Henderson, Graeme; Robert de Hoop; Andrew Viduka

Misadventures in Nature’s Paradise explores the earliest history of Australia’s Indian Ocean territories of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island.

Seafarers from Africa, the Middle East and Asia developed trade routes across the northern Indian Ocean. The first Europeans venturing eastward relied on local pilots, some of whom had travelled southward, collecting natural products from uninhabited islands. These pilots told of terrible dangers, including strong ocean currents, and giant birds of prey. Their stories frightened European sailors wrestling with unfamiliar environments and cultures.

The Dutch developed shorter trade routes between South Africa and the Indonesian Spice Islands, taking European vessels close to the Christmas and Cocos islands. They produced charts, making voyaging in the southern Indian Ocean safer, but this could not prevent the odd shipwreck disaster.

The authors, maritime archaeologists Graeme Henderson, Robert de Hoop and Andy Viduka, tease out real-life ramifications of the Indian Ocean and European myths upon the destiny of the Cocos (Keeling) and Christmas islands and provide evidence indicating that several eighteenth-century Dutch ships foundered near these beautiful islands. Their wrecks still await discovery.

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UWA Publishing, December 2022.  256 pages, paperback.