Aboriginal gods wanted a paradise on Earth. So they created Fraser Island.
By Roff Smith
Photograph by Peter Essick
It wasn't enough simply to create the world; the Aboriginal godBeeral wanted it to be beautiful as well. And so he sent two trusted messengers, Yindingie and his spirit helper K'gari, to render the raw material of creation into a paradise. They did such a splendidjob that by the time they were finished, K'gari longed to stay in this wonderful place forever. She lay down in the warm waters of a particularly beautiful bay, and there she went to sleep.
Whileshe slept, Yindingie transformed her body into a long, slender island of crystalline sand, the largest such island in all the world. He clothed her with the most luxuriant of rain forests, painted hersoft, sandy skin a rainbow of colors, and fashioned a chain of jewel-like lakes to be her eyes into heaven. He filled the air with colorful birds, and then, so she would never be lonely, he set a tribeof Aborigines on the island—the Butchulla people, who passed down the story of its creation and in whose language K'gari came to be the word for "paradise."
A lot of water has washed its shoressince then. Today paradise goes by the name of Fraser Island, renamed by newcomers after a Scottish sea captain and his wife were famously marooned here among the Aborigines in 1836. But by any name orreckoning, it remains a place apart, with an uncanny ability to weave itself into the dreams of all who draw near.
Fraser Island's storied landscapes have inspired many of Australia's greatest writersand artists, and its delicate ecosystems fired passions in one of Australia's first great grassroots environmental campaigns in the 1970s, stopping the mining of its mineral-rich sands and bringingan eventual end to logging on the island. And for succeeding generations of locals and visitors alike, it has been a prism through which to see and appreciate the often nuanced beauty of the...