Pratt and Whitley radial engine which instantly appeased the aviation geek within. Combined with the slick lines, retro instruments and real ‘stick and rudder’ controls shes a beautiful thing to look at and fly. I can’t say the crew were enjoying this experience as much as I was though. I glanced back to see them squeezed in the back over two rows and gave myself the giggles as they all looked green! And not enjoying the fact we were flying into a strong headwind and our journey time had virtually doubled.
Fortunately we got there without any sick bags being filled.

For anyone who’s been to northern Australia and/or the Torres straights you’ll know how naturally beautiful the place is. The one thing that stood out above all was despite its sheer beauty it had not been exploited by tourist trade. In fact it’s hard to believe that such a beautiful place isn’t swarming with holiday makers. Not that I’m complaining. . The peace and quiet only increases the impact it has on you. To know that despite living on a hugely populated planet there are still massive areas that are virtually untapped is great.
The very last connecting leg of our journey from horn island to haggerstone itself was a short 30 minute hop on a power boat. By this point we had met Tash, Roy’s daughter, who was returning to the family island from university for a break. I got talking to her straight away about what must be the world’s most bonkers school run! She (as well as her brother Sam) spend the majority of their time on the main land focusing on their education. But they both grew up on the island. For us living such sheltered lives in western civilisation, I thought it was brilliant to meet a family that hasn’t conformed to the norm. Raising children away from any support things we see as essential like hospitals, fire services, etc as well as life’s little treats- cinemas and sports games etcits a bold way of raising your kids and I was a fan of their way of life from the off!

As the island approached closer into view I thought “if this place was for sale I would buy it!” It was 100% pure paradise. A small, palm tree covered knoll with white sands gently rising up out of crystal clear waters, surrounded by untouched Great Barrier Reef. There was an abundance of life everywhere you looked and lots of colour. Other than the Aurora Borealis I’ve never been so amazed by natural colour. Really bold yellows, blues, reds, everything. Then you could start to see evidence of human habitation. A small primitive wooden jetty, and little thatched huts which make up the Turners living space and guest accommodation, all of which they have made themselves from resources on the island. When we landed on the beach we were met by Sam and then shortly afterwards the great Roy himself, who’s bold vision of inhabiting this island has been a reality for roughly the last 40 years.
The Turner family are without doubt the 21st centuries Swiss family Robinson. They live on an island barely more than a mile across and are so resourceful that the only supplies they need from the mainland are the luxuries. They make living on the island look like child’s play and boy do they live comfortably.

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Their day to day ‘work’ is providing for themselves and guests which isn’t hard, you get on a boat for five minutes throw over a line and BAM! You’ve got a two foot red emperor fish, or put on a snorkel and harpoon a giant cray fish. If you need anything to go with your meal, just walk (or wheel!) into the jungle behind Roy’s main home and underneath the canopy he has a well established garden providing many fruits and vegetables.
In such a fertile, resource rich environment it’s hard not to be able to survive, indeed thrive. As well as living their own dream they run the island as a holiday experience for wealthy individuals or groups looking to completely escape civilisation, which I would imagine gives them healthy financial security.

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But talking to Roy over the course of our stay revealed that things haven’t always been plain sailing. I mean could you ever make the decision to uproot your entire existence, move to a desert island, raise a family on it and spend the rest of your life there? Even if I really wanted to, I don’t think I’d ever have the balls to follow through with it. . .There have been hard times, from standing on huge spiders which temporarily paralysed Roy up one side to wrestling crocodiles (seriously) he has two, huge heads in his living space. It’s pretty cool!
One vivid memory in particular that I took from Haggerstone was Roy telling me of the weeks he would spend on the island alone, occasionally he’d sit on the beach and break down, he felt he’d bitten off more than he could chew. I think occasionally in the early stages of adapting to a life of solitude I’d be in bits too!? I think realistically I’d be quite overwhelmed by what I’d taken on. There’s no scale to gauge if what your doing is right or wrong. It must of been, at times, terrifying.
Also consider the medical implications of living so remotely. At Haggerstone there is no access to medical facilities. An emergency casualty evacuation, I was told, takes more than two hours via helicopter to the mainland. So to compensate for this Roy has a locked safe full of doctor level medical supplies. In the event of an accident, Roy opens the safe and Skype calls a doctor who then talks Roy, or whoever, through what to do.

Over the course of our journeys I would learn that life in remote regions is never easy. It’s not the ‘cotton wool’ culture we live in. Life can be and is indeed tough. And sometimes there isn’t anyone who’s going to help you if you get into trouble.
In a weird way, this has a lot of appeal to me. It’s 100% freedom. A freedom I only ever thought existed whilst flying aeroplanes.
However, Looking at what they have there- health and fitness, incredibly close family bonds, energy and enthusiasm, and a great atmosphere set in paradise. I strongly believe that we could all do extremely well from spending time with the Turner family and incorporate aspects of their lifestyle and attitudes into our own.

Before too long we were on our way again. After little more than two days on the island we had to leave. I doubt I’ll ever get the chance to go back to Haggerstone which is a shame. But it opened my eyes to the different ways humans can live if you have the courage to take a chance! It was a real breath of fresh air.

www.haggerstoneisland.com.au