Captain James Cook, the greatest of all sea explorers, discovered Botany Bay and charted the eastern coast all the Way to Cape York, naming New South Wales on the way.
After sailing north from Botany day. Cook's ship 'Endeavour' ran into adverse weather and was forced to stand off to avoid possible reefs, about three leagues from land in latitude 30". He noted in his log book on May 15 about 2 pm- "We had some small rock islands between us and the mainland". He named these islands "Solitary Isles" on his chart.
The Solitary Isles are a group of nine barren rocky islands off the North Coast of New South Wales. Five of the Solitary Isles are the defining natural feature of the Solitary Islands Marine Park, which was proclaimed in 1998. These are North Solitary Island, North West Solitary Island, Split Solitary Island, South West Solitary Island and South Solitary Island. The park covers 71,000 hectares and stretches from the northern side of Muttonbird Island at Coffs Harbour, 75 kilometres north to Plover Island at the entrance to the Sandon River and seawards to a depth of 50 metres. It extends from the mean high water mark and upper tidal limits of coastal estuaries and lakes, seaward to the three nautical mile limit of State waters and includes all of the seabed.
Some spectacular formations of coral are found in the South West Solitary Island which has the densest cover, but coral is found around the other islands in the park too. South West Solitary Island is a popular destination for fishers, snorkellers and divers. It is also an important habitat for nesting sea birds.
The warm waters of the East Australian Current meet in the Solitary Islands Marine Park, with the cool nutrient rich currents that have originated in the south. This allows tropical, sub tropical and temperate marine communities to co-exist in the same area.
South Solitary has many spectacular landforms including a huge natural arch on the south-east side. There is an historic lighthouse and accompanying buildings while the northern tip is a popular diving spot.
South Solitary Island is situated between the Bellinger and Clarence Rivers, off the east coast, about 18 km from Coffs Harbour and 6 km from Signal Point, now Emerald Beach.
It is a precipitous, rocky isle, shaped like acrouching lion, rising at the southern end to a height of 136 feet above high water mark, and tapering down to the other end. It is cut in two by a deep passage of water, about 30 feet (9 metres) wide, through which small fishing boats can pass and over which a flying fox was erected by an early lighthouse keeper and his assistants.
The island is surrounded by deep water with no beach, and the soil, which is only a few inches deep, grows a shrubby grass of stubborn hardness. Owing to the exposed position and very little depth of soil there is not a tree on the island and no natural fresh water. It contains about 23 acres (9.32 ha) of ground.
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