Geographically the island and it’s neighbour Goat Island/Rakiriri indicate the centre of the volcano that formed Otago Harbour. If you imagine a ridge line extending from Port Chalmers across both islands and finishing on the Peninsula. The islands now mark the approximate half way point up Otago Harbour.
The islands have had many names over the course of time. Local Maori, the tangata whenua (people of the land) Ngai Tahu (Kai Tahu), know Quarantine Island as Kamau Taurua. This is an ancestral name, the name of an ancestral canoe and also ‘a place where nets are set.’
Other names of Quarantine Island include; Midway/Halfway Islands, Rabbit Island and St Martin Island. Early in the community’s purchase of the island’s lease they tried to change the name to St Martin Island after themselves. The thinking was that ‘Quarantine’ had sad memories and negative connotations. However, St Martin Island was never officially registered as the new name and the older name of Quarantine Island stayed. The significant history of the island is embraced and acknowledged in this name and it is given equal significance with its Maori counterpart Kamau Taurua.
The island was Otago‘s quarantine station from 1863-1924. It was awarded the status of a Historic Area by the Historic Places Trust in 2001, and the Community (About Us) makes as much information as possible available to all those visitors interested in the history of the Island.
The book ‘Quarantine Island/Kamau Taurua – A Short History’ was written by long time community member, Lyndall Hancock, and was published in 2008. It is available from libraries, the UniBooks, Dunedin (UBS) or the QI/KT Community (secretary.quarantineisland at gmail dot com).
Much of the information on the history of the island found on this website has come from Lyndall, either through her book or first hand. As the communities eldest member Lyndall has contributed so much and is an abundant source of historic knowledge. See the History page for more information.