Royal Reels: Gambling


The AUSTRALIA POST CARD with the printed red 1d KGV ‘Full Face’stamp is cancelled HOBART/ 12— 25 MR 13/ TASMANIA has the heading directive which begins “The left half of this side…” was the third Post Card introduced in Australia in 1911. It was addressed to A. Horn, Esq, C/o The Pacific Phosphate Co. Ltd, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Via Sydney or Melbourne. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

In 1798, Captain John Fearn was the first European to visit Nauru and named the island “Pleasant Island”. Germany annexed Nauru in 1888 and, following the accidental discovery of phosphate just after 1900, commenced phosphate mining in 1907 with the establishment of the Pacific Phosphate Company (a German-British consortium). At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Germany surrendered Nauru to Australian military forces sent to take possession of the island. In 1920, a League of Nations mandate named Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom (UK) as co-trustees of Nauru, with Australia the administering power. Phosphate mining was taken over by the British Phosphate Company (owned jointly by the Australian, New Zealand and UK governments).

During World War II, Nauru was occupied by Japanese forces, which used the island as an aircraft base. Twelve hundred indigenous Nauruans (out of a total indigenous population of 2000) were shipped by the Japanese to Truk (now Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia), where 463 died of starvation. In 1947, Nauru was placed under United Nations trusteeship, with Australia once again the administering power with New Zealand and the UK co-trustees. The British Phosphate Company resumed phosphate mining operations. Following progressive localisation of the legislature, Nauru became self-governing in January 1966. After a two-year Constitutional Convention, Nauru became an independent state on 31 January 1968. On 30 June 1970, control of phosphate mining passed to the Nauru Phosphate Corporation.

Nauru is mostly composed of phosphate rock from bird droppings and is one of the three ‘rock phosphate’ islands of the Pacific, the others being Banaba (Kiribati) and Makatea (French Polynesia). Nauru has been inhabited for centuries by people originating from other Micronesian islands like Chuuk, the Marshalls or Kiribati. A stockpile of phosphate in Nauru is shown in Figure 2.

Nauru is a raised coral atoll island republic in the South Pacific Ocean, 42kms south of the Equator (0º32′ S, 166º55′ E) and 4,000 km north-east of Sydney. Nauru has a population of approximately 10,000 people, most of whom are indigenous Nauruans of predominantly Micronesian origin. The remainder are mostly Chinese, Australian and New Zealand expatriates and other Pacific Islanders. The bulk of Nauru’s 10,000 population lives within a coastal fringe, up to 300m wide in places, and around Buada Lagoon, a large brackish pond in a depression in the central south west of the island. During the decades of high incomes from phosphate mining royalties, most of the island’s needs were imported and traditional fishing and horticulture declined. Income from royalties and investments had all but disappeared by 2003, and today remains very low. As a result, there are some small-scale efforts to revive the food production skills of former generations. The position of Nauru and its landmarks are seen in Figures 3 & 4.

Categories: Islands