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PORT ESSINGTON: THE BRITISH IN NORTH AUSTRALIA 1838-49

For many of the Royal Marines sent to Port Essington, life was a living hell of malaria, scurvy, termites, shipwrecks, cyclones, boredom, isolation, and death. For one man it was the ‘most useless, miserable, ill-managed hole in Her Majesty’s dominions’ which deserved ‘all the abuse that has ever been heaped upon it’.

But it wasn’t always so: In the beginning, French visitors shared their best Bordeaux wines and partied at Government House; small boats raced in regattas across the harbour; men played cricket; and the gardens grew the best pineapples in the southern hemisphere.

Led by the stoic Captain John McArthur for 11 years, this is the story of the rise and fall of a peaceful little British village in the most distant part of the empire, and of how the chief occupation of the survivors became grave digging.

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