Horn Island

Horn Island is part of the Torres Strait Islands group at the tip of Cape York Peninsula. With an area of 53 square kilometres and located 55 km north west of the tip of Cape York and just south of Papua New Guinea, Horn Island offers a truly remarkable island experience.

Horn Island is the site of Horn Island Airport, which also serves Thursday Island. Therefore it is a gateway for travellers to the mainland and outer islands. The present-day population consists of islanders drawn from all islands of the Torres Strait, as well as non-islanders. Residents travel daily by ferry across the Ellis Channel to Thursday Island for work and school. Shire of Torres is the local government authority, providing the island community's municipal services. Most residents life in the town of Wasaga. A visit the museum and art gallery in the town is recommended. Tours to the island's historic World War II sites operate out of Wasaga.

World War II historic sites

Horn Isld wreck Horn Island came to prominence during World War II when it suffered eight Japanese air raids. Today the island has a small population of approximately 650 people, with a focus on pearling and fishing. Horn Island is home to the only airport in the Torres Strait Island group, as most of the other inhabited islands only have an airstrip.

Horn Island is one of the few places easily accessible from the mainland where you can see the hardships our soldiers and airmen underwent during World War 2. Although the wrecks of all sorts of aircraft litter the Cape, Horn Island is basically an overgrown air base. The old runway has been done up and is the gateway to the Torres Strait. Horn Island was the home of an air base from which Aussie flyers no doubt ably assisted by the US Air Force took on the Japanese Imperial Forces in New Guinea and the surrounding islands.

The wreckage of many World War II planes and emplacements litter Horn Island, above is the remains of a Hudson Bomber, and is a must if you're in the area. The remains of the air strip and dispersal points are still visible and when you consider that the concrete used in the emplacements was made on the beach and wheel barrowed to the particular emplacement you get some idea of just how hard it must have been to build it and the amount of energy they must have expended.

There are anti aircraft gun emplacements all over the Island which were used to defend the air strip. Most of the emplacements are a considerable distance inland and up a hill. When you consider the amount of effort the Japanese put into destroying the facilities at Horn Island, the compactness of everything and what has survived, they appear to have been very poor shots.


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Brief history

Horn Island is known as Nœrupai (colloquially Nurupai) to the Kaurareg ("islander") people and was given its English name by Matthew Flinders in 1802. After the 1871 massacre on Prince of Wales Island (Muralag), remnants of the people settled here for a short while, until the government relocated the Kaurareg to Hammond Island (Kœriri), where they remained until 1922. These islands (along with the other islands in the group) are the lands of the Kaurareg, each island - or rather parts thereof - owned by different clans. The language of the Kaurareg is Kala Lagaw Ya.

Gold was mined on Horn Island in the 1890s. In the early 20th century, a town flourished as a result of the pearling industry, but declined when non-islander residents were evacuated to southern Queensland during World War II. A major Allied airbase, known as Horn Island Aerodrome, was constructed on the island and this was attacked several times by Japanese planes.

In 1946, some of the Kaurareg (Nœrupai) people moved back from (Kubin) on Moa Island to Horn and settled here in present-day Wasaga Village at the western end of the island. In the late 1980s, gold was mined again and Horn saw the rapid expansion of its population and building activity, as land on neighbouring Thursday Island became scarce.

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