Where the Dead Ships Lie
Rockhampton, Yeppoon, and Emu Park
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 1923
AWAY OUT ON THE BARRIER
WHERE THE DEAD SHIPS LIE
What endless and ever changing visions of romance are conjured by the very name of what is called the “Great Barrier Reef!”
And what a long and terrible procession of tragedies stretch away far back, growing ever fainter and more shadowy in the deepening darkness of the last vanished century!
The name of Barrier “Reef” is a somewhat misleading term. All the area usually included in that term is actually an ocean-covered section of the east coast of Queensland, a broad shelf, as it were, bordering the mainland, between it and the deep water of the outer ocean.
It actually starts, clearly defined, in the south at Lady Elliott Island, and stretches away north for 1200 miles to near the coast of New Guinea. Though coral begins definitely at Lady Elliott, and increases in color, variety, and quantity, northwards, the most interesting and beautiful and gorgeous and wonderful area of the Barrier is north of Cairns, from there to beyond Cape York, in purely tropical seas.
If the ocean were to shrink again, as it certainly has shrunk in some previous age, the whole of that coral covered area would be just a dead level, monotonous stretch of flat country between the coast range and the sea.
It has been my good luck to ramble over that Barrier Reef at several places, over an area of 500 miles, and to stand on the outer edge at low water and look down what were practically vertical walls into tremendous depths of blue sea, deepening, not far out, to over 2000 feet. That outer wall of what we call the Barrier Reef is really the line of cleavage where some vast area of the ancient Australian continent broke off and disappeared, as a lost Atlantis, into the unknown depths, where the primeval ocean consigned it for ever to oblivion.
Back since the days of Huxley and Darwin there has been a perennial discussion on coral reefs, and vague, indeterminate speculations on the thickness of coral rocks.
A long time was needed to kill the old, time honored delusion that coral is the product of an insect of very industrious habits, that forced him to labor day and night, without the orthodox “spell-o”, using the lime secretions of his own tummy to construct those wondrous white, grey, and red corals that are among the marine marvels of the world.
We know that all kinds of corals are half animal, half vegetable, marine growths, that grow like cabbages, and that the beautiful coral specimens on our mantelpiece are merely the lime formed skeletons of these dead plants from which all flesh has disappeared. There is no coral insect outside the imagination of those who know nothing about the subject.
Coral, in the green, live state, is not an attractive article. You can walk over it with bare feet, to which it feels like a huge blancmange or a plum pudding, and when lifted out of the water the odor bears no resemblance to rondeletia or altar of roses. One sniff will last you until you have forgotten it – probably years afterwards. When drifting at low water in a small boat over a field of coral, which is not more than two or three feet beneath you, all the glories are in the dead and clean skeletons of the polyps, not those that are still alive. A ramble across an expanse of coral, uncovered, at low tide, is an experience never forgotten. No photograph is anything more than suggestive of the splendour of that scene. And the coral area is not merely away out on what is usually called the Barrier Reef. It is spread all over that great level shelf, from the sea coast to the outer edge of the deep water.
At Double Island, about 12 miles north of Cairns, not more than two miles from the mainland, the sea at low tide leaves about 50 acres of coral uncovered, so you can walk over it from side to side. Splendid coral is seen at the Inner Frankland Island, just off the mouth of the Mulgrave River. For a week it was supreme joy for me to be camped on Forbes Island, the “Mootharra” of the blacks, 10 miles off Weymouth Bat, between latitude 13 and 12, and right out in the centre of the Barrier, a beautiful and romantic island, enclosed on two sides by a semi-circle of granite hills about 300 ft in height, a cave running through one of them from the inside to the sea.
Low tide cuts off one end into a temporary island, and a separate island is detached on the south side by a deep channel, about a hundred yards in width. All three islands are composed of granite, the same as the Dividing Range on the adjoining mainland. There is an abundance of firewood, and excellent water. My two very genial hosts on the occasion were Hugh Giblett, who was cutting sandlewood on the Pascoe, and a beche-de-mer fisherman named Fred Lancaster, who had lived for 20 years on that glorious island, lulled to sleep by the bright green waves playing a soft Aeolian melody on that beautiful coral beach. Fred was redolent of tales and legends of the Barrier, and his views on coral reefs had far more value than those of many who today are posing as scientists and experts on the subject. A pound of solid fact, based on hard experience, is worth a ton of theory that is resting only on the imagination or superficial investigation.
He took me to the outer edge of the Barrier, where you could look down into what seemed unfathomable blue water, the granite rock clearly perceptible on the face of the wall, and also anywhere on the surface of the reef, cropping out among the coral. Granite is the prevailing rock under the whole of the Barrier Reef, and covers practically all that level area from Townsville to Cape York, the area of which was certainly once a portion of the dry land of the Queensland east coast.
Lancaster laughed at the theory of coral rocks 50ft to 100ft in depth, and was doubtful if pure coral rock could be found on the Barrier up to even 6ft. Twenty years experience and careful observation had shown him that the turbulent seas and strong tides of the Barrier really washed the dead coral continuously out into the deep water or on to the coast, and that it was renewed by fresh spores rooting in the bare rock. He was very positive that, so far as the Barrier is concerned, the coral does not renew itself in layers of live plants on the dead, and so slowly build up a coral rock; that such a position could only be possible in “lagoons” not subject to tides and strong currents.
On the north end of Facing Island, named by Flinders at Port Curtis, in July 1802, there is a remarkable outcrop of dead coral on a dry sand patch of about 40 acres, some feet above high tide. It sticks up out of the sand in all shapes, very rough, and hard as any sandstone rock. Clear enough is the fact that this island was under the sea when that coral was growing. That would be one of the best of places to test the depth of coral with a drill, much better than any part of the Barrier Reef. Lancaster, who was a highly intelligent man, of good family, told me there is no evidence whatever to show that there is any considerable thickness of coral rock on any part of the Barrier.
Now we return to Forbes Island, and the splendid coral beach where two old mates, Christy Christison and George Dillon, had a quarrel about “too much sajeratus in that bread,” or some equally trivial cause, and fired 20 Snider cartridges at each other from a distance of about 200 yards, with no result.
Then they shook hands, and walked back to the camp to celebrate the statu quo ante bellum with copious “quaffs” of Thursday Island rum, that had already, fortunately, unfitted them for hitting anything smaller than the Pyramid of Cheops. The marks of the Snider bullets were plainly visible to me on the trees and the granite rocks.
Lancaster told me a whole series of tragedies within his own experience. On one occasion, on the west end of Forbes Island, a man named George Waters was in charge of a fishing station for Beardmore, who was away at the Gulf. There were three aboriginal women, one from Normanton, a blind black from Night Island, and two Pascoe boys, about 12 and 14, who were over at Lancaster’s camp. The women went over and got those boys to come back with them to murder Waters unless he would let them all go away to the mainland. The blind black made a rush at Waters, who caught him by the throat and hit him on the head with a bottle, but the women stunned him with stones, and one of the boys cut his throat.
When Lancaster came home next morning, he found the boys missing, so he went near to Water’s camp and coo-eeyed, but there was no boat, and nobody visible.
He went to the hut, called, and knocked; then opened the door, to find Waters lying on his face, dead, but not yet stone cold.
He reported at the Piper Island lightship, then went on to Thursday Island, and wired Beardmore, who came round from the Gulf and shot some of the wrong blacks, at Pascoe Point, three or four of them women. The blacks reported to H.M.S. Paluma, but nothing was done. They also meant to have Beardmore, but they never got the opportunity.
Christy Christison, one of the heroes of the Snider duel, had the schooner Rover on the Barrier at the Quoin Island Entrance, the mate being on a tender alongside and down in the cabin at the time, having only just gone on board. He was lighting his pipe when a three pronged spear was thrust through a sliding panel and pierced his forehead. He gave one yell and expired.
A blackboy, about 14, and a Chinaman promptly got into the water tank. Christison crawled onto the top of the smoke house with a Winchester rifle and two revolvers, and saw the 28 blacks, mostly Night Islanders, standing on the cutter. He promptly fired and shot several, the rest jumping overboard, the whole lot being finally drowned, not one escaping.
When the boy in the tank was met by me, years afterwards, he was one of the chiefs of the tribe at Hayes’s Creek, and known to the whites as “King Fred.”
Recently there has been a revival of the discussion on a Frenchman named Narcisse Pelletier, who was alleged to have lived with the blacks for many years on various parts of the Cape York Peninsula, and was finally picked up on Night Island. It is a bogus story from start to finish. Narcisse Pelletier was a cabin boy on the ship St. Paul, of Bordeaux, and she had 800 chinamen on board when wrecked among the cannibals of the Louisiade Archipelago. What really happened was never known, the only consistent story being that all who got ashore were killed and eaten by Louisiade cannibals, only the cabin boy escaping.
The man found on Night Island had apparently been for some time with a Polynesian race, who had tattooed him, but the marks were not those of a Queensland aboriginal. Night Island is well known to me. It lies south of Cape Direction, and is a low, flat island, with coral beaches and belts of dense red mangroves.
The circular cyclone which wrecked the pearling fleet came off the coast opposite the island, and cut a clean track across the centre, sweeping away the mangroves, roots and all, as if they were straw, and even piled the coral up in dykes, as if done by navies.
THE DAILY MAIL 5 NOVEMBER 1923
OVERLAND TO SOMERSET
One of the most remarkable exploring expeditions of Australia was that made in 1864 by Frank and Alick Jardine, two sons of John Jardine, who was for years police Magistrate and Land Commissioner at Rockhampton.
These two youths were only 22 and 20 years of age when they started from Rockhampton on May 14, 1864, to take a mob of horses and cattle overland to Somerset, at Cape York.
Frank and Richardson, a Government surveyor, went by sea to Bowen, where Frank was to purchase the cattle, Alick following overland with 31 horses, five white men, and four aboriginals – Peter, Sambo, Barney and Eulah.
Pleuro was prevalent at the time, and Frank had some difficulty in getting suitable cattle. The Government supplied Surveyor Richardson, and also horses, arms, and accoutrements for the four blacks. The two brothers met at Reedy Creek station, on the Burdekin. From there Alick went on ahead, with the pack horses and equipment, leaving Frank, with Cowdrey, Scrutton, and three of the blacks to follow with the cattle.
Alick arrived at J. G. Macdonald’s Carpentaria Downs station, on the Einasleigh, on August 30, being joined there by Frank’s party, and a mob of bullocks and cows in good condition. The whole party left Carpentaria Downs on October 11, 1864, and included the two Jardines, A. J. Richardson, C. Scrutton, R. R. Binney, A, Cowdrey, and the four blacks.
Before them in a straight line to Cape York, was unknown territory for 500 miles, but it must have been about 700 by the route they adopted. It is easy enough today to see the mistake they made in going so far to the westward, among the swamps and creeks, and stretches of poor country towards the shores of the Gulf, and we know now that their track should have been along the dividing watershed of the Eastern and Western rivers, where the overland telegraph line is today, but it is all unknown country in the Jardine days, and they had everything to discover. On one part of the trip they were 150 miles west of the telegraph line of today, and from the Mitchell north to the Kendall they ran parallel to the Gulf not more than 10 miles from the sea. At the Kendall they bore away north-west towards the head of the Archer, and thence about due north for the Batavia and Cape York.
No other explorers had so much trouble with the blacks, and probably their own blacks were partly responsible, just as Leichhardt’s two blacks were responsible for the killing of Gilbert, by some unwarrantable interference with aboriginal women a couple of days before.
This information was given to me by a correspondence with John Roper, one of Leichhardt’s party, in after years when he was inspector of stock at Merriwa, in New South Wales. It was also given to me, too, by James Calvert, another of the party, and he and Roper also sent me their photographs.
Both were badly wounded by spears on the night that Gilbert was killed, at a tea-tree lagoon near the Nassau.
The Jardine party had amazing luck in escaping from all their conflicts with the blacks without a scratch.
On one occasion, at Camp 43, on Sunday, two days after reaching the Mitchell, they had a serious standup fight,, they named the “Battle of the Mitchell,” with a large mob of active, athletic blacks, armed with woomera spears which they can easily throw up to 150 yards, and make good practice up to 100. I shall give the leader’s own description of that skirmish: “Alick and myself, and old Eulah went down to the river to find a crossing, and in a mile and a half came on a lot of blacks fishing. They crossed to the other side, but swam back again in great numbers, carrying bundles of spears and woomeras. Seeing we were in for another row, we cantered forward towards the camp, determined to give them a severe lesson that time. They took this for flight, raced after us, and sent in scores of spears, some of them unpleasantly near, and thrown over 100 yards away. Then we suddenly turned and gave them a volley, which brought all our friends from the camp, and the fight became general.
“The natives at first stood up courageously, but either by accident or fear, despair or stupidity, they became all bundled in a heap in and by the margin of the water, where 10 carbines poured volley after volley into them from all directions, killing or wounding with every shot, with very little return, as nearly all their spears had been thrown at us when riding back for the camp. About 30 were killed, but many more were wounded, and probably a number drowned, as we had fired 68 rounds.”
As six of the carbines were double Terry breechloaders, very ugly weapons at close quarters, the estimate of the slain is rather moderate. There is reason to believe that a hundred blacks died on that occasion, but it was all forced on the Jardines, who had either to kill or be killed, and he is a foolish man who hesitates at such time.
The first attacks were on November 20 and 22, and they had to shoot some blacks on each occasion. They were still on Mitchell Waters when the brothers, who were in advance, were waiting for the packhorse to come up, and they heard of their worst misfortune, which had happened at Camp 18, in Latitude 16.55.6.
Through some astounding negligence, by whom is not mentioned, a disastrous fire started in the dry grass at the camp, destroying 120lb of flour, all the tea, except 10lb, the mule’s pack with 100lb of rice, jam, apples, and currants, 5lb of gunpowder, 12lb of shot, the ammunition box, with cartridges and caps, two tents, one pack saddle, 22 pack bags, 14 surcingles, 12 leather girths, six breechings, 30 ring pack straps, two bridles, two pairs of blankets, two pairs of boots, nearly all the black boys’ clothes, many of the brothers’ clothing, and two bags full of awls, needles, twine, and knickknacks. Scrutton snatched some of the powder from the fire when the solder was melting on the tins.
How they came to risk all their outfit, and the safety of the expedition, to the chances of a grass fire, is a hopeless conundrum. Had they lost all their ammunition they would have been at the mercy of the first band of woomera spear blacks who attacked them
They also lost Maroon, a valuable grey horse that died from snakebite or poison. All along that journey they lost a number of horses and cattle, apparently poisoned; but Jardine was unable to find the cause. He was not aware at that time that he was passing over country full of the most deadly poisonous trees in the world. In the journal of Leichhardt , in 1847, he refers to it as a “leguminous ironbark,” but when Baron Von Mueller was out with Gregory in the Gulf in1856, he saw it was an entirely new species, which he named Erythrophmum Laboucheri, from the red colour of the wood, and in honour of a botanist of that time. It is probably the hardest and heaviest wood in the world, with a beautiful grain. It bears a bean and bean, leaves, and wood are all deadly poisonous. Any animal eating the leaves or beans first goes stone blind, and dies in about half an hour.
On one occasion I saw a goat dead in less than half an hour, and all we found in his stomach was three or four green leaves, not even started to digest.
Gregory had several horses poisoned by that tree without knowing the cause. On one occasion, in the Gulf country, 6000 sheep were poisoned. About three or four leaves would kill a sheep. It was seen by me from the Barron River to Cape York, but nowhere south of the Barron.
That Jardine’s horses and cattle were poisoned by eating young bushes of that tree there need be no doubt whatever.
Occasionally a jealous aboriginal woman would pound a couple of beans and give them to a rival in some soft food, the result being total blindness for the rest of her life.
On October 13 they surprised a lot of blacks roasting a newly killed man, intended for a feast. Another lot were roasting dozens of the beautiful bee=eaters, Merops-ornains, which they called “Burrumburrong.”
In many places there was an abundance of game, such as bustards, grey and wood ducks, teal, pigmy geese, harlequin bronzewing, native companion, scrub turkeys, black and white cockatoos, thousands of parrots, quails, pelicans, whistlers, ibis, and wallabies in great numbers. The only water bird missing was the swan, which is nowhere in the Cape York Peninsula. Leichhardt, in his Port Essington journey, never saw a swan north of the Burdekin.
Fishing was good in places, and poor in others. In the Mitchell waters, and north from there, they got the Barramundi, which Saville Kent, in after years, named Osteoglossum Jardinei, in honour of Frank Jardine. It differs only from the O. Leichhardti, of the Dawson, in having three red spots on each scale, instead of one. The Dawson blacks called the fish “barramoondye,” and to no other fish should that name ever be supplied. It is often ignorantly used on the coast for the hollow-headed perch, with which it has no relationship whatever.
In 1895 an aboriginal woman caught half a dozen of the Cape York species for me at a small creek which ran into the Batavia, grilled them on red coals, and they were a real delicacy. They were young ones, about a pound and a half. The black told me they go up those small creeks to spawn and only enter the river when fairly grown. A full sized Dawson barramoondye weighs about 6 or 8 lbs.
On December 7, the mule got away with a very important pack, and the Jardines never got him again the result of somebody’s gross carelessness.
The Jardines had clearly not much confidence in some of their party and very little in Richardson’s latitude and longitude.
Frank’s journal says: “Many things gave me a great anxiety when away from the party, to which I never returned without a feeling of disquietude, which was not allayed until I learned that few but those who have experienced the responsibility of the conduct and success of a similar expedition can fully appreciate.”
It is clear enough from the journal that Frank’s companions were not all wisely chosen, and Frank and Alick both added much extra information in their conversations with me, especially during a week when I had the joy of being Frank’s guest in 1895 at Somerset and Lochaby.
Their last trouble with the blacks was on Jan 14, 1865, at their 68th camp. A mob of them advanced with bundles of spears and Frank records that : “the rifles were dry and loaded, and I own to a feeling of savage delight at the prospect of a row with these wretched savages, who, without provocation, hung on their footsteps like hawks all through the thickest of our troubles, watching with cowardly patience for a favourable moment to attack us at a disadvantage.” They shot the first two dead, and the others promptly retired. The party had more trouble with the blacks than all the other explorers combined, and they had more losses and more hardships.
In the last part of their journey there were walking barefooted, with only a hat and shirt and a belt around them. Their legs and feet were in a frightful state, cut to pieces by the thorny vines. And yet those two young fellows went through that journey of about 1600 miles, across unknown wild country, arriving at Cape York with the loss of three-fourths of their horses. All things considered it is little short of a miracle they got through at all.
Their journey occupied five months over 1600 miles, apart from at least a thousand miles ridden by the two brothers in exploratory side trips and in search of lost stock. The last 250 miles were nearly all travelled barefooted, as they had no boots. Their father, John Jardine, P.M., was a proud man when his sons arrived at Somerset, which had been formed as a settlement in accordance with the advice of Sir George Bowen, who, in August, 1862, went on a visit to Port Albany in H.M.S. Pioneer.
Next year, the settlement was started by John Jardine, P.M., of Rockhampton.
THE RICH NORTH
No explorer, except Leichhardt, has left so complete and exhaustive a report on the flora and fauna, the scenery, minerals and incidents of his expedition., save Dalrymple.
Dalrymple was specially fortunate in having the privelege of exploring what is today the richest and most productive belt of tropical country not only in Queensland, but the whole of Australia, the belt lying between Cardwell and Cooktown, including the rivers Murray, Tully, Hull, Liverpool, Moresby, Johnstone, Russell, Mulgrave, Barron, Mowbray, Mosman, Daintree, Bailey’s Creek, and the Blomfield.
One of his party was Walter Hill, first Director of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, in 1853, and he and Hill accurately predicted the future of the Johnstone, Russell and Mulgrave Rivers, exactly as that future is today, as the great sugar growing centres of Australia. Where the great sugar mills and wide canefields, and the townships of Innisfail and Babinda are today, they found a vast expanse of dense tropical jungle, stretching from the sea beach to the top of the coast range, swarming with cannibal tribes of hostile aboriginals, numbers of whom they had to “disperse” in the fashion current at that time.
Dalrymple was at Gilberton on September 1, 1875, when he got his wired instructions from the Colonial Secretary to go to Cardwell and take charge of a “Queensland North-East Coast Expedition,” then being organised by Sub-Inspector Thompson. He took charge on the run, his instructions being “to explore all rivers, inlets etc between Cardwell and the Endeavour River. To ascertain how far any of them are navigable for small craft. To ascertain the nature of the soil on or near the banks, for agricultural purposes, and to assist the Curator, Walter Hill, in collecting botanical specimens.”
An outfit of arms and instruments had been sent from Brisbane. Only a cutter called the “Flying Fish,” had been provided to carry 24 men, with four months supplies, so Dalrymple chartered the ten-ton cutter Coquette, which was away at Townsville, and until her arrival he wisely took the party over in the Flying Fish to camp on Gould Island, the Coquette arriving on Friday, September 29.
The Coquette drew 8ft 6in, and the Flying Fish 6ft 6in. Dalrymple
Had Sub-Inspector F. M. Thompson as second officer, Sub-Inspector Robert Johnstone with 13 native police, Walter Hill as botanist, Thomas and Hugh Neill, and Mark Dominion as seaman, John Perry in charge of the police whaleboat, John Vickers as Government boatman, and Charles Maidman as cook and steward. C. Nilson was master of the Coquette, and Richard Hill, master and owner of the Flying Fish.
There was also a Government boatman named Dod S Clark, well known in after years as a journalist in Townsville, where he started the present “Daily Bulletin.” Hall, of the Flying Fish, was an expert fisherman, and he had a very fine drag net, with which he caught great quantities of fish, having a special scow to work the net. They took flour, tea, and sugar for 3½ months, and salt and preserved meat for two months, trusting to obtain game and fish, a reasonable expectation on a coast swarming with both, and in the Torres Straits pigeon season, when these beautiful birds are in countless thousands over all the islands.
The native police were armed with Snider rifles, and the officials with double Westley Richards pinfire carbines, the crews having plain old smooth bore muzzle loaders.
They went from Gould to Dunk Island, which they found about nine miles in circumference, traversed by a ridge 800 feet in height, and with about 800 acres of land reckoned fit for sugar cane.
In 1881 I went to Dunk Island to select those supposed 800 acres of sugar land for Mr. H. E. King, but found that Dalrymple’s swan was only a dabchick.
They were joined at Dunk Island by Phillip Henry Nind, with his own boat and a party looking for sugar land. Nind, who was at one time a member for the Logan, was a Logan River sugar planter, whom I met whilst staying as a youth at Benowa Plantation, on Nerang Creek, with my brother-in-law, Robert Muir. Very clear is my remembrance of Nind as a fine looking, most polite, and courteous man.
There need be no doubt that he was the first sugar man who ever entered the Johnstone River, as he went all over that river with Dalrymple’s party. Why he did not select land there, some of the best in North Queensland, is a question I have never seen answered, beyond the supposition that Nind and his party were afraid of the blacks, who were very numerous on the Johnstone, and decidedly aggressive. They had also only recently murdered about 20 men from the wrecked “Maria.”
Dunk Island is only 2¼ miles from the mainland, at Tam O’Shanter Point, where on April 24, 1848, Kennedy’s unfortunate expedition landed under a salute from the guns of the Rattlesnake.
Dalrymple mentions the belt of magnificent calophyllum trees on Dunk Island, “the dense masses of their laurel-like foliage affording cool and pleasant shade.” There are some splendid specimens of these trees on the beach at Cardwell. He gives the formation of this island as clay slates and micaceous schists, with a level of stratum of 20ft of soft, greasy, red, decomposing granite clay, with quartz veins, and blue slates on the same side of the island, further inland.
On September 30 they left Dunk Island and went to North Barnard Island, where McGillivray, of the Rattlesnake, shot his first known specimen of the Victoria rifle bird, Phtiloris Victoria. The six Barnards are high islands, densely wooded, with precipitous rock frontages to the sea, composed of thick beds of conglomerate superimposed on a compact rock that looks like basalt.
On No 3 island they got a lot of Straits pigeons and some scrub hens, and Johnstone got several specimens of the Victoria rifle bird.
On October 1, they went across to Mourilyan Harbour and the Moresby River, both discovered by Captain Moresby, of the Basilisk. Dalrymple was also anxious to see the new river found by Johnstone early in the year when looking for the wrecked people from the brig Maria.
In Mourilyan, they carried five fathoms in, deepening to 12, 10, 9, 8, 7 fathoms up to 40ft from the shore, and the whale boat got 15ft, a boat’s length, from the shore. It is completely landlocked, deep water, beautiful harbour, safe from all winds. Perry’s rock, a dangerous projection about 50 yards from the south shore, has now been blasted away.
The fairway into Mourilyan is only about 120 yards in width. One enters there, through that ocean gateway, as Pytheas, the Greek, Kendal’s “grey old sailor of Masillia,” who “coasted England in the misty dawn of time,” entered through the Pillars of Hercules, between Gibraltar, the “Gebel-Tarek” of the Moors, and the rock of Calpo on the Iberian shore.
There is no more romantic harbour in the world than Mourilyan, with its glorious lookout to the eastward, over the Barrier Reef, and the Barnard Islands, and westward to that majestic jungle coast range with the towering crests of Bellenden Ker and Bartle Frere silhouetted on the north west skyline, at a height of 5000 feet. While to Mourilyan, named from Lieutenant Mourilyan of H.M.S. Basilisk, Walter Hill made a large collection of botanical specimens, and Johnstone shot two more rifle birds. Dalrymple says that “scrub turkeys were numerous and the tracks of many cassowaries, and of a wild or tiger cat, similar to that which Johnstone, Armit, and the troopers of my party saw in the Rockingham Ranges in 1872, were frequent in the hill jungles. We also saw crocodiles in the harbour.
On October 4, Dalrymple started to see the new river, the present Johnstone, six miles north of Mourilyan, taking Perry, Johnstone, and a crew of native police. They entered a broad, deep river, with two to eight fathoms for 15 miles, fresh water only beginning at eight miles, and a tide with a rapid current.
Dalrymple says: “I consider I was justified in naming the river after Mr. Johnstone, a gentleman who has become identified with enterprise and discovery on the north-east coast, and who first brought to light the real character and value of this fine river and its rich agricultural lands.”
So there is the birthday of the now famous Johnstone River.
He also named Gladys Inlet and Coquette, and Flying Fish Points, at the mouth of the river.
Dalrymple writes: “The smaller raft of the ill-fated brig, Maria, was washed ashore in this estuary, at Coquette Point, and nine unarmed, helpless, starving Englishman were murdered in cold blood by those blood thirsty savages on the adjoining beaches. One poor fellow had been found nearly cut to pieces, and had been buried close to our camp by Mr. Johnstone, and the volunteers from the Governor Blackall.”
On October 5, Johnstone, Nind, and Hill went up the river to select a good camp, and Johnstone returned, leaving Nind to form a camp at the junction, so that “Nind’s Camp” was the first white man’s appearance on the present site of Innisfail, on the Johnstone River.
On October 6, the whole party started up the river to Nind’s Camp, where he had a space cleared ready for them, and they made that their headquarters during their stay on the Johnstone.
Hill took specimens of the roots for the Brisbane Museum, and Karl Staiger sent duplicates to the Agent-General. They also found fireclay and slates, and specimens of gold.
Hill took a sample block out of a red cedar 23ft 9in round at 3ft from the ground.
One could not readily find a red cedar on the Johnstone today. They went up both branches, and two or three of the creeks, and were astonished at the lush vegetation, the beauty of the scenery and the richness of the soil.
Blacks’ camps and tracks of blacks were everywhere. Nind said they were coo-eeing round his camp all night. They saw many rafts made of three logs of light wood, or wild banana stems lashed with lawyer vines. They saw a bora ground, trodden hard and smooth by successive generations of naked men. A mob of blacks were on the bora ring, but they fled, leaving shields, wooden swords, and dilly bags.
On October 11, their leader, a big burly savage swam halfway across the river and was taken down by a crocodile. Some distance above the junction they got a colour of gold, water worn, shotty, and of rich colour.
On October 16, they all went to the mouth of the river, and next day left for the Franklyn Islands, naming the Graham Range, Malbon Thompson Range, and the Bell Peaks.
From the Franklyn Islands they saw the mouth of a river on the coast opposite. That was the mouth of the Mulgrave, which Dalrymple named, and he also named the Russell, which junctions with the Musgrave about two miles from the bar.
Dalrymple’s belief that he was the discoverer, was quite a mistake, for the boats of the Rattlesnake had been into both the Mulgrave and Russell in 1848, or 15 years before Dalrymple; but he certainly had the honour of naming both rivers, after the Earls of Mulgrave and Russell.
They entered the Mulgrave on November 18, went some miles up the Russell, and named Harvey’s Creek, and on the 21st they went up the Mulgrave to a point whence Johnstone, Hill and eight troopers started to ascend the north spur of Bellenden Ker, returning in three days, under the impression they had been on the top.
They were never near the summit, which is absolutely inaccessible from that side. Having now been five times on the top of Bellenden Ker, from end to end, the subject is fairly familiar.
Between Dalrymple’s party on the North Spur, and even the first peak of Bellenden Ker, stand Mount Toressa, 2600 feet, and Mount Sophia, 4200 feet, and one would have to climb over the summit of both, for they are too steep to work around the sides, and then he would have a tremendous ravine between Sophia and the first peak of the actual; Bellenden Ker, and that peak is inaccessible.
VISIT TO QUEENSLAND
When the Brisbane people are celebrating the discovery of the Brisbane River by Surveyor General Oxley, on December 2, 1823, it will be well to include a greater man than Oxley, the immortal navigator, Matthew Flinders, who explored all Moreton Bay, and the Pumice Stone River, and named the Fishermen’s Islands at the mouth of the Brisbane River 24 years before Oxley appeared on the scene.
The part played by Oxley in Australian history looks small beside that of Flinders, whose career looks like a wild romance, as the reader may judge from this necessarily condensed, but strictly accurate, accurate, account. It has always appeared to me that Matthew flinders should appeal more to the sympathy and sentiment pf the students of Australian history than even the great Captain Cook himself.
Flinders’ biography is one of the most amazing stories in human history. He was born at Donington, in Lincolnshire, in 1777, a descendant of one of the Flemish colonists, introduced to England by Henry VII, to teach the English how to transform desolate heron swamps into rich grazing lands.
At the age of 16, he was a volunteer on board the Sapio, Captain Pasley, on whose advice he became a mid-shipman with Captain Bligh, on board the Providence, going to take a cargo of bread fruit plants from Tahiti to the West Indies.
He was placed by Bligh in charge of the chronometers. On his return from that adventurous voyage with Bligh, he joined the Bellerophon, a 71 gun ship, and acted as aide-de-camp in that great naval captain’s victory on the 1st of June 1791.
From the Bellerophon he passed to the Reliance, and arrived in her with captain Hunter, in 1795, George Bass being the surgeon on board. Between him and Bass there was a strong friendship, and one of their first mad freaks was to go round together from Sydney to Botany Bay, and George’s River, in an eight foot dinghy called the “Tom Thumb.”
On March 23, 1798, they started on a cruise to the south of Botany, in the same ridiculous craft, were capsized, and washed ashore, and were interviewed by a mob of stalwart blacks, whose friendship was doubtful, but Flinders amused and entertained them by cutting their hair and beards while the wet gunpowder had a chance to dry in the sun! It was the artful dodge of a man of resource and it succeeded.
In December, 1797, Bass went away south, along the coast from Sydney, in a whale boat, and found Twofold Bay on the 19th. Continuing south, he discovered and named West Port, and returned to Sydney.
In 1798 Flinders went south from Sydney with Captain Hamilton in the schooner Frances to get the cargo of the wrecked vessel, Sydney Cove, and the few people left in charge.
On the way Flinders named Green Cape, and Kent’s Group of islands. On Cape Barren and Clarke’s Island they got a number of wombats, an animal then only recently found near Sydney.
On October 7 Flinders and Bass left Sydney in the Norfolk, a Colonial sloop of 25 tons, and landed at Twofold Bay, to do some survey work, and thence they came north, naming Cape Portland, Point Waterhouse, Double Sandy Point, Point Hibbs, Mounts Heemskirk, and Geeham, and a number of other places, arriving on December 22 at Sullivan Cove, to which Collins afterwards removed the convicts from Risdon Cove in 1804.
Bass Strait, separating Australia from Tasmania, was discovered and named by Flinders in honour of his friend.
Then, on July 8, 1799, Flinders left Sydney in the Norfolk, coming north to explore Captain Cook’s Morton Bay, and Hervey Bay, and thence onward. He was a commanding figure in the early history of what is now the Queensland coast.
On Saturday, August 18, 1799, he rounded Cape Morton and anchored inside, going ashore and meeting 10 fine specimens of aboriginals, who waved a green bough as a sign of friendship. The Morton and Stradbroke blacks were always friendly to white man. Morton was “Gnoorgannpin,” and the tribe “Booroogcenmeeri,” speaking a dialect called “Gnoogee,” in which the negative was “goa,” memorable here as the first Queensland blacks seen by Flinders.
Next day he crossed the bay to within two miles of the shore of Bribie Island, and anchored in 11 fathoms. In Flinders’ party was a Sydney black named Bunggaree, and he went ashore naked, among the Bribie blacks, who spoke “Nhulla” with the negative “goom.”
They were friendly to Bunggaree, but an unfortunate misunderstanding arose through some of the blacks wading out to the boat in an excited manner, regarded as being hostile, and the men in the boast fired at them, wounding two or three more or less severely.
The blacks were probably only excited at the arrival of strangers, and wanted them all to come ashore. They were all on amicable terms when Flinders and his men returned the visit a week later. That spot where the blacks were fired at is the Point Skirmish of today.
They saw large canoes in these sections, each about 12 or 15 feet in length, and in one was a fishing net “equal to one done by any European seine maker.”
Next day they anchored a mile and a half from Redcliffe Point and pulled over and landed on the Woody Point of today, so Flinders was on Bribie Island and Woody Point, 24 years before Oxley.
In a camp they found a very fine seine net, 84ft long and 3ft deep “stronger and larger than any English net,” and Flinders coolly took possession of that net, leaving only a small axe or tomahawk in exchange.
That was actually a very fine dugong net, which would be the common property of the tribe, and take a long time in making the twine and the net, so the price paid was ridiculous and certainly not creditable to Flinders.
Cook would certainly not have taken that net without full payment to be agreed to by the blacks.
Next day, Flinders crossed the bay, passing between Mud Island and St. Helena, and going towards Peel Island. He landed on St. Helena, and describes it exactly as it was before it became a penal station, and all the glory and beauty departed. Then he steered across towards the mouth of the Brisbane River, and there need be no doubt that Flinders must have actually seen the entrance, because he went close past what he called the “Fishermen’s Islands,” from some blacks who were fishing in two bark canoes, and striking the water with the paddles to frighten the fish into the net.
But he thought they were hostile, and here is what he proposed to do: “Then the ship was put under easy sail, her decks cleared of every encumbrance, and every man was provided with a competent number of musket balls, pistol balls, and buck shot, which were to be used as distance might require, for it was intended that not a man should escape if they commenced the attack!” Here was a nice reception for four or five innocent blacks peacefully fishing for mullet!
More humour lies in the blacks promptly sinking their canoes and quietly walking ashore!
And Flinders’ “Fishermen’s Islands” are there today, at the mouth of the Brisbane River, and it remained for Pamphlet and Finnegan to discover that there was a river there 21 years afterwards.
On the 20th Flinders returned to Bribie Island, went six miles up the channel and beached his sloop for repairs at the “White Patch,” the “Tarang-geer” of the blacks. He stayed there until the 30th, and while the sloop was being cleaned and caulked, he started to explore what he took to be a river, but as an Irish friend would say, “When Flinders found a river, it was no river at all,” only a channel between Bribie and the mainland.
He went up to Glass House Creek, and rowed as far as possible, and then, with two white men and Bunggaree, walked inland to the top of Beerburrum, described by him as “covered by stones of all sizes among long spindly grasses,” just as it is today.
Next day they stood under the frowning cliffs of “Teeboreaccan,” the “nibbling squirrel,” but the frowning cliffs were inaccessible, and so they returned to the boat, shooting on the way the first known specimen of the swamp pheasant.
During their stay at Bribie they shot 18 swans, “Neering,” fired three shots at a dugong, and had friendly meetings with the blacks, who sand musical and pleasant songs, which made Bunggaree’s corobberree sound harsh and unpleasant.
Three Scottish sailors danced a reel, but it did not appeal to them. A skirl on the bagpipes would have astonished them. Bunggaree tried in vain to teach them the use of the woomera in throwing the spear, but there was no woomera spear on the Queensland coast south of Townsville.
They saw no spears, but they would be kept out of sight.
The men wore belts round the waist, fillets on the forehead, and upper arm all of twisted human hair. Their canoes were made of stringy bark sown at the ends.
He records the names of three men, the first in Queensland history, Yeewoo, Yelyelba, and Bomarrigo. Flinders, on leaving, was weatherbound for two days at the entrance to Bribie Channel. While in the bay he discovered Amity Passage, and gave the name of Morton to the island, from Cook’s Cape Morton at the opposite end.
Thence he went north to Hervey Bay and Port Curtis, which he named, arriving back in Sydney on August 20, leaving for England in the same year on the Reliance.
When in London all his charts were published by the Admiralty. He very unwisely decided there was no river of importance between 24th and 30th degrees of latitude, an area which includes the Clarence, Richmond, Tweed, Brisbane, and Mary, all unknown in his time. He was most singularly unfortunate with his rivers. He anchored at and named Shoal Bay, at the mouth of the Clarence, actually looking at the bar of the finest river on the Australian coast, and he certainly saw the entrance of the Brisbane River at the Fishermen’s islands.
On January 9 1801, Flinders was appointed to the command of the Investigator, the old Zenophon, and left Spithead on January 18 arriving at Sydney on May 8, 1802.
The energy of that man was limitless and he had all the fire and force of the old sea rovers, corsairs, and pirates, of the days of Kidd and Morgan, but restrained and governed by a stern sense of duty to his country. Had he but known what fate had in store for him, in the years from 1805 to 1810, what “strange Centaurs and monsters and monstrous illusory hybrids,” to be briefly Carlylean the Fates were breeding for him, he would probably never have returned to Australia.
Accompanied by the brig, Lady Nelson, Captain John Murray, he left Sydney for the north on July 22, and named Shoal Bay at the mouth of the Clarence, on the 25th, without even suspecting that a river was there. Thence he went on along the Queensland coast, which he examined from Sandy Cape onwards, naming Mount Larcombe, which today looks down on Gladstone, Gatcombe Head, Facing Island, Curtis Channel, Sea Hill, Townsend, Leicester and Akon Islands, Mount Westall, Cape Clinton, Mount Funsal, Upper Head, and the Percy Islands. He regarded Broadsound as adapted for maize, sugar, and coffee, and mentions that humpback whales were numerous at Thirsty Sound, and the Percy Islands.
At Sandy Cape, north end of Fraser Island, he and three parties landed to collect specimens and to collect firewood. A mob of blacks waved to them with green boughs, a very friendly sign, and Bunggaree left his spear and clothes and went to meet them.
VOYAGES TO QUEENSLAND
NUMEROUS PLACES NAMED
In the previous article I left Flinders feeding the blacks at Sandy Cape with two porpoises the sailors had harpooned. At Fraser Island the blacks had no reverence for the porpoise, and did not use him for fishing, as on Morton and Stradbroke Islands, where his flesh was never eaten. On Stradbroke he was called…at Bribie Island “boolooillam,” and at Morton “chabboochaboojero.”
At Fraser Island he was “yulu,” a common name of the eel in several dialects. Before going north with Flinders, let me go to the top of Spring Hill, in Brisbane, and see far off on the skyline, near the railway, from Ipswich to Dugandan, a big mountain with two cone shaped satellites. That mountain is the “high Peak” of Flinder’s chart, and today is known to us as Mount Flinders, the “Booroompa” of the aboriginals, who called the two satellites Muntannbin and “Teenyeenpa.” Flinders saw that peak when off Stradbroke Island. From the summit at 1500 feet, there is a magnificent view in all directions, including Moreton Bay and the islands and the ocean beyond.
Before leaving Sandy Cape with Flinders it seems well to mention a remarkable fact that may give the observant reader some serious thoughts.
Cook and Flinders took exactly the same soundings off Sandy Cape in 17770 and 1802, and these depths were also confirmed by the Admiralty Survey in 1864, and when Captain Coote was laying the cable from New Caledonia to Sandy Cape, he also got the same records, but there came a break in the cable and that was located near Sandy Cape. Captain Coote went across in a steamer from New Caledonia to pick up the broken cable and they found the end hanging over a submarine precipice, where Cook, Flinders, the Admiralty and the cable surveyors only got from five to nine fathoms. Captain Coote told me personally, and also gave me his official report to read. He also told me that when laying the cable they passed a submarine mountain several thousand feet in height, and came to a tremendous chasm, so deep that they could find no bottom, and had to work the cable round the sides, all of which are proofs that the interior of the earth is shrinking, and the “falling-in” from time to time.
A few years ago, on the coast of Japan, the bottom of the sea in one place fell suddenly from five fathoms to 4000 feet, and there were serious shrinkages in the recent disastrous earthquake. They are the sole cause of the world’s tidal waves. Now we go back to Flinders, and say farewell to the Fraser Island blacks, the “Doondoora,” men, who called Sandy Cape “Garree,” a name of the cockspur bush.
Flinders recalled them as well built, very powerful men, and they certainly were among the finest specimens of blacks in Australia. He bade a friendly farewell to the tribe, then went on to Broadsound, and thence to the Cumberland Isles, north of Mackay, on the east side of Cook’s Whitsunday Passage. From there he sent Captain John Murray, and the Lady Nelson back to Sydney, as he did not regard her as in a fit condition for a long voyage.
After leaving Broadsound on September 28, he went on to what is now Port Curtis, discovered and named Port Curtis and Facing Island, and gave the name of Curtis Channel to the narrow passage between Facing Island and Curtis Island, which was not known to be an island until the settlement of Gladstone, and the discovery of the “Narrows,” separating the island from the mainland.
Flinders handed on Curtis Island, while the master’s mate and a seaman rambled away into the bush, and met a lot of blacks, by whom they were kindly treated, and brought back to the boat.
Flinders named Cape Clinton, from Colonel Clinton, of the 85th Regiment, and Port Bowen, on August 24, 1802, from Captain James Bowen, R.N.
It lies behind the Cape Clinton peninsula, about 60 miles north of Keppel Bay. Captain Blackwood anchored H.M.S. Fly there on February 4, 1843, and stayed for a month.
While there he saw the famous comet of 1843.
Captain King got the Mermaid aground there on July 20, 1820, and she was badly damaged. The blacks called to see them, carrying hand spears, and boomerangs, like those of Sydney. The rise of the tide was 16 feet.
The Percy Islands, named by Flinders from the family name of the Earl of Northumberland, are a group with a remarkable history too long to be included here, except one tragedy of a vessel wrecked there in 1847 on her way from Sydney to Port Essington, among the passengers being three R.C. priests on the way there to start an aboriginal mission. Two were drowned, and only Father Anjelle reached Port Essington, where he finally died on fever.
On the South Percy in 1854, Strange, the botanist, and three other men were killed by the blacks, only an aboriginal named “Deliapee” and Walter Hill escaping the become, in the same year, the first curator of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens.
Referring back to Port Curtis, and my omission to mention that Flinders found it on July 2, 1802, and named it from Admiral Sir George Curtis.
After Murray with south with the Lady Nelson, Flinders resumed his voyage north, but he wisely went outside the Barrier Reef, and so there is not much to relate until the time when he started to write his name in large letters in the northern seas and the Gulf, by naming Pandora’s Entrance, Murray and Good’s Islands, the latter on November 2, 1802, from a botanical gardener on board. It was the “Peelahg” of the natives.
Pandora’s Entrance was named from the frigate, Pandora, Captain Edwards, wrecked in the Strait on August 29, 1791, and 39 men lost.
Then Flinders went down into the Gulf, landed at the Coen, and was off the Nassau on November 13, then went west, and named Sweers Island, on October 17, from Salomon Sweers one of the Batavian Council, who gave Tasman his instructions. He named Inspection Hill, Bentinck Island, Ablen’s Island, Wellesley Isles, Horseshoe Island, and Bountiful Island, where turtles were in hundreds, one weighing 459 lb. He named Mornington, Vanderlin, Observation, West, North and Centre Islands, the Pellow Group, and Cape Pellow, Cape Maria, and Finch Winchelsea, and Chasm Islands, where they got the Eugenia apple and nutmegs (Myristica insipida), Burney, Nicol, and Woodah Islands, Bustard Isles, from the plain turkeys, Mount Grindall, Blue Mud Bay, and Morgan’s Islands. At the first a seaman named Westwood, while ashore, was struck with four spears, and the second was named from a seaman, Morgan, who died there raving mad with sunstroke.
In fact, Flinders named nearly everything in the Gulf, except the rivers, though he passed about 14 rivers from the Nassau round to Bentinck Island.
While at Sweer’s Island he beached his vessel and found her so rotten that he decided to run back to Sydney. No vessel today, in the condition of the “Investigator” in those days, would have the smallest chance of obtaining a crew, or even of being allowed to leave any civilised port. And it is truly wonderful how those early mariners went out sailing over unexplored seas, through endless unknown perils to investigation, with no lighthouses, and no beacons, with only rudimentary charts or no charts at all, and basic nautical instruments, on voyages to all parts of the world, in all weathers, and come through in safety or actually with a less percentage of losses than among the sailing ships today with all their tremendous advantages.
Truly those old sea rovers must have been expert sailors, such as have never been eclipsed, since the days when the Greek Pytheas “coasted England in the misty dawn of Time.”
So Flinders returned to Sydney, and again on Wednesday, August 16,1803, he left there in the Porpoise, accompanied by the East India Company Ship Bridgwater, of 750 tons, Captain E. H. Palmer, and the London based Cato, Captain John Park, all heading north for Torres Strait.
On the 17th the Porpoise and crew were totally lost on what is ever since known as “Wreck Reef.” The Bridgwater went calmly on her voyage, regardless of her wrecked colleagues, reached Calcutta, and the captain published a false account of the two ships, and then his own ship was lost on the voyage to England, and he and all hands were drowned.
Three youths were drowned in the Porpoise wreck, one of the three having been wrecked on three or four previous occasions. All the others from both vessels – about 94 – got on to a reef above high water, erected tents, and secured enough provisions for the 94 men for three months. On August 20, Flinders and 13 men left for Sydney in the cutter Hope, to bring a relief vessel. On the 30th they landed on Moreton Island for water, and anchored on this night in the bight between Amity and Point Lookout.
They entered Sydney Harbour on September 8, and Governor King at once engaged three small schooners of 29 tons each, the Cumberland, Francis and Belle, to go for the wrecked men.
Flinders went in the Cumberland on September 31, the three vessels arriving at the wreck on October 11, giving great joy to the 80 officers and men on the sandbank.
In Flinder’s absence they had built a new cutter, and named it the Nesouree. Flinders took 19 officers for his voyage to England in the Cumberland, some of the others went to Sydney in the Cumberland and the others went to China in the Belle. On October 11 Flinders left the area with the Belle, sailed through Torres Strait finally anchoring off the island of Timor. For Timor and Coepang he sailed away for the harbour of Mauritius, then a French possession. At that time England was at war with France, which was in the hands of the Revolutionists, and Governor du Caen, of Mauritius, was a Revolutionary officer, facts all quite unknown to Flinders, or he would not have sailed there. So du Caen seized the vessel, and Flinders, and all his charts and papers, and kept him as a prisoner for six years, or until the war between France and Britain was at an end. Then he was liberated and arrived in England in October, having left Mauritius on June 14 , 1810. He only lived for another four years, dying in London in 1814, at the age of 37.
That was one of Flinder’s most tragical experiences.
“Wreck Reef” lies 300 miles East of Broadsound, on the Queensland coast, in latitude22.10, and longitude 153.90.
What does excite our special wonder is the astonishing work done by Flinders in the short years to which he was assigned by Fate.
Today, in Queensland, his name is perpetuated by the Flinders River, in the Gulf, the Flinders Island, in the south end of Princess Charlotte Bay, and “Flinder’s Peak,” about 16 miles from Ipswich.
THE MORNING BULLETIN, ROCKHAMPTON, SATURDAY, APRIL 28, 1923
GENESIS OF YEPPOON AND EMU PARK
The word “Yeppoon” was one of the aboriginal words for thunder, or the roar of the surf, or any very loud noise, and was pronounced with a deep and prolonged accent on the “poon.”
An old Rockhampton black, in 1876, told me that in times the coast people gave the name to the rocky point where the hill fronts the beach, and that there was a cave there in which a heavy surf made a tremendous noise.
They called Ross Creek “Cooramin,” or “gooraman,” the name of the old man kangaroo.
He called the hill at Yeppoon “Caggara Boonbah,” or the “big porcupine” (Echidna hystrix). That word “Caggara” for the echidna, was exactly the same in the Moreton Bay and old Sydney dialects.
The North Keppel blacks called the hill “Toomboorawa,” strangely enough the name of a Moreton Bay aboriginal quoted by Dr. Land in his “Cooksland.”
From that hill, one of the chief glories of Yeppoon, there is a magnificent view seaward and landward. The North and South Keppels lie away due east eight and ten miles, and south from them is a whole archipelago of beautiful islands spread over Keppel Bay far away to Curtis Island, whose hills are seen in the distance, terminating to the eastward in Cape Capricorn with the lighthouse on the great scarfed rock named by Cook in 1770 because it was so near the line of the tropic of Capricorn.
The coastline from Emu Park to Yeppoon represents nine miles, but to follow the beaches would mean probably two miles more. Nowhere is there any great depth of water in Keppel Bay, the deepest between South Keppel and Cape Capricorn being 72ft and only 24ft between Emu Park and Yeppoon. Outside Emu Park the depth is only 20ft and about 25ft between the coast and the Keppels. The North Keppel is deep all around the west side, but shoals to 2 fathoms or 12 ft on the east side. The dimensions of that island show a length of two and a quarter miles, and a width of one and a half miles, the South Keppel being three and a half miles in length and breadth, the same distance each way.
There are over twenty islands in Keppel Bay, most of them having oyster leases. The famous rock oysters of the Keppels are gradually diminishing, and the oyster men are drawing more and more on Rocky Island, near Cape Capricorn. Those rock oysters, of which little is known south of Keppel Bay, practically end as a marketable article beyond the Keppels, the extreme southern limit known to me being a few on the rocks of Point Lookout on Stradbroke Island. They do not grow with the rapidity of the rock oyster, and you rarely see new ones growing to replace the old ones removed, so that the period of total destruction cannot be too far ahead. Vast quantities have been removed in the last thirty years. This prospect of extinction is not pleasant to consider, as these Keppel oysters at their best are among the finest in the world.
A Mount Morgan man put opossums and Guinea fowl on the South Keppel where they flourished amazingly until the usual white savage, who is pleased to call himself civilised, comes along with a gun, and snares, and cyanide, or some other infernal device, to proceed with the work of destruction. But the South Keppel is now a sanctuary for native birds and animals, and a severe fine awaits prowling marauders, part of whose penalty should be fifty lashes.
There is deep water all around the South Keppel, which is covered by thick stunted trees, there being only one piece of good soil near the west and where there is permanent fresh water.
Originally before the fatal advent of the white man, the aboriginal people on the North Keppel probably remained fairly stationary at about 200, and it is doubtful if there were more than from two to three hundred on the South Keppel. The men of “Wonnara,” the South Keppel, interchanged visits with the men of the “Conomie,” the North Keppel, and they spoke the same language, but they held no communication with the mainland blacks, who spoke quite a different dialect. They were mutually afraid of each other, and kept apart. Finally Robert Ross removed the remnant of the Conomie tribe to the mainland on the plea that they disturbed his stock on the island. They camped beside the sea and looked sadly away across the eight miles of water that separated them from their beloved Conomie. Some died of broken hearts, for, as Byron says in “Manfred”:
More than are numbered in the lists of Fate.”
Some started to swim back and were drowned or taken by sharks, and some got safely across to either the North or South Keppel, one of the latter being in after years an old man named “Tuh-ow,” removed by me, with all the remaining natives of the Keppels to Fraser Island during my period of Queensland government protectorship.
He, and an old woman, called “Oyster Maggie” by the whites, from her incredible dexterity in opening oysters with only a stone and a piece of wood, told me some astonishing stories of their past history, and their treatment by the whites, much of it not pleasant to hear, but the “Tragedy of Wonnara”, and the even worse “Tragedy of Conomie,” are no part of this chapter, so we shall return to Yeppoon, and ride, drive, or walk along the beach to Corio Creek, distant eleven and three-quarter miles.
Another sixteen miles and we reach Cape Manifold, beyond which, a further nine miles, is Cape Clinton, and near that is the beautiful romantic Port Clinton, visited by Home Secretary Foxton and myself, when it was suggested as a suitable settlement for the Keppel blacks. We went there in a cosy little steamer, I command of that genial fine old sea rover, Captain Sykes. It is an ideal spot for a party of friends to go there in a motor boat to camp and bathe and fish for a couple of weeks.
Cape Manifold was named by Cook, in 1770, from the very peculiar geological formation, and Clinton was named by Flinders in 1802 from Colonel Clinton, of the Eighty-fifth Regiment. There is only a narrow necked peninsula between Port Clinton and Shoalwater Bay. From that splendid lookout on the Yeppoon hill, looking westward, there is a grand view of an astonishing variety of romantic looking hills and mountains in many picturesque forms, spires, domes, turrets, tabletops and pyramids. Conspicuous, not far away, is the rough stone face and towering crest of Mount Wheeler, which gave a name to a goldfield of 1868, famous for the discovery of a nugget by a small boy. While his father was at dinner he amused himself with the pick, and in the first stroke, he stuck it into a nugget weighing 247 ounces, bright yellow underneath and dark on top. That little golden plum, which the Mount Wheeler little Jack Horner pulled out of that dirt pie, weighing 20lb 7oz, was worth nearly £1,000. His dad had a joyous surprise on his return from dinner. Does any “Bulletin” reader know the after fate of that marvelous small boy?
The readers may care to know something about Wheeler, whence he came, and whence he went. Wheeler, in 1861, was an inspector in charge of Native Police, and his performance among the aboriginals were not excelled by those of any native police officer on record. Finally, when out after blacks on Fassifern and Dugandan stations, not far from Ipswich, there were so many of them died suddenly in the vicinity of Wheeler that there came an imperative demand for an inquiry, strongly supported by Dr. Challinor, the result being a very elaborate Parliamentary inquiry into the Wheeler deeds, and many other episodes in various parts of Queensland, and a general review of the whole treatment of aboriginals.
Finally, Wheeler was prosecuted, charged with manslaughter and committed for trial, being allowed out on bail of £1,000.
But no judge or jury or Queensland police ever saw Wheeler any more. He vanished as if the earth had swallowed him. He was said to be well connected and he certainly had some good friends. He was probably out on his own bail, and in that case, took the £1,000 with him on the voyage to London, where some Queenslander saw him live years afterwards.
So that on your way to Emu Park and Yeppoon, you can gaze at Mt. Wheeler and remember the policeman who did the vanishing trick, and the little Jack Horner who pulled out of the dirt pie the gold plum of 247 ounces.
And when you are on that Yeppoon hill, look away south to a hill just beyond the mouth of Cooramin Creek, and you will see a heap of red dirt at the mouth of a shaft about 200ft above the sea. That is all that is now left of the once very famous Taranganba gold mine, which was to make Mt. Morgan “pale its ineffectual fires,” and Golconda and the mines of Solomon retire into oblivion.
In Ross’s Creek, Yeppoon’s cosy safe little harbour, ordinary tides have a rise of 8ft and spring tides go up to 10ft and 12ft. All my figures of depth and distances owe their guaranteed accuracy to my genial courteous friend, the Rockhampton Harbour Master. That navigable creek is one of Yeppoon’s best assets. The hill can be made perfect by removing all prickly pear, having a charming winding road through the scrub to the summit, the apex cleared sufficiently to give a clear lookout with a neat roofed kiosk, and a table and seats for spectators and small picnic parties. A small roof would collect enough rain water for a little tank to supply all needed for drinking. Under no circumstances, or persuasion, should any more of the scrub be cut on those hills.
THE MORNING BULLETIN,
SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 1923
GENESIS OF YEPPOON AND EMU PARK
Carlyle says “the Age of Romance is not yet over, does not even so much as perceptibly diminish.”
Romance is everywhere, to the man and woman of understanding, with some small amount of the poetic or imaginative faculty. It is that halo with which we surround all or any of the amazing phenomena of the Universe. Even the history of Yeppoon and Emu Park has an interesting and attractive element of romance. We go back to those far off days in 1843 when Johann Ludwig Leichhardt, greatest of all the Australian explorers, was the guest of the Archer Brothers, in September of that year and of January of 1844, when they opened Durundur station on the Stanley River, fifteen miles from Caboolture and forty five from Brisbane. He was their guest from time to time for two or three weeks and while there he planted a young hoop pine which is still standing, and over three feet in diameter, being now eighty years of age. He ever after retained a grateful memory of the Archer Brothers, and gave the name of the “Four Archers” to four of the most remarkable peaks in Queensland.
The Jardine Brothers, in their overland journey from Rockhampton to Cape York in 1864, gave the name Archer River in the Cape York Peninsula.
But Durundur, afterwards, held for many years by M’Connell and Wood, was too small an area for the Archers, so they took up Eidsvold station on the Burnett, about thirty miles from the Gayndah of today, and went there to live. This name of Eidsvold is the first permanent proof of their Norwegian connection. The Archers came from an old Scottish family who settled in Norway.
Eidsvold, in the original Norse Sagas, was “Idas Vold,” or “Ida’s Field,” where the souls of departed Norse warriors went out from the halls of Valhalla every day to rehearse their old deadly combats, cut each other to pieces, come all right again, and go back to Valhalla, to eat boiled pork and get hilariously drunk on flagons of mead, a honey beer with all the potentiality of old Mackay rum. It was a good idea of a Heaven, that Valhalla of those old warlike Norsemen and Icelanders, living among their icebergs and the volcanoes, the grim stern battlefield of fire and frost.
From Eidsvold the restless Norse spirit of the old “Sea Kings” in the Archers carried them on northwards, and one day two of them stood on a hill and looked out over the country on which Rockhampton stands today, and saw a fine river winding through level open forest country, somewhere to the sea.
They took up a station which they called “Gracemere,” from the Norse words “gras,” our word grass, and “mere,” a swamp or lagoon, literally a swamp with long grass, or a lagoon surrounded by long grass. The picturesque range to the east they called the “Berserkers.”
Readers of Tennyson will remember King Arthur throwing his famous sword “Excalibur,” far out into the “shining mere.”
In the Norse Sagas we frequently meet with the “Berserker,” a bloodthirsty warrior out to kill or be killed, like the made modern Malay when he “runs amok,” as one did in Burketown, and killed five people before the citizens had time to fill him up with lead. In Norwegian and Lowland Scotch a shirt was a “sark,” so Berserker correctly was “bare sark,” or a warrior who fought with only his shirt on, and despised the aid of armour.
On the way to Yeppoon and Emu Park you pass Sliepner Junction, the name of a romantic looking mountain of which passengers have a splendid view. The name was given by the Archers, and in the old Norse mythology was the name of Odin’s horse, an animal rejoicing in the possession of five legs. The proper sound of the word is “slipe-ner.” Archibald Archer and myself were three years in Parliament together, and it was my special privelege to be his guest for three days at Gracemere, so that references to him here are not hearsay, or what others have written. Among my papers are many copious notes taken down from Archer. The reader at this stage will think it is now time to be drawing near Yeppoon and Emu Park. The question of who were the first white men who saw those now famous beaches from the land side is not difficult to answer. Archer told me, and it is duly recorded in my notes, that they had only been at Gracemere a short time when he and one of his brothers, a stockman, and a black boy started to explore the country down to the sea coast, and north towards Cook’s Broadsound, the locality of which Archer could easily locate. On that tour they went down and struck the beach near the mouth, and went along the coast towards Cape Manifold. They saw all the islands in Keppel Bay, headed some of the creeks, and crossed others on the beach at low tide, passing over what is now Emu Park, going inland for some miles and returning to the beach at a “high scrub covered hill with a long ridge running into a higher hill, all with their spurs coming down to the beach, all covered by thick dark scrub, the first one with a steep rugged front of rocks which we rode around at low tide, and saw a wide beach stretching for many miles to a remote point which may be Cape Manifold.” That is a perfect description of Yeppoon today.
A mile or two along the beach and they went inland, diagonally across country to Broadsound, returning from there in a fairly direct line, striking and crossing the Fitzroy River where Yaamba is today. It is an easy tour today, but it was a very fine achievement at that time.
The Archers were all educated men, and Archibald could certainly take his latitude and longitude. The story of a stockman being the first at Emu Park, and that he named it from the number of Emus he saw there, is pure bunkum. Archer said that a man going there from Gracemere in the early days to the coast would see emus and kangaroos all the way, especially on the open flats at Cawarral, and all the present site of Rockhampton was a favourite resort for both. In fact, the old aboriginal name for the present site of the city was “Wooranannie,” from “woora,” a kangaroo, and “nannie,” ground, literally “kangaroo ground.” The Berserker Range was “Warrooin,” and the Fitzroy was “Goannba.” The lagoon at Gracemere the blacks called “Padthool,” corrupted to the Bajool of today. Archer was very emphatic on “Padthool,” and all the names he gave me were endorsed by old blacks met on my second visit to Rockhampton. The Padthool lagoon was dry in the terrible drought of 1856, and all but or altogether, in the disastrous drought of 1877. My first visit was the year in which Ned and Tom Morgan paid old Sandy Gordon £20 to show them where he found a piece of gold quartz he had given to his wife who had shown it to her father, the stockman McKinlay, who showed it to the Morgans.
Now we shall pass over the Canoona discovery by Chappell and Hardy in 1858 and other interesting subjects, and take a trip to Emu Park by rail on the 22nd of December, 1888, the day the railway was opened, but there is no room here for an account of that gay and festive celebration. In the next year, 1889, an elaborate description was written by me for the “Railway and Tourist Guide” compiled by myself for the three railway Commissioners, Gray, Johnson and Mathieson, but unfortunately my copy is not presently available.
The aboriginal name of the locality was “Woopal,” though some of the blacks pronounced it “Oopal.” Emu Park in aboriginal would be “Gnoorooinbah,” from “gnoorin” the emu, and bah equal to our adverb of place, “there,” a common terminal syllable of aboriginal words. The old blacks gave the name to a deep hole in the creek, a hole with a high steep bank on which once stood a big grey gum tree that fell into the creek, and stood upright in the middle, with all its roots in the air. That was “Woopal,” the “tree upside down.”
We have to remember that the blacks had a name for every locality, just as we have, and that each point and hill and beach at Emu Park would have its own name. The blacks there belonged to the “Weegoolbara” tribe of Rockhampton, and were quite separate in their language from the “Wopperaburra,” of the Keppel Islands, only eight miles away. The South Island was “Wopobbera,” and the North Keppel was “Canobie,” or “Conobbie,” the word for the North and the North Wind.
The late Edward Palmer, once M.L.A. for Kennedy, called his station on the Flinders “Canobie,” from the Keppel blacks name for the North. At the time all the last survivors of the Keppel Islands were removed by me to Fraser Island, among them was a nice looking half caste girl, about seventeen, named Conomie, or “Conohmie,” the correct sound.
During my visit in 1880, the chief hotel was kept by Wakefield, the one now presided over by our potent, grave and reverend friend, Johnson, loyal citizen and Shakespearian enthusiast. At that time there was only enough prickly pear to occupy the labour of one man for two days, and it was foolishly allowed to spread all over the locality, but it has been partly cleared, and at least the town is free.
Emu Park holds the championship for two humorous scenes at a watering place. One of the first hotels confronting the visitor, on emerging from the railway gates, has a large and ferocious looking stuffed shark over the doorway, and the adjoining hotel, presided over by Mrs. Begg, has the front door ornamented by an 18ft stuffed crocodile, that looks as if one fat man could only just be a snack to go on with, while the shark has teeth that would bite through the skull of the average politician.
The purpose of these two cheerful looking exhibits has never been clearly explained, but a tremendous lot of fallacious explanation, that would have knocked out a Greek sophist in one round, could be saved by sending them both to the Brisbane Museum, or engaging the bold fisherman Morris to drop them overboard in deep water. Emu Park could then breathe a little more freely, with less tendency to nightmare. The Park is a restful place, with an atmosphere of serene placidity, at times pervaded with a holy calm indicative of perfect repose, and an almost sacred silence you are almost afraid of disturbing by whispering some soft sweet nothings into the perfect pink shell ear of your best girl.
But those who love rest and repose, and silence, and perfect isolation from the madding crowds ignoble strife, just so they may eat and sleep, and dream, or listen to the wail of the eternal sea, and the sigh of the equally eternal winds, or tell their best girls the usual fiction about what the wild waves are saying, then Emu Park is a pleasant seaside paradise, and will always have its ever increasing number of devotees and admirers. It commands beautiful marine scenery, picturesque beaches, and from the tops of the low hills are very fine panoramic views of mountains and valleys, westward from north to south.
Yeppoon requires a small chapter all for itself. My first visit there was in 1889, as the special guest of some genial Rockhamptonites, of whom that fine old patriotic citizen, the late G. S. Curtis, was the ringleader.
They drove me there in a four horse drag, and took special precautions to guard against perishing of thirst. Without intending the least unkindness to Emu Park, which is and must be, ever a pleasant memory to me, it becomes necessary here, as a very impartial journalist to say that in Yeppoon, Rockhampton is the proud possessor of by far the most complete, attractive, and splendid watering place in Australia at present. They are all known to me, so my opinion is founded on solid practical knowledge, and has some value.
The watering places of New South Wales and Victoria are poor in comparison, and none of them have anything in front except the vast monotonous expanse of ocean. Yeppoon looks seaward, like Emu Park, over a glorious archipelago of picturesque islands, the two Keppels only 8 and 10, miles away. The splendid beach had no rival among Australian watering places. South it extends for three quarters of a mile to Ross Creek, and north for 11 miles to Corio Creek, and beyond that to Cape Manifold.
On my visit to Port Clinton with Foxton, when he was Home Secretary, our skipper being good old Captain Sykes, there was a chance to see the whole beach for the whole distance. That beach for the entrance length, from Ross Creek to Corio Creek, at low tide, is dry for about 150 yards in width, hard as a roadway for vehicles, motors, or horses, and then shelves far out through shallow water so that there can be no undertow, and no one could be drowned there except people who would drown themselves swimming in a sheep dip, or those who from flashness, or stupidity, deliberately incur foolish unnecessary risks in rough or deep water. There can be no safer beach in Australia. Ross Creek, as a complete shelter and resort for boats and motor launches, is a ideal harbour, giving Yeppoon a great advantage over Emu Park, which has no cover from the open sea.
Towering over Yeppoon is a beautiful hill, sloping gently to an abrupt rough rocky face at the beach, with a border of outlying rocks, the formation of which is most remarkable, but a description is too long for the occasion. There is a glorious view from the slopes of that hill, in nearly all directions, seaward and landward, the whole town lying beneath you, the people so distinct that you could easily recognise your best girl without a telescope, the policeman, as usual, quite conspicuous by his noble form and martial trend. That ought to save me from arrest, if Yeppoon cold “ginger beer” overpowers me at any time!
Who was responsible for allowing any part of those romantic hills to be used for farms or bananas and horribly disfiguring them by cutting and burning that glorious primeval scrub which is one of the chief attractions of Yeppoon?
Bring him along to be shot by my own revolver, my safety being assured on a plea of justifiable homicide!