AT THE POINT
Location: This confluence point is located on private land 1.3 km south of the road that runs to the south of the Palmer River about 8 km west of Palmerville. The point lies within Cook Shire. The site has not been visited on the ground.
The Landscape: The point appears to lie in rolling hill country that is dissected by entrenched streams. The geology around the point is gneiss of Mesoproterozoic age (1 600 to 1 000 million years). Vegetation appears to be grassland with narrow bands of riparian forests along the drainage lines. Land use is probably cattle grazing.
Point information and photos: Ken Granger and Google Earth, 2009.
IN THE DEGREE SQUARE
The Country: The Great Dividing Range bisects this square in a general north-west to south-east direction. Most of the square falls on the western slopes that drain to the Gulf of Carpentaria while the country in the north-east corner around Laura drains to the east coast. The Palmer and Mitchell Rivers which flow to the west are the most significant streams within the square. The Kennedy River is the most significant stream flowing to the east coast.
Elevations in the east of the square range upwards of 700 m ASL on peaks such as Mt Hann (712 m ASL) and Woods Peak (751 m ASL), with the general average elevation around 500 m ASL. Along the eastern side the land lies at around 100 m ASL. Landscapes range from the very broken and dissected sandstone plateau of Middle Jurassic age (184 to 159 million years) of the Quinkan section of the Great Dividing Range and greywacke of Devonian age (410 to 354 million years) of the eastern hills country. To the east of Palmerville there is a range of folded hills running from north to south of Silurian age (434 to 410 million years) sandstone and mudstone. In the western half of the square much of the country is made up of the very ancient Mesoproterozoic age rocks including gneiss, schist and quartzite intermixed with areas of more recent geology such as Late Silurian age (425 to 410 million years) granodiorite.
Vegetation across the square is dominated by eucalypt woodland and savannah with a ground cover of tussock grasses. Land use is dominated by cattle grazing. Mining continues of a small scale in the area to the east of Palmerville.
Climate: The climate of the square is classified as being tropical savannah. The closest weather station is at Palmerville, which is 8 km east of the confluence, and has an elevation of 204 m.
The highest temperature recorded was 42.7°C in November 1971, and the lowest was 1.7°C in both June and July 1899. The greatest rainfall recorded in a year was 2 098.6 mm in 1913, and the lowest was 448.3 mm in 1966. These and other climate statistics for Palmerville can be found at: Australian Bureau of Meteorology, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_028004_All.shtml.
Extremes of Nature: The area is subject to the impact of cyclones. The cyclone database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology shows that 57 cyclones have tracked within 200 km of the confluence point between 1906-7 and 2006-7. Of these, eight tracked within 50 km of the point. They include: an unnamed cyclone of January 1913, an unnamed cyclone in February 1929, an unnamed cyclone in December 1959, TC Otto in March 1977, TC Dominic of April 1982, TC Ivor in March 1990, TC Rona in February 1999 and TC Nelson in February 2007. Each of these storms brought potentially destructive winds and intense rainfall. Cyclone information for this area and all of Australia can be found at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website, http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/silo/cyclones.cgi.
Cyclone tracks within 200 km of point 1906 to 2006 (Bureau of Meteorology web site)
On average the area experiences between 30 and 40 thunder days each year. Severe thunderstorms bring with them potentially destructive winds, intense rainfall and lightning strike. The intense rainfall can lead to flash flooding and the lightning can spark bushfires if there is sufficient fuel to sustain spread.
Bushfires can cover very large areas on Cape York in the dry winter and autumn months. Such fires may be deliberately lit to manage vegetation and to promote pasture growth or they may be wildfires.
Extreme heat is also a serious issue. The climate records for Palmerville show that on average (over 41 years of records) the area experiences 88 days a year with temperatures over 35°C. Such extreme temperatures can cause heat stroke and death if appropriate measures are not taken such as avoiding strenuous physical effort, keeping as cool as possible and drinking lots of water. Heat waves kill more people in Australia than all other natural hazards combined.
There is one earthquake epicentre within the degree square recorded in the National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia. It was a ML 3.7 event on 29 December 1967 located about 10 km north of Palmerville. No damage was reported from this event.
The Indigenous Story: The land within the degree square is the traditional country of four Aboriginal groups: the Kunjen group in the north and west and the Kokomini group between the palmer and Mitchell Rivers, the Kokowara in the north-east and the Kuku-yalanji in the south-east.
MORE INFORMATION WELCOME
European Exploration and Settlement: The first Europeans to pass through the area were with William Hann's expedition in 1872. Hann was a grazier and explorer and been given charge of a well-organized official party to explore the interior of the Cape York Peninsula. The country was difficult and Hann was often irked by assistants whose bushcraft was less competent than his. Dense scrub prevented him from reaching his goal on the Endeavour River but the party located some fair pastoral country and discovered and named the Tate, Daintree and Palmer Rivers. On the latter he reported traces of gold which led to James Mulligan's prospecting party and a dramatic gold rush in 1873. The new fields soon provided Hann with a market for his cattle and he prospered.
The Palmer became legendary for its hardships and for its Chinese population which peaked at 17 000 in 1877. Most of the Chinese had come from southern China and came in through Cooktown. It is impossible to assess the amount of gold found by the Chinese alluvial diggers, as large quantities were smuggled back to China.
Europeans began reef mining in 1876 but the rush to the Hodgkinson field in 1877 ended the palmer's heyday. When the reef mining extended below the watertable a lack of capital with which to purchase adequate pumping equipment saw many mines abandoned. The economic depression of the 1980s meant the end for the Palmer.
Attempts to reopen the field in the 1930s led to some successes but yields were not high and most had closed by the 1950s. An improvement in recovery technology and increases in the price of gold in the 1970s resulted in renewed interest in the field and the area was proclaimed a resource reserve in 1986 to regulate mining activities.
There are many relics of the Palmer gold rush scattered through the area including stamp batteries at the sites of the Alexandra, Queen of the North, Ida, Comet and Mabel Louise mine sites. Maytown, 25 km upstream from Palmerville was established in 1875 as the capital of the Palmer field. It was finally abandoned in 1950 but remains of the towns buildings remain.
The route for a road from Cooktown to the Palmer was surveyed in 1873 by Alexander McMillan who named one of the rivers he crossed after his daughter Laura. The Laura crossing later became the site for a Native Mounted Police barracks and a telegraph station and eventually a small town developed. The railway line from Cooktown to Maytown reached Laura in 1888 and the Laura Government Township was proclaimed. The railway was closed in 1903 but was reopened in the following year by the Cook Shire Council and operated it as a community service until 1961.
In 1883 the Queensland Government was fearful of German imperialism in New Guinea and commissioned construction of a telegraph line from Cooktown to Thursday Island. The southern section began at Laura and the first carrier station to the north was established by John Bradfield at Fairview.
Today: The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 80.
The apparent absence of population in 1996 and 2001 is probably due to changes in census boundaries rather than changes in the actual population. The entire population appears to be located in Laura.
The apparent absence of population in 1996 and 2001 is probably due to changes in census boundaries rather than changes in the actual population. Because of the design of the census boundaries the number does not include the residents of Laura which probably numbers close to 100.
Laura has a hotel, police station and a few houses, and is a long way from the town of the 1880s when it was the Palmer River goldfield's railhead handling 20,000 passengers a year. The surrounding country contains Aboriginal paintings going back 15 000 years and depicting Quinkans, spirit figures of Aboriginal mythology. There are a few facilities here including a general store, petrol station and a hotel-motel. Split Rock is the most frequently visited by tourists in the Laura area, although there are hundreds of painted rock shelters in the sandstone country worth seeing throughout the district.
Two-thirds of the square lie within Cook Shire. The southern third is within the Tablelands Regional Council area. The Palmer Goldfields Resources Area is the only area of public land in the square. There are no national parks in the square.
Compiler: Ken Granger, 2009
Edited by: Hayley Freemantle
References: Various web sites including EPA, tourist operators, local governments, mining industry and Bureau of Meteorology.
EPA. Heritage trails of tropical Queensland, Brisbane: Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, 2001.