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South Stradbroke Island history

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Click to enlarge The Cambus Wallace was wrecked on 4 September 1894 off Stradbroke Island. Photographer unknown.

The Cambus Wallace was wrecked on 4
September 1894 off Stradbroke Island.
Photographer unknown.

Jumpinpin, South Stradbroke Island, circa 1890. Photographer unknown.

Jumpinpin, South Stradbroke Island,
circa 1890. Photographer unknown.

The two islands, North and South Stradbroke Island, shelter the mainland and the adjacent islands of Moreton Bay from the full force of the Pacific Ocean. North Stradbroke Island is situated in the local authority of Redland Shire. South Stradbroke Island is situated in the local authority of City of Gold Coast.

Until the late 1800s, Stradbroke was one island. During the last Ice Age, 120,000 years ago, the mainland coast was located much further west. The sea lapped the foothills of the Darlington Range, the coastal floodplain of the future Gold Coast, forming part of a large shallow seabed.

Sand blown and washed up from southern rivers formed a large, southern sand mass around an outcrop of bedrock (Point Lookout) while, to the north, a series of sand spits and beach ridges consolidated and stretched into a curved line from the mouth of the Nerang River to just south of the Logan River. In the last 6000 years, this southern sand island linked up with the larger northern sand mass to form Stradbroke Island.

Nineteenth century government survey maps mark the narrow isthmus which formed the one island by its aboriginal name Tuleen. According to Moreton Bay yachtsman, Joshua Bell, Oumpinpin or Jumpinpin, the root of the pandanus tree was harvested there.

There are archaeological remains of human occupation at a site on North Stradbroke Island which dates back to the Pleistocene Age (between 10,000 to 21,000 years ago) when the area formed part of the mainland at the time. Aboriginal people have occupied Stradbroke Island and some of the Bay Islands for at least the last 6000 years.

These family groups include the Noonuccal and Goenpul from the northern end of Stradbroke Island; visitors or families originally from the mainland including the Yugarabul from the Brisbane River region, the Yugambeh people, the Gugingin, Bullongin, Kombumerri from the Logan, Coomera and Nerang Regions.

On the southern end of Stradbroke Island, extended stays by various family groups would have coincided with the peak or seasonal abundance of a favoured food such as oysters, pippis or a run of fish such as tailor or mullet.

There are a number of different Aboriginal place names associated with Stradbroke Island.

Today, North Stradbroke Island is generally referred to as MinjerribaMoondarewa (Moonjeribah), meaning mosquito, was recorded on plans by a surveyor for a proposed township at the southern end of Stradbroke Island. Currigee is documented by William Hanlon as meaning currajong tree; Canaipa as ironbark spear; Cooran (Couran) as ash tree. Possible meanings of Jumpinpin include a place of birds, root of the pandanus tree or water spout.

On 17 May 1770, Captain Cook approached land within six miles of Point Lookout on Stradbroke Island. He named Point Lookout, but assumed that the landmark was part of the mainland. Matthew Flinders was the next recorded European explorer to enter and survey northern Moreton Bay in 1799. Flinders was followed some 24 years later (1823) by surveyor John Oxley in the Mermaid.

Oxley found that the sandhills extending south from Point Lookout were not part of a peninsula, but an island. As a result of Oxley's recommendations based on his discoveries around the Brisbane River, and information provided by castaways, Pamphlett and Finnegan, a shipload of soldiers and convicts arrived at Moreton Bay in 1824.

Three years later, in 1827, the first British ship of war, commanded by Captain the Honourable Henry Rous, entered Moreton Bay to undertake survey work. On board the frigate Rainbow was the chief administrator of the colony of New South Wales, Governor Darling, who was on a visit of inspection to the new Moreton Bay convict settlement.

As a result of the visit, in July 1827 Governor Darling ordered that the long sand island to the south of the main channel into Moreton Bay be named The Isle of Stradbroke, in honour of the Rainbow's Captain Rous, the second son of the Earl of Stradbroke.

Stradbroke Island was gradually divided in two and by 1898, the sea permanently broke through at Tuleen, creating Jumpinpin Bar and forming South and North Stradbroke Islands. It’s believed that the breakthrough of the ocean at Jumpinpin started with a shipwreck.

In the early morning of 3 September 1894, the barque, Cambus Wallace, ran aground in the heavy seas near the narrow isthmus of Tuleen. Some of the crew managed to make it to shore, but five men drowned. The hatches broke open as the tide rose and tons of cargo washed overboard. The vessel was carrying whiskey, beer and cases of explosives consigned to Thomas Brown and Websters, general merchants in Brisbane.

Assistance came from Southport residents and families living at the island's oyster camp at Currigee. Customs officers and police travelled from Brisbane by steamer to the wreck. After taking care of the survivors, the rescue party buried the dead on a hill between two pandanus trees.

In later weeks a salvage operation began. The explosives from the cargo were piled together and detonated. All this activity concentrated in one area, plus the storm and tide action, weakened and later eroded the sand dunes along the narrow spit of land.

By the spring of 1896, the tide and additional storm events had further weakened the isthmus and water would run across the area. On 8 and 9 May 1898, following gales and a series of very high tides, it was reported that the graves of the mariners from the Cambus Wallace were washed away and the island was now divided in two by a deep channel that was just under a kilometre wide and continuing to extend south.

In 1904 an additional breakthrough of water about one mile north of Jumpinpin was reported. In 1906 concerns about the ongoing negative impact on the oyster industry in the Broadwater were raised and calls were made to close the channel to maintain a good flow of water to ensure the health of the oysters.

The small township of Moondarewa located near the south of South Stradbroke Island was battered by severe storms in January 1938 and the town was abandoned. While North Stradbroke has sustained growth in the form of tourism and residential growth, South Stradbroke Island has remained largely untouched with only small resort complexes and limited camping available. 

The southernmost tip of the island was reclaimed to form the north side of the Gold Coast Seaway in the 1980s.

Information and images provided by the City of Gold Coast Local Studies Collection.

Sources of information and further reading

Markey, John. "Eye witness accounts of the Wreck of the Cambus Wallace."
South Coast Bulletin (Southport, Qld.) 19 Apr 1950, p. 16.

Kindmark, A. B. "William Hanlon talks to a shipwrecked sailor from the Cambus Wallace."
Extract from Hanlon, W. E. Early days of Nerang Head's and Southport's Infancy.

Bell, Joshua Peter. Moreton Bay and How to Fathom It, (9th edition). Brisbane: Queensland Newspapers, 1988.

Holmer, N. (1983) Linguistic Survey of South-Eastern Queensland. Australian National University: Canberra.

Hanlon, W. E. The Early Settlement of the Logan and Albert Districts, Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, Vol. 2, No.5 (November 1935), pp. 208-252.

Horton, Helen. Islands of Moreton Bay. Brisbane: Boolarong Press, 1983.

Salter, Lindy. South Stradbroke Island (2nd edition). The Gap: Lindy Salter. 2002.

Steele, J.G. The Explorers of the Moreton Bay District 1770 – 1830. St Lucia: University of Queensland, 1972.

Thomson, A.K. The Collected Works of Thomas Welsby. Brisbane: Jacaranda Press, 1967.

Wilmott, Warwick. Rocks and Landscapes of the Gold Coast Hinterland, (2nd edition). Brisbane: Geological Society of Queensland, 1992.

"Graves Washed Away." The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 - 1947) 18 May 1898: 4. Web. 6 Apr 2016 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article176468895

"New Opening at Stradbroke Island." Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 - 1908) 24 May 1904: 3. Web. 6 Apr 2016 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article124658670

"Fisheries." The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939) 8 September 1906: 13. Web. 6 Apr 2016 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article25969298

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