Thursday Island, Torres Strait
sent by Rod Eime April 9, 2009
Thursday Island, also known as TI or Waiben, is the administrative and commercial centre of the Torres Strait Islands. Lying 39 kilometres (24 mi) north of Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia in the Torres Strait, Thursday Island has an area of about 3.5 square kilometres (1.4 sq mi) and an estimated population of 3,500. The highest point on Thursday Island, standing at 104 metres (341 ft) above sea level, is Milman Hill, a World War II defence facility.
The island has been populated for thousands of years by the Melanesian Torres Strait Islanders, who named the island Waiben, thought to mean 'no water or place of no water', owing to the scarcity of fresh water on the island. In 1877, an administrative centre for the Torres Strait Islands was set up on the island by the Queensland Government and by 1883 over 200 pearling vessels were based on the island. 
A lucrative pearling industry was founded on the island in 1885, attracting workers from around Asia, including Japan, Malaya and India, seeking their fortune. Additionally, many south Pacific Islanders were also imported to work in the industry, many against their will. While the pearling industry has declined in importance, the mix of cultures is evident to this day. The pearling industry centred on the harvesting of pearl shell, which was used to make shirt buttons. Pearls themselves were rare and a bonus for the owner or crew. The boats used were a very graceful two-masted lugger with, in good times, a stern diver, one midships, and one diver off the bow. A manual air compressor was used. It looked like a yard-wide cube with two large wheels mounted one on each side. The waters of the Straits are murky and visibility was generally very poor. Depths of dive were not great except at the Darnley Deep which was 40 fathoms (240 feet). Attacks of the bends were common and deaths frequent.
The fear of Russian invasion lead to a fort on Battery Point being built in 1892 to protect the island.