KARRATHA VISITOR CENTRE

Sam's Island

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Off the foreshore of Dampier, Sam’s Island has a unique and fascinating history dating back to the 1960s. It was originally named Tidepole Island in 1884, when the British Admiralty were undertaking data collection and hydrographic surveys led by Staff Commander JE Coghlan (RN). Poles were placed near the island to enable the measurement of tides  –  hence the name Tidepole Island. When the iron ore industry arrived in the Pilbara in the 1960s a mining lease was granted for the island.

History of Sam’s Island

After surviving the horrors of World War II in Yugoslavia, Sam Ostojich arrived in Australia in 1960 and settled in the Pilbara in 1965, where he worked on the first causeway of the Karratha to Dampier Road. Sam’s first visit to Tidepole Island was aboard a raft lashed together with 44 gallon drums.

The story goes that a fierce storm blew up and Sam was stranded there for several days. This was the beginning of Sam’s love affair with the island that went down in Dampier’s history. Living and working on his island whenever time allowed, he began constructing a castle in 1966  –  laboriously building layer after layer of rock walls and carting soil, timber and provisions from the mainland.

His work continued even after breaking his back in an industrial accident in the early 1970s. Hamersley Iron (now Pilbara Iron / Rio Tinto) gave Sam a 99 year gentleman’s lease and connected the island to the mainland water supply, enabling him to live contently on the island with his cat companion, Tiger. In February 2005, Sam passed away and was buried on his island. Tiger died shortly after and is buried at Sam’s feet.

A Modern Day Treasure

The Shire of Roebourne and Sam’s Island Preservation Group in Dampier aim to preserve the island’s history, while keeping it natural and retrospective to the man who became a local icon. 

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