The Sunday supplement: solitary refinement

7w ago


Giant breakers roll in off the South Pacific, thundering onto the rocky margins of the tiny island Duncan Sanderson calls home. Perched on the bright red front wing of his 911, he stares out towards a huge, unbroken horizon, wind whipping a long grey mop of hair.

It’s worth putting Norfolk Island into Google Maps and then simply zooming out. It takes a remarkably long time before you see any other land mass, so far from anything substantial is this tiny outcrop of Australian extraction.

If you’re fond of figures, Norfolk Island is located 1,400km east of Australia, comfortably its closest significant land mass. It enjoys a mere 35 km² total surface area ¬– the remnants of an ancient volcano – and today is home to fewer than 1,800 inhabitants. There are also 150 cows, 90 miles of road, a single set of traffic lights and just the one Porsche.

Here at Cascade Bay, retired jeweller Duncan recalls fond memories of standing at this spot 22 years ago, with his Guards Red 964 Targa hanging from a cable overhead – though the experience was a lot more stressful at the time. The offshore coral reef generally makes it difficult for large freight ships to deliver to Norfolk Island, he explains, and incoming goods often have to be unloaded onto several smaller ships before being brought to shore. “The Porsche was finally hoisted ashore by crane; I held my breath as I watched it dangle over the sea,” the 75-year-old says with a smile.

The Sandersons were actually looking for a delivery vehicle for their jewellery business, browsing a Japanese auction site for something suitable utilitarian. “I happened to notice that the auction was selling various Porsches,” Duncan remembers. “Of course, it’s a sports car I’ve always dreamt of – ever since I was a young child.”

In 1996, Duncan turned that dream into a reality when he first laid eyes on the red 964. He considered it for a long time, and eventually placed a bid and won the sports car. “You can imagine how my wife reacted,” he recounts with a wink. “But when the 911 actually arrived and she laid eyes on it, she was as ecstatic as I was.”

And as luck would have it, the presence of a 911 on Norfolk Island did far more for the Sanderson’s jewellery shop than a workaday van ever could. “It turns out that the Porsche was the best thing that could have happened to our business. There’s no communications strategy, however well thought-out, that could have matched it. The Targa and its large rear wing were a real magnet for passers-by. People would constantly come into our shop and ask about the Porsche – which, of course, I’d always park right in front of the door.”

The Norfolk Island road network is limited, as is the permissible speed on it: all 145 kilometres of road on the island are restricted to 50 km/h, while inaccessible cliffs and rugged mountains also mean that only the southern part of the island is inhabitable. That doesn’t make things easy for Duncan, who likes to take his beloved 911 out for a spin at least once a day. “You have to be a bit creative on Norfolk Island. Sometimes I wish there was a bit of motorway in the middle of it, so I could really let the car fly. But I’m getting older, and these days I really just enjoy my time with it. The thing is, every drive in a Porsche is unique, so I’m constantly rediscovering my 911 and the place I call home.”

Can a 911 coexist with an island where you can’t exceed 50km/h? It seems the local wildlife, not the local police force, is making sure it can.

“People know that I sometimes like to drive a bit quicker, but I haven’t got any speeding tickets so far. You have to keep an eye out for the cows though. They can suddenly appear out of nowhere. And they have the right of way.”