According to Russell Cooper (1997) Sammy Well is quite old, being in operation when the lighthouse at Cape Inscription was in its construction phases around 1907. In that respect it has intrinsic significance as an indicator of early station activity at the north end of the island. Apparently, fresh water drawn from the well was stored in barrels and carted on horse-drawn wagons to the lighthouse precinct in order to make concrete for the tower. After the light was completed, access to the tower and its facilities (including a large water catchment) was via a light rail and jetty in Turtle Bay, rendering Sammy Well of secondary importance to the light and its people.
While the windmill, the wooden liners, and the abandoned outcamp and tank on the hill above Sammy Well appear relatively 'modern' phenomena, the place has yet another central place in Dirk Hartog Island history and folklore, being a tangible reminder of the presence of 'Sammy Malay' or 'Sammy Hassan', as he was also known. Arguably it is also the foremost remaining physical reminder of the presence of the 'Malays' (as people from the island north of Australia were then collectively known) who came to Shark Bay after 1872. In that context, a link is also made to the colonial entrepreneur Charles Edward Broadhurst who, with Francis Cadell in the 1870s was the chief importer and employer of 'Malays' in the bay as indentured labour. For his part Broadhurst transported 140 'Malays' to this coast on the SS Xantho.
The Walga Rock painting
First recorded by an anthropologist in 1936, theories about the provenance of the painting abound. One story from 1928 indicates that the ship had been painted by an Aboriginal woman 'with fair hair and blue eyes', i.e. by inference a descendent of shipwreck survivors. While another attributes the work to 'Afghan cameleers' and yet another to a group of boys from Cue, the most common is that it had been painted by shipwreck survivors or their descendants. Historian Stan Gratte traced Sammy Malay to the Walga Rock area.
The SS Xantho link
Though doubts remain there is now compelling evidence that the Walga Rock painting represents the steam-driven auxiliary sailer, the SS Xantho (1872) which sank under Charles Broadhurst and his crew, including a number of 'Malays' at Port Gregory a few miles south of the Murchison.
The painting, which also appears featured in other rock art in the Pilbara, was first linked to the Xantho by anthropologist Dr Ian Crawford and archaeologist Charles Dortch suggested that if Xantho had false gunports, then it could have been the inspiration of the Walga Rock painting. This theory was tested by comparing an existing analysis of the configuration of SS Xantho (e.g. position of the funnel, masts etc.) based on the archaeological evidence and the painting. When false gunports are drawn in, the resemblance is quite compelling, rendering a link with the Walga Rock painting far more likely than with the Zuytdorp or any other sailing ship. This is further strengthened when it is considered that false gunports were a common sight on these shores in the 19th century. For example, the iron barques Sepia and City of York wrecked in 1898 and 1899 respectively carried them.
With links to so many people, places and events, and as a prominent representative of a very important social group, Sammy Malay (Hassan) assumes an importance few would have otherwise envisaged. It renders Sammy Well as one of the most important cultural heritage sites on the island, one requiring protection and interpretation.
A detailed account including appropriate citations of the Archeological Surveys undertaken
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