An American River on Kangeroo Island

The first ship built in South Australia flew the Stars and Stripes.  She was the US Schooner Independence, built by American sailors from the brig Union in 1803 on American River, which is not actually a river but a long inlet from the ocean.

American River was settled by American Sealers on Kangaroo Island, south of Adelaide (which did not, then, exit).  The Union’s crew established the community, and the Independence was a smaller ship they needed to extend sealing operations.  The flag she flew had 15 stars and 15 stripes, even though the United States, at that time had 17 states.  Congress added a star and a stripe to the flag after the admission of Vermont and Kentucky, but when Tennessee was admitted it did not add any more stars or stripes because with so many stripes the flag would be cluttered and cumbersome.  Ohio in 1803 joined Tennessee in not getting a star or stripe.  It wasn’t until 1818 when we were about to add Illinois as number 21 (we had already added Louisiana, Indiana and Mississippi) that Congress decided to reduce the number of stripes to 13 and add a star for each new state.

So, it’s a 15 stripe and 15-star Old Glory that proudly flies over American River and residents tell me it’s hard to find those flags when they become tattered in the wind and need replacement.  The main drag is called Buick Drive. American River is a resort town, still home to seals, but also to a boat building project.  The Original Independence was presumed lost on a voyage to islands south of New Zealand in 1805.  Residents of American River are rebuilding a full sized replica of Independence and visiting the boat yard is one of the main reasons for visiting American River if you are stopping off a cruise ship.  One of the builders lit up when Suzi asked if he would be sailing Independence to the Tall Ships Regatta in Hobart.  He smiled and said, “In four years.”

Zuiderdam called at Kangaroo Island after Adelaide, and we opted to take a Holland America tour because the ferry terminal at Penneshaw is a way from the main town of Kingscote and the town of Penneshaw is up a fairly steep hill from the ferry terminal/cruise ship dock.  Since my second bout of COVID I am having trouble climbing hills. It turns out that the town of Penneshaw had a shuttle bus to take us up the hill, but HAL never mentioned that to us. 

We would have taken the tour anyway (although we would have gotten off the ship earlier to explore Penneshaw, which some of our cruise mates really enjoyed) because it took us to Kingscote, the biggest town on the island, and to American River.  We were in Kingscote before on a similar tour and I spent my whole time at the Community Radio station, so we wanted to see a little more of the town.  Kingscote is a compact and attractive town. It’s hospital has some great views overlooking the beach, better than the hotels.   

One of the features I like is the bollards protecting the sidewalk in front of the pub (where we stopped for a drink), were each is painted by or on behalf a school kid. 

We also enjoyed the kangaroo mural.

The driver and tour guide, Peter, was interesting and entertaining.  Someone asked if we would see any kangaroos on Kangaroo Island.  He said no, it was too hot in the middle of the day, they would all be sheltering in the shade.  Almost immediately Suzi shouted, “Kangaroos at 3 o’clock” and as the bus sped by (4’oclock, 5 o’clock, 6 o’clock) we saw three kangaroos sheltering under trees.

Peter is a school bus driver moonlighting as a tour bus driver. Something we understand in Sitka. The bus was luxurious but cramped.  Peter said it had been a former school bus.  The seats were scrunched together and the head rests too low so they hit me in the shoulder blades meaning my back had nothing to lean against.  They reminded me of United Airlines Marquis de Sade class of service. I am a big guy and was miserable on the bus. I hope the bus was not used for the school basketball team.

Back at the ferry terminal we saw a lot of birds that some folks took at penguins.  But they flew so I think they were cormorants, which are related to penguins.  We got the next  to the last tender back to the ship.

We don’t take as many Holland America tours as most people, but I suspect we will be taking more as age closes options.  Sometime during COVID our personal odometers clicked past 75 and we now find it more difficult to rent cars in some locations.  In Australia the agent has sole discretion on whether to rent a car to someone 75 or older (hard to hide it when it is on your driver’s license) and may require both a health certificate from your medical provider and a certificate from your insurance company that you have been accident free for 5 years.  In other ports, like Ireland and the UK these certificates are legal requirements (although sometimes no one asks.)  We neglected to get the doctor’s letter or the insurance certificate before we left so it’s the bus for us.

3 thoughts on “An American River on Kangeroo Island

  1. You might want to recheck the date Illinois was added…I think you have a typo saying 1918 instead of 1818.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.