King Island’s Sea Elephant Bay Naracoopa
Sea Elephant Bay is situated on the east coast of King Island, on its shores lies Naracoopa, a small and unique village that emphasizes peace and tranquillity. At an earlier time the settlement was known as Taroona. Naracoopa is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘good’. In Queensland’s Currumbin Valley in the Gold Coast hinterland there is a property also named Naracoopa, I believe they claim the name to mean ‘a peaceful place’ – either way, peaceful or good, can’t go wrong really.
King Island was first sighted, although in all probability not landed on in 1787. It was again sighted by Lt. Matthew Flinders 1789 and Captain John Black 1801. Captain Black named it after Governor Philip Gidley King of New South Wales.
Governor King, aware that the French navigator Nicolas Baudin was in the area and in all probability heading toward the island, sent the Cumberland from Port Jackson, Sydney to formally lay claim to the island for Britain. The Cumberland arrived just ahead of the French Expedition and had hastily erected the British Flag in a tree. That didn’t stop Baudin from circumnavigating and extensively mapping the Island in 1802.
As a result of this incident, British settlements were then established near the Derwent River and Port Dalrymple in Tasmania and later Port Phillip (Melbourne).
The river (Sea Elephant River) and the bay (Sea Elephant Bay)at (Naracoopa), even the island in the middle of the bay was initially named Sea Elephant Island but later renamed to Councilor Island,
were all named by Baudins Expedition, they reported hundreds of Sea Elephants, some apparently up to 30-feet long. Back then the seal population was mostly wiped out by King Island’s first white settlers and their aboriginal wives, they were the island’s only occupiers. Sea Elephant Bay was often frequented by their sealing vessels. By 1813 Seals and Sea Elephants were completely wiped out.
Sealers continued their occupation on the island although now this was on an intermittent basis until the mid-1820s, after that the only inhabitants on King Island were some old sealers and their Aboriginal wives, they mostly hunted wallaby for food and skins. The remnant left the island in 1854 and for many years the only visitors were hunters and more regularly castaways from shipwrecks.
Opposite King Island Accommodation Cottages there is a cairn depicting the carnage and demise of the Sea Elephants and Seals.