AT THE POINT
Degree Confluence 11°S 143°E (Google Earth Image)
Location: This confluence point is 1.5 km north-east of Arnold Islet and 62 km south-east of the tip of Cape York. The Arnold Islets are low-lying coral cays. They lie just inside Cook Shire; the point itself lies on the boundary between Cook Shire and Torres Shire. The nearest town is Bamaga, about 68 km to the west-north-west. The point has not been visited.
The Landscape: At sea.
Point information: Ken Granger, 2008.
WITHIN THE DEGREE SQUARE
The Country: About three quarters of the degree square is occupied by the waters of the Coral Sea inside the Great Barrier Reef. There are numerous reefs and cays dotted across those waters. A few continental islands are located in the north-west corner of the square. They include Mt Adolphus (Mori), Little Adolphus and Albany Islands. Mt Adolphus Island has a maximum elevation of 178 m ASL and Albany Island has an elevation of 68 m ASL. Turtle Head Island is a low-lying island (maximum elevation of 34 m ASL) immediately off the mangrove-covered Escape River Fish Habitat Area. The Adolphus Channel which is the main shipping channel has numerous rocks, some of them named after ships that foundered on them in earlier times. The best known such wreck was the SS Quettawhich was lost with 133 lives in February 1890.
On the mainland the bulk of the area lies within the Jardine River National Park, much of it is low lying country of late Cainozoic (less than 5 million years) sands and gravels. The hilly country that forms the tip of Cape York is Carboniferous age (354 to 298 million years) volcanic, whereas the Carnegie Range immediately to the south is composed of Jurassic-Cretaceous age (205 to 65 million years) sandstone, conglomerates and siltstone. The highest point on the Range is 68 m ASL.
The Jardine River is the most significant stream in the square. It rises in the Great Dividing Range and flows to the west. East-flowing streams include Escape River and Jacky Jacky Creek.
Vegetation in the area includes a large area of mangrove between the estuaries of Jacky Jacky Creek and Escape River, stands of monsoon forest (known locally as the Lockerbie scrub), dry eucalypt-dominated woodland and some grassland. Areas of Melaleuca-dominated seasonal wetland are also found in coastal areas.
Volcanic rocks at tip (Ken Granger, 2008)
Marker at "The Tip" (Ken Granger, 2008)
Monsoon forest (Ken Granger, 2008)
Mangroves at "The Tip" (Ken Granger, 2008)
The Climate: The climate of the area is tropical maritime with a markedly dry winter. The nearest climate station with good records is Horn Island, about 90 km north-west of the confluence point.
Horn Island (site 027058) 1995-2008 (elevation 4 m ASL)
The highest temperature ever recorded on Horn Island in the 13 years or record was 37.9°C in December 2002 while the lowest temperature was 15.3°C in August 2004. Rainfalls also vary greatly. The highest total of 2683.8 mm was recorded in 2000 and the lowest total of 1244.2 mm in 2002.
Extremes of Nature: The area is subject to cyclones. The cyclone database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology shows that 25 cyclones have tracked within 200 km of the confluence point between 1906-7 and 2006-7. Amongst these storms were: an unnamed storm in December 1920, another unnamed storm in March 1923, TC Audrey in January 1964, an unnamed storm in January 1965, TC Bronwyn in January 1972, TC Faith in April 1972, TC Pierre in February 1985, TCKelvin in February 1991, TC Ingrid in March 2005 and TC Monica in April 2006.
These storms bring potentially destructive winds and high seas. Some have caused erosion to the low-lying islands and coastal areas. They have also been the cause of many shipwrecks in earlier days.
The area averages between 30 and 40 thunder days each year. Severe thunderstorms can also bring destructive winds and produce high seas. They can come up very quickly posing a serious threat to people travelling through the area in small boats. During the winter dry season thunder storms may spark bushfires if there is sufficient fuel to promote spread.
There are 2 earthquake epicentres within the degree square recorded in the National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia. Both lie on the western boundary of the square. The nearest event to the confluence point was a M L 4.0 event of 5 August 1932, centred 70 km to the north-west. The other event was a ML 3.5 around 78 km to the south-west on Christmas Eve 1912. No damage was recorded from either of these earthquakes.
Cyclone track within 200 km of the confluence point (Bureau of Meteorology web site)
The Indigenous Story: The small numbers of Torres Strait Islanders in the square are from the Muralag group and the mainland Aboriginals are from the Yadhaigana group.
European Exploration and Settlement: It was not until 1770 that the British first ventured into the area. Cook made a transit of the Strait that now bears the name of his ship Endeavour. On 22 August 1770 Cook landed on Possession Island, immediately to the west of the square, to claim all of the lands to the south for England. The first detailed survey of the Strait was undertaken by Flinders in the Investigator in 1802.
In 1863 the Governor of Queensland Sir George Bowen proposed a settlement in the far north of the new colony to serve as a refuge for shipwrecked sailors, a supply depot and coaling station to service the major shipping route through Torres Strait. He believed that as an administrative centre it would encourage the growth of commercial activity and provide a settlement that maintained friendly relationships between settlers and Aborigines. A site was selected on the mainland in the lee of Albany Island and John Jardine, then police magistrate and gold commissioner in Rockhampton was appointed Government Resident and established Somerset.
The need for a supply of fresh meat led to Jardine sending two of his sons, Francis (Frank) and John, to Rockhampton to bring a mob of 42 horses and 250 cattle overland the 1930 km to Somerset. They were assisted by four Europeans and four Aboriginals. They left Rockhampton on 14 May 1864 and finally reached Somerset on 2 March 1865 after fighting off repeated attacks by hostile Aborigines. They arrived with their clothes in tatters with 12 horses and 50 cattle remaining - all of the party survived in spite of their hardships. In recognition of their feats both brothers were appointed fellows of the Royal Geographical Society.
At its peak Somerset had a marine barracks, a hospital and houses for the senior staff. Blocks of land were sold to businessmen and other interested parties in anticipation of the boom which was anticipated - but which never came. A financial crash in 1867 had a massive impact on Somerset and trade through the 'Singapore of the Pacific' as it was known, started to become obsolete. In 1877 Somerset was abandoned with government administration being transferred to Thursday Island.
Frank Jardine remained at Somerset and at Lockerbie until his death in 1919. He had played a leading role in developing the first cattle industry in the far north as well as other agricultural developments such as a coconut plantation, experimental plantings of tropical crops such as sugar, tea and coffee. Jardine went into partnership with 'Ginger Dick' Holland in 1913 to run cattle on Lockerbie. The station remains in the Holland family today. It remains the only development in the degree square. A luxury resort, established close to 'The Tip' that functioned for a few years is now derelict.
Today: The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was around 41. Changes in the census boundaries between the past three censuses prevents a direct comparison of population change over the past two decades. The peak in 2001 probably coincided with the peak operation of the resort at ‘The Tip’.
Under 5 years
65 years and over
Most of the population in the square today are probably associated with the tourist industry and the operation of Lockerbie Station.
The main industry now functioning in the degree square is tourism. A trip to 'The Tip' has become a major attraction and at times it is necessary to queue to have a photo taken at the Tip marker.
Typical tour group at "The Tip" (Ken Granger, 2008)
1.5 km north-east of Arnold Islets off the east coast of Cape York
Bamaga, 68 km west-north-west
By boat - site not visited
On the mainland the Jardine River is the largest drainage system
Geology & soils
Mostly recent or late Cainozoic sands and gravels with
Carboniferous volcanic at The Tip and Jurassic-Triassic sediments forming the
low Carnegie Range.
Mixture of coastal mangroves, monsoon forest and open eucalypt woodland
Some cattle grazing
Tropical maritime with a distinct winter drought
Population in degree square
Around 400 but probably seasonal
A few dirt roads
Jardine River National Park
Compilers: Ken Granger, 2008
Edited by: Hayley Freemantle
References: various web sites including EPA, Torres Strait Regional Authority, local governments and Bureau of Meteorology.