Broughton Island is a place of escape, of seclusion, of rest and recreation, where there are plenty of fish still to be caught, and home to numerous seabird populations.
The view southward of Broughton Island with Port Stephens in the distance.
Despite its remote location many generations of Worimi people paddled from the mainland, which, at its closest point, is approximately two and a half kilometres from Little Gibba on the mainland.
From the 1890s, Italian and Chinese fishermen camped on the island to trap lobster, but it was only in the early 1900s that fishermen started to live there seasonally.
On Broughton Island’s north side, a group of Greek fishermen established a small settlement behind the sand dunes at North Beach, which came to be known as Little Salonika.
This provided a base from which to trap and explore the relatively untouched reefs and deep water.
This wonderful old photograph shows two Broughton Island regulars Jack Jensen (left) and “Uncle George”, outside one of the Greek fishermen’s huts.
Unfortunately, the Greek huts on the island were burnt to the ground on two occasions, the first time being 1920. This photograph was taken prior to the second fire in 1939. The hut was “owned” by Nick Catsicas whose son Max was for many years a highly respected member of the community in Lemon Tree Passage.
Jack Jensen was a Danish seaman who settled in Nelson Bay in 1915 and worked a trawler, the Viking. During the lobster season he moved with a group of Greek fishermen to the Little Salonika settlement.
Uncle George was the ‘chief cook and bottle washer’ who did all the chores for the Greek fishermen, tidied the huts and prepared their meals. Both men spoke very little English yet played a significant part in the stories told about the early days on Broughton Island.
A kilometre away from the Greek settlement, to the east, early Australian professional fishermen erected rugged huts and shelters in Esmeralda Cove. Over the years, with the improved reliability and efficiency of modern boats and motors, the professionals no longer needed to base themselves on the island.
The 14km trip from the safe waters of Port Stephens can now be made in 30 minutes in good conditions, a far cry from the occasional four-hour struggle against wind and sea.
Today, little evidence remains of the Greek settlement but the tiny Esmeralda Cove community, now under the control of National Parks and Wildlife, is still a vital part of life on Broughton Island.
The huts in Esmeralda Cove today.