Place Names

In 1770 Captain Cook's talent for geographical names in our area seemed to have deserted him as the Endeavour made its way north. Instead of evocative place names you plod past bluffs and harbours named after earls, admirals, dukes and second viscounts, as if Cook were copying from Royal Navy lists or a copy of Bourke's Peerage. Nor were all these name sakes deserving of honor. Cook's biographer, J.C. Beaglehole, notes that one was a “disastrous First Lord,” known for his ugly face, while another was “a man so foolish that even King George III deplored his lack of judgment.”

Maybe we should just look at it this way, considering Cook named so many places after his boss's I think he was more than a very canny navigator indeed. Still Cook charted and named more of the world than any other navigator in history.

Bedarra Island - Allason Island or Richards Island. The island takes its name from the Aboriginal word biagurra, which translates roughly as “the place of perennial water.” The original 1913 survey plan of Richards Island names only Wedgerock Bay and Coconut Bay  (now known as Doorila Bay).

Melaleuca Beach, The Mangroves, Calophyllum Beach, Casurina Beach, Valley Beach, Orchid Beach, Tiki Beach and Hernandia Bay were possibly named by Noel Wood according to his daughters and grandaughter. It is thought that Noel actually planted the mangroves himself because the leaves are edible and he was an early conservationist. He named the Coral Gardens probably after Banfield who had referred to the Coral Gardens around Dunk Island in his book “Confessions of a Beachcomber”.
His daughter said Noel named Calophyllum Beach after the large Calophyllum tree leaning over the beach.

Author, James Porter, said that Noel Wood named all the places around Bedarra. He called Hernandia Bay after the very large Hernandia tree that grows on the beach.

Doorila Bay, Bedarra Island - Possibly named by Noel Wood circa 1930's.

  1. According to Virginia Thompson, Noel Woods' daughter. When she was a young girl Noel would take her to Madonna Rock in Bedarra Bay where the sea grass beds grow, to see a dugong that came there every two years to have her pup.
  2. Aboriginal word meaning dugong according to Steve Wiltshire, a local, who new Noel Wood.
  3. Or possibly a New Guinea, Motu tribe word "Door'la" for large sea creature or dugong.The Motu tribe are known dugong hunters.

Coomool Bay, Bedarra Island - Possibly named by Noel Woods circa 1930's. Possibly an anglo / aboriginal word meaning water view. At one time I think it was known as Whisky Bay.
In a conversation with the Consul General of New Guinea, Paul Nerau, he said "Coomool spelt Kumul in PNG means Bird of Paradise". Maybe Noel spelt it phonetically. Mr Neru thought that Doorila was a PNG word as well.

Bedarra Bay, Bedarra Island - Australian Airlines, the owners of the Bedarra Island Resort named Bedarra Bay in 1985 but at the time no one liked that name.

Great Barrier Reef - Coral Sea. It was Commander Matthew Flinders RN on the sloop Investigator who coined the term "Great Barrier Reef" when exploring the coast of North Queensland for a safe passage in 1802. Flinders was a master navigator and cartographer. Although the term has remained in use, it is inaccurate. The region, far from being a single entity, consists of nearly 3000 individual reefs. Furthermore, the outer reefs do not form an actual barrier, nor make the coastal waters into one immense lagoon. The reefs, however, do divert ocean currents and in many places, intercept the ocean swell.

Pee - rahm - ah. - Also known as Battleship Rock. A conspicuous rock landmark on Bedarra Island. Aboriginal mythology says two young women were left behind on Dunk Island and became lonely and tried to swim to Hinchinbrook to catch up to the tribe. They swam from island to island and became tired and caught in a strong current off Bedarra and disappeared and were turned to stone. Noel Wood also said the correct pronunciation of Peerahmah is Gumulga.

Rockingham Bay - was named in 1770 by Captain Cook after a Whig Prime Minister Charles Watson Wentworth, Second Marquis of Rockingham 1730 to 1782.

Thorpe Island - Named by G.E. Richards in 1886 after Vidal C. Thorpe, surgeon on the Paluma. Known as Timana Island, however Noel Wood said that Timanoo is the correct version of Timana.

Wheeler Island - Named by G.E. Richards of Paluma 1886 to 1888 after Lieut. Francis Wheeler.

Woln Garin Island - Aboriginal name meaning palm with coconut - like fronds. Also known as Forty Foot Rock.