BBC Coast TV Series – Norfolk Island Drone Footage

Credit : Fluid Motion

Fluid Motion took to the sky’s in Norfolk Island for two days shooting to complete sequences for Foxtel’s Coast Austral

About: Series 2 (2015) Episode 6

The second series of Coast Australia aired on 12 January 2015 on the History Channel in Australia and on 2 April 2015 on BBC Two. After the success of the first series exploring more familiar areas, the second series began to investigate lesser-known sections of Australia including Norfolk Island and the Gippsland Lakes.

On this lush-green island, 1,500 kilometres from the mainland, Neil Oliver wanders amidst penal ruins, as he discovers the inspiring legacies of two historic figures; the first an audacious convict, and the second a reforming commandant. Alice Garner meets descendants of the famous mutineers on the Bounty at their annual festival and witnesses their cultural heritage in full swing. In the race to save one of the world’s most endangered birds, Tim Flannery finds an island ark in the making on nearby Phillip Island. On Mount Bates Emma Johnston uncovers the role of the island in the birth of radio astronomy. Neil Oliver tests his mettle with a meal of local dream fish, claimed to cause LSD-like hallucinations, and Brendan Moar explores the dangerous job of unloading vital supplies on an island without a harbour.

Tim Causer also joined the team to explore the history of Norfolk Island, colonial Australia’s notorious penal settlement.

A note from Tim Causer

I had the pleasure of travelling to Norfolk Island at the invitation of Great Southern Film and Television, to film part of an episode of the second series of Coast Australia, hosted by Neil Oliver. The first series was a huge hit in both Australia and on BBC Two, and it was a genuine delight to be invited to talk about Norfolk Island’s convict past, the focus of much of my research.

My PhD (and on-going) research sought to fully explore the Norfolk Island penal settlement, by examining primary sources which have not hitherto been used in detail, including official records, correspondence, and convict narratives. At the heart of this work is a database of 6,458 male convicts detained at Norfolk Island, containing information about their lives before, during, and after their time at Norfolk Island. The research has undermined many of the enduring myths about the Island. For instance, it was long been assumed that convicts sent there were almost all ‘capital respites’, that is, convicts who committed further awful capital offences in the Australian colonies, and who were only spared the noose on condition of being sent to Norfolk Island for life. In fact, over half were either sent directly to Norfolk Island from England and elsewhere, or without receiving any conviction in colonial higher courts. Two-thirds were detained at Norfolk Island for non-violent property offences, and so the men were not the violent, unrestrained criminal of legend.

One of the very few Norfolk Island convicts to leave any account of enduring this vicious, invasive punishment was the Irishman, Laurence Frayne. Even if he were ‘made emperor of all the universe’, he wrote, ‘no heart can conceive or can write, or tongue can tell the poignant grief & anguish of the sort I have suffered both mental and otherwise’.

Frayne is one of the subjects of this section of the Coast Australia episode. He left behind one of the most remarkable narratives written by a convict, which is now held at the Mitchell Library in Sydney. Frayne’s narrative is both an unapologetic litany of his sufferings – and suffer he certainly did, enduring a staggering 1,125 lashes between July 1832 and November 1832—as well as an eloquent and thoughtful treatise on the just and reformatory management of convicts.

I was honoured to have travelled to Norfolk Island with Frayne’s third great grandniece, Sharn White, who was also taking part in the programme and has researched her ancestor’s life in great detail. During the course of our trip, I was also able to show Sharn that her third great-grandfather, Michael Frayne-Laurence’s younger brother – also spent time at Norfolk Island.

Frayne was given the opportunity to write about his life by Alexander Maconochie, the other subject of this part of the episode. Maconochie was Superintendent of Norfolk Island between 1840 and 1844, during which time he instituted a series of reforms which came to be known as the ‘Mark System’. He intended that convicts should have an interest in their labour, so that through completing their work and behaving well, they could shorten their detention: ‘men will do for liberty what they will not do for lashes’, Maconochie wrote in 1851. For all the faults of both Maconochie and his system, he offered the prisoners hope, as Frayne so tellingly described in comparing Maconochie’s ‘Godlike System’ with the physical coercion prevalent in the earlier years.