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"Seven years of work swept away": This week marks a century since Bathurst Island bore the brunt of a little-known cyclone, almost completely wiping out the mission station established just eight years earlier by well-known bishop Father Gsell. Forming near Wyndham, WA, the cyclone dumped 440mm of rain in just 40 hours and caused a five-metre storm surge, described dramatically in the papers at the time as a 'frightful tidal wave'. The nuns sheltered in their convent as the roof blew off and Father Gsell was saved from being swept out to sea by some brave locals. By the following morning, nearly all the mission buildings (including the remarkable bark church pictured here a few years earlier) were "flat on the ground" or washed out to sea. Help arrived soon after in the shape of some tradesmen from Darwin, a two-tonne order of flour, plus some donations from Sydney, and reconstruction began.

Published: 3 March 2019


Forgotten Territory was a weekly photo column of historic images in the Northern Territory News which I curated from 2016 until 2019 supported by the collections of the Northern Territory Library and other cultural institutions around Australia, as well as local history Facebook groups. 

Click on the images to read the story behind the image.

Warning: May contain images of people who have died.

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