1914-1920. The album captures a period of six years, mostly on Fanning Island, but also on Washington Island and later in Hawaii and British Columbia. The "official" photographer at the Fanning Island cable station appears to be W. R. Peters, and he captured the events of September 7th, 1914, when the German ship Nurnberg destroyed the cable station in an early act of aggression in W.W.I. This series of photographs is held in the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (OTC) photographic collection at the National Archives of Australia, listing the photographer as "Unknown" and includes one image that appears not to be included in the NAA collection. Peters would have printed the 322 silver gelatin vernacular photographs on Fanning, annotated many on the verso and seems to have mailed them "home". He later assembled this album and captioned the pages in white ink. They are lightly tipped into the album and the verso inscriptions are sometimes obscured where attached at the top margin. Most images are 5 1/2 x 3 1/4",but range from 8 x 10 to 2 1/2 x 1 1/2". The two large format images are self described "artistic" attempts, include tropical sunsets and of the remarkable coconut crab and the surf and sunset, both initialed "W. R. P. " on the verso. The unrecorded Nurnberg attack image is a close-up of damaged equipment in the office. Peter's caption on the verso reads in part "in the office after the Germans had finished with it." (the 1st line is obscured.)
Mr. Peters arrived in 1914 on the H. M. Sch. Tangaroa, a New Zealand research vessel, described on the verso as "The famous Tangaroa, the slowest ship on the Pacific". There are general views around the station including an interesting aerial panorama 19 x 2 3/4".
The only date in the album is Sept 7th, 1914, the day of the Nurnberg attack, when it steamed in to the harbor flying a French flag and destroyed the engine house and communications equipment of the cable station. There are also photos of Captain Vaughn, who arrived on the island after a 900 mile open boat ocean voyage on the sinking of his schooner the "John Murray". Defense preparations are recorded (after the attack) with many of the residents, including women, learning how to fire the guns. A new schooner is welcomed, followed by the ubiquitous Gymkhana. There are some great photos of Peters on the tennis court. There is also a loose portrait of him in 1956, possible for passport photo. Also recorded is the visit of a British battleship, the H.M.S. Onward (?), and the sporting events that followed. Commander Dreyer is identified on the verso of one shot, in full dress uniform. There are some attractive views of the scenery, and coconut photos including those on Washington Island.
There are a striking number of images of the native people, their customs and the seemingly happy integration between all the inhabitants. There are several images of a natives Gymkhana including a women's running race, a wheelbarrow race and boxing bouts. Local customs includes two men holding a wicker crayfish pot, numerous photos of interesting sail designs for local vessels, four natives & their commander in military formation, presenting arms. There is one of a great picnic celebrating Peace Day 19th July 1919. There are a number of integrated group shots of the natives with the Europeans, with three flags, British, US & French. The images are extremely clear and there is no doubt that the people imaged could be identified.
There is an image of Washington Island seven natives in local police uniforms, helmets and night stick and barefoot. The caption on the verso reads "Washington Island is about 80 miles from here and is worked for copra by the same people that work this island. Most of this lot of photos were taken there."
There are four loosely inserted items. Two are island Christmas cards for 1918 & 1919, both menus, which are signed by the Staff. Some of the signatures include R. P. Heron, Bill Craig, M. Bramley, E. E. Beckam, R. S. McCombie, Mr. Coote, T.R. Blackly, Bill Christian, C. Brown, W. H. Greig, Elsie Magini, Jenny Whitelaw, C. T. Halsted, B. W. Black, D. B. Grieg, among others. There is a Gymkhana Day program for Dec 4th 1920, printed on board a Royal Mail line ship, as well as a home made menu for Aug 1920, hand written in white with a tipped-on map of Fanning Island. The name Hugh Greig is included on an NAA image C5487, PH/0048, "dressed in improvised deep sea diving equipment, preparing to dive to retrieve the ends of the telegraph cable cut by the German ship the Nurnberg on 7 September 1914..." The telegraph cable was apparently restored within 2 weeks.
Around 1920, Peters then leaves the island and heads to British Columbi, to the Cape Beale lighthouse and cable repair (7 photos) and Hawaii, where he sits in the Old Throne of the Hawaiian king.
Fanning's Island is now known as the Tabuaeran Atoll, part of Kiribati. It is 32 miles in circumference. It was annexed by the British in 1888 and used as a cable relay station from 1902. In 1916, it became district headquarters for the Gilbert & Ellice Islands. The largest industry in the first half of the 20th century was copra (dried coconut) processing and it continues to be important.
One image appears to be unrecorded on the NAA site. It is a close-up of damaged equipment in the office. Peter's caption on the verso reads in part "in the office after the Germans had finished with it." (the 1st line is obscured.). Item #26728