Joes hill?

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Bob Morrison
Bob Morrison's picture
Joined: 30/12/2010
Posts: 66
Joes hill?

I recently read an artcle on the Island and it contained the following 'The island is perfectly — no, ridiculously — flat. The highest point is a 35-foot-high mound, Joe’s Hill, erected by a British serviceman who was bulldozing coral and tar sands to construct the road that runs the length of the island. According to one account, he made the miniature hill as a perch for camping, preferring the seaside solitude to the military barracks.

I wondered who 'Joe' was and the location of his 'hill'. Anyone know?

Chris Fish
Chris Fish's picture
Joined: 18/11/2011
Posts: 120

Hi Bob,

You comment about Joes Hill.  There is a Joes Hill on Christmas Island and I had the opportunity to go up to the top of the hill.  It is the highest point on the Island and was used for observing the H Tests on the Island.  When I went up the hill in early 1960 there were still the log sheets in a lookout bunker that had not been filled in.  I was tempted to take one or two but felt if I took them and was found with them the consequences may be something too much.

The hill is not man made from what I saw of it and had a tropical type grass on the lower part as you will have seen on other parts of the Island.  If you look on the map of Christmas Island that I uploaded in my part of the site,  Chris Fish(102) and go to picture Six you will see the map that my father had circa 1935 and Joes Hill and location are shown.

As to who Joe was I do not know and guess that as this is way back before 1935, Joe may have been a person from Captain Cook's visits or an Islander of some repute.  I think of what I have read the Island was not inhabited until it was used for growing Coconut trees.  If any one know different please correct me.

At this point I am injecting as an EDIT.  What I have researched since I first wrote about JOE'S HILL.  Evidently a former French Priest leased the Island from 1917 to 1939.  He planted around 800,000 coconut trees and the words are La colline de Joe (Joe's Hill) is the highest point on the atoll, less than 40 feet (12 meters).  Because of the size and are it is believed to be the oldest atoll in the world.  The four villages on the Island Atoll: London, Tabwakea, Banana (Banana Wells), and Poland.  Place names can be attributed as coming from Father Emmanuel Rougier, the former French Priest.  This corresponds with my fathers map of Circa 1935, as no doubt the name of the hill had got established before 1935, date of map. 

I find other members of the site and their experiences while on the Island very interesting as we all had our own feelings of being out on the Island.  I wish as had hoped to have gone back and seen the Island since the Island became part of the Kiribati (kiribas as it is pronounced by the Gilbertese).  Life commitment here have not allowed a revisit.  He is not living now but a friend of mine did go back as he was a member of The Christmas Island Scouts.  When Allen died the Scouts of Christmas Island sent a wreath for his funeral.  I felt this as a great gesture of the friendship the Gilbertese showed to us people while we served on the Island.  There was a very good gathering at Allen's funeral as he was in this area a very popular man.  When we visited the Cold War Museum at Cosford he presented a work in cloth that he had made.  Allen was disappointed that His Work would not be placed in general display.  I do have pictures of the funeral and pictures of the wreaths.  I took them in great respect of Allen.  You will see that back in the 50's 60's the one could be a member of the Scouts.  It is mentioned in one of the Mid-Pacific News that I have uploaded.

Regards from me Chris Fish.

Hi Paul and Dennis,

Thanks for your mail.  Pleased to see that you have obtained some details that will allow you to track back on one of the routes taken to Christmas Island.

Just would like to point out if you have not tried look

Bob Morrison
Bob Morrison's picture
Joined: 30/12/2010
Posts: 66

I agree Chris. According to what I have researched, the hill was named 'La Colline de Joe' or Joes Hill, by Father Rougier after his  estate manager  Joe English. So it appears that there was no 'British service- man with a bulldozer etc!  Rougier treated English very badly and marooned him on the island for many months with little food or provisions until English and 2 natives were rescued by the Royal Navy.

Full story here -

Another interesting snippet I came across reported that in 1950, Werner von Braun the ex-Nazi rocket scientist who was then working on the US rocket programme suggested that AEON Field (the emergency airfield as we know it) could be used for testing space-rockets. I believe Aeon Field was named after the shipwreck of the schooner Aeon wrecked on the Bay in 1908.

The island has an amzing history and holds many secrets still.



Joined: 26/12/2012
Posts: 3

For those those who can read French, there is a fairly recent book half of which is about the island French era -and their lease was to expire in 2001, so the Line islands might have remained Polynesian, instead of becoming part ot the new Micronesian country of Kiribati in 1979?

Search "Rougier editions du roure" -can be bought online. A few period black n white photos.

AFAIK those big dunes got named after the foreman who walked the entire 150km of beaches in late 1916, setting up "kilometer cairns" with a marked stone on top, and quite a few can still be found at present. There is also a few "cocotiers kilometriques" remaining on the road approaching "la Pologne".

As for van Braun, the  Japanese had the same idea later: I had seen a big drawing where they were to lease the south half of the island,  dig up a real port, inland, build a university, a space port, etc. A few years ago they did use the Aeon runway for a GPS-guided test of a scaled version of their idea of an unmanned Space Shuttle.... then realized the sorry state of their economy was too much, and scrapped the whole idea. They still have their long-running tracking station, at the site of the WW-II radar station; for the occasional rocket launched from Japan proper.

I think Chris' hill perhaps is not the exact "Joes Hill"  marked on recent topographic maps, but slightly farther SE: there is a slightly smaller hill that one can still drive to the top... Its top has obviously been bulldozed flat and gravelled, and there is no traces left of anything and I always wondered what it was used for? Any bunker there mush have been one of the steel "cubes", that were all cleaned by the UK taxpayer a few years ago. There is a long chain of dunes in the area, and all the other tops are quite loose fine sand.

Archeologists recently found a Polynesian pre-historic adze made of volcanic rock on top ot those dunes!!! They think there was some intermittent  Polynesians here, but Fanning was a much bigger Polynesian island ...for a few centyries.





Present day Main Camp resident

Joined: 09/01/2018
Posts: 1

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