Helen Ellis writes: ‘I have been spending many enjoyable hours reading as much as I can of the history of Moreton Bay on your various websites and blogs. One item I did read mentioned that there was an unsuccessful search to identify an old burial on Mud Island which may have been of an aboriginal person (Stories from Mud Island – 1 posted on Saturday 23rd January 2016). I did find mention of a burial of a South Sea Islander from the ‘Don Juan’ which arrived in Moreton Bay on 14th August, 1863 in ‘Journey to Sugaropolis’ on the Gold Coast City Council website. I wonder if this could be the burial.’
The editor has traced back its original reference to the Sydney Morning Herald, 22 August 1863 which records:
August 15.—Don Juan*, from South Sea Islands.
The schooner Don Juan, Captain Greuber, left Erromanga** on the 4th instant, sighted Moreton light at 3 o’clock on Friday morning, rounded Moreton Island at 8 a.m., and anchored off the lightship at 9 p.m. During the passage she experienced a fine S.E. breeze and fine weather until the 12th instant, when the wind changed and blew a heavy gale from the N.E. The Don Juan has on board in all seventy-three South Sea Islanders for Captain Towns’ cotton plantation. One of the islanders died on Saturday last from exhaustion caused by sea sickness. He was buried on Mud Island. The agreement made with these men is, that they shall receive ten shillings a month, and have their food, clothes, and shelter provided for them.—Queensland Guardian.’
It could well be that if the skeleton was not European, then it may have been that of the unfortunate South Sea Islander.
*The first party of South Sea Islanders (Kanakas) was shipped to Queensland by Captain Robert Towns in the schooner “Don Juan” and arrived at Moreton Bay on August 14th, 1863. They worked on a cotton plantation in the Logan River area.
**Erromango is the fourth largest island in the Vanuatu archipelago