Friday Travel – The Mystery of Mystery Island

Mystery IslandOne of the more popular ‘cruise ship’ destinations in Vanuatu is “Mystery Island”, at the south of the archipelago that makes up that country.

It’s actual name is Inyeug island – and it’s an uninhabited island about a km off the larger Anatyeum.

But why Mystery island?

Well, there are two theories – and both relate to European colonisation.

One is that there is a grass airstrip on the island, built by the Americans in World War Two.

Some locals will tell you that the name Mystery Island comes from the fact that the Japanese soldiers in the area had no idea where US planes were coming from – and so it became a mystery.

Of course, if you think about that for a moment, it makes no sense – because Japanese planes would have spotted it in a moment.

Another theory you will be told is that it was because of a strategy adopted by ‘black-birders’.

P1050107aThis theory is that Mystery Island was chosen in the 1850s by Australian black-birders (those who kidnapped island men to work on Queensland’s new and burgeoning sugar-cane farms,) as a safe haven from which to work their trade.

The superstitious Aneityum Islanders feared Inyeug was inhabited after dark by ghosts; so there was no way they were going to stay there once the sun went down, meaning the black-birders were able to live there free of any fear of under-darkness attack.

So those are the theories.

Unfortunately, the answer is much more prosaic.

P1040809aIt was a PR name, decided on by the old SITMAR cruise line. It seems that the Fairstar would regularly sail by – and occasionally try to put passengers ashore by tender.

The company wanted a more ‘romantic’ name for Inyeug – so PR manager Ron Connelly came up with “Mystery”.

And so another legend dies.

In any case, the island DID become a site for a landing strip in the 40s – which was still used until last year for twice-weekly flights bringing supplies to nearby Aneityum. It’s currently not used – because of damage from last year’s cyclone Pam – but it will be, once again, when repairs are made.

No-one lives on the island itself – but every year, about 65,000 guests a year go ashore by ship’s boats for days of swimming, beachcombing, snorkelling, and buying shells, fresh fruits, carvings and necklaces at a market set up by the Aneityum people who come across on “ship days.”

We were amongst that 65,000 this month – and I’ll tell you all about it in Tuesday Cruiseday this coming week.

2 thoughts on “Friday Travel – The Mystery of Mystery Island

    • Glad to help 🙂

      Inyeug is actually quite lovely – but the facilities can be a bit spartan – and if my snorkelling experience is the norm, it’s a bit hit-and-miss.

      Keep an eye on tomorrow’s blogpost for a more detailed report on our daytrip there …


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