Norfolk Island, flagged on the map above, is a tiny island 877 miles (1,412 kilometers) east of mainland Australia and north of New Zealand. It is self-governing but part of the Commonwealth of Australia and its citizens — about 2,300 large — use the Australian dollar as currency. At about 13 square miles (34 kilometers squared), it is one of the smallest territories in the world. And because it is rather remote, there is not a lot of diversity, in any sense of the word, in its human population. And just about everyone knows, or knows of, everyone else.
But they don’t know each other’s phone numbers; at least, not off the top of their heads. So the people of Norfolk Island have something which most of us have heard of before: a phone book. Just like elsewhere in the world, the Norfolk Island phone book lists the names and numbers of people in the community. But unfortunately, not everyone knows each others’ names — or, at least, not their proper names. And to make matters worse, there are a lot of duplicate surnames on Norfolk Island. There are 18 “Adams” listed in the phone book, 37 “Evans,” eight “Taylor”s, a dozen “Buffett,” three dozen “Christian”s, and roughly 40 “Quintal”s. Finding the right number can be a fool’s errand.
So to make it easier, Norfolk Island adds something else to their phone book: nicknames. You may not know that Dar Bizziebee’s real name is “Darlene Buffett,” but that’s OK — she’s listed under the former as well as the latter. There are two Les Quintals on Norfolk Island, but if you want the one married to Jodie, you probably know him better as “Lettuce Leaf” anyway. Rob Adams is also listed as “Chinny,” George Smith as “Carrots,” and one of the two John Christian as “Moonie.” You may not know who Stephen and Anne Gardiner are, but you may know the couple which goes by Cookie and Freshie.
But the system is, alas, imperfect. If you want to call Diesel — properly known as Damien Finch — you’ll find him listed under his nickname. But make sure you have the right guy; Diesel Adams, another person, may not appreciate the wrong number.
Thankfully, one doesn’t need to carry a phonebook around the island. The entire directory is online, here.
From the Archives: Bugs on a Pyramid: The story of Lord Howe Island, one of the closest dots of land to Norfolk Island.
Related: A Norfolk Island Pine, a tree indigenous to Norfolk Island which apparently makes for a good Christmas tree.