AT THE POINT
Location: This confluence point is located on the eastern slopes of Mt Amy close to its summit at an elevation of about 700 m ASL. The point lies within Cook Shire and the closest settlement is Lakelands 21 km to the north-west. The point has not been visited on the ground.
The Landscape: Very steep escarpment of Mt Amy, a feature composed of granite of Early Permian age (298 to 270 million years). Vegetation is probably rainforest.
Point information and photos: Ken Granger and Google Earth, 2009.
IN THE DEGREE SQUARE
The Country: The Great Dividing Range bisects the square from the north-west to the south-east. Drainage to the Gulf of Carpentaria is via the Mitchell River and its major tributaries the Palmer and McLeod Rivers. Drainage to the east coast is via a number of rivers including the Laura, Normanby, Bloomfield, Daintree and Mossman Rivers. Maximum elevations along the main range exceed 1 300 m ASL on peaks such as Thornton Peak (1 375 m ASL), Mt Spurgeon (1 322 m ASL) and Devils Thumb (1 330 m ASL). To the west, elevations range down to around 200 m ASL while on the east, sea level is the base elevation.
The country throughout the square is quite rugged with most of the streams are deeply entrenched. Waterfalls are common on most streams in the square have cut deep gorges such as the Mossman Gorge.
The coastline has several areas of sweeping sandy beach separated by tall rocky headlands such as Cape Tribulation and Bailey Point.
Much of the area is covered with lowland tropical rainforest which contains an incredibly rich variety of plant and animal species. These forests are over one hundred and thirty-five million years old - the oldest in the world - and contain several unique primitive plant species. The Daintree Rainforest is representative of these forests. That forest contains 30% of frog, marsupial and reptile species found in Australia, and 65% of Australia's bat and butterfly species. Approximately 430 species of birds live among the trees, including 13 species that are found nowhere else in the world. The two species of tree kangaroo found in Australia both live in these forests - Bennett's tree-kangaroo is confined to the lowlands while Lumholtz's tree-kangaroo lives in the country above 500 m ASL. Other mammals include the spotted-tail quoll, white-tailed rat and several species of possum and cuscus.
Much of the coastal plain has been cleared of forests to make way for intense cultivation of sugar cane and pasture.
The Climate: The climate in this square is classified as tropical rainforest and tropical savannah. While Butcher Hill is the closest station to the confluence point, the Port Douglas climate station to the south provides representative statistics for the coastal area. The station has an elevation of 14 m, and has been collecting data since 1884.
Rainfall at Port Douglas varies greatly. The highest total of 4 252.9 mm was recorded in 1911 and the lowest total of 759.5 mm in1915. The available statistics do not provide highest and lowest temperatures however the station on Low Isles (off Port Douglas) shows a highest temperature ever recorded was 38.7°C in December 1995 while the lowest temperature was 15.0°C in June 1971. Rainfalls in the mountains will be significantly greater on the coast while temperatures will generally be lower. To the west of the range rainfall tapers off to around half of that on the coast. These and other climate statistics for Port Douglas can be found at: Australian Bureau of Meteorology, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_031052_All.shtml.
Convective storms are a common feature of the area's climate.
Extremes of Nature: The area is subject to the impact of cyclones. The cyclone database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology shows that 68 cyclones have tracked within 200 km of the confluence point between 1906-7 and 2006-7. Of these, 13 tracked within 50 km of the point. They include: an unnamed cyclone in March 1911, an unnamed cyclone in February 1920, an unnamed cyclone in February 1925, an unnamed cyclone in January 1930, an unnamed cyclone in February 1936, an unnamed cyclone in February 1945, an unnamed cyclone in March 1945, TC Bertha in January 1959, an unnamed cyclone in December 1959, TC Otto in March 1977, TC Manu in April 1986, TC Ivor in March 1990, TC Rona in February 1999. 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)
Several cyclones have caused great damage and loss of life in the area covered by the degree square. In 1896 the fledgling town of Port Douglas suffered significant damage. On 16 March 1911 a cyclone crossed the coast near Port Douglas. The barometer was read at 959.7 hPa by a ship at Low Woody Is (9 nm south of Cape Flattery). Two lives were lost at Port Douglas and most of the buildings in the town were levelled. Only 7 out of 57 houses were left standing with 100 persons left homeless. Similar damage was experienced at Mossman.
On 12 March 1934 a cyclone crossed the coast near Cape Tribulation with a 9.1 m storm tide measured at nearby Bailey Creek destroying banana plantations. The pearling fleet just off the coast near Cape Tribulation was devastated with many luggers and 75 lives lost. Banana plantation settlers in the Cape Tribulation area stated that the centre of the cyclone was over Bailey's Creek where huge trees 4 feet across were snapped like carrots. The plantations were destroyed and the worst damage was in a six mile-wide swathe. The damage extended from Bloomfield to Snapper Island. At Daintree the barometer dropped to 978 hPa at 10 am 12th and by 12.30 pm huge trees were snapped and all vegetation was defoliated. Three houses were totally demolished, one house had its veranda torn off, one house was torn in half and one half blown away, another house was lifted and turned upside down and the sawmill was unroofed. At Mossman the cyclone struck at 10am on the 12th and a hotel lost its balcony and main roof. The front veranda of a café was torn off and the windows smashed. Windows of the Post Office were smashed. Roads were strewn with iron timber and other debris. At Mossman Beach a number of houses were damaged and one house was lost to the sea. Not much damage was experienced at Port Douglas though there was a 1.8 m storm tide there.
On 3 February 1920 another cyclone crossed the coast near Port Douglas where the barometer reached 962 hPa. The town was effectively wiped out.
On 17 and 18 March 1945 a small but deep cyclone crossed the coast south of Cooktown. Before landfall a ship 195 km ESE of Cooktown at 10am on the 17th reported a pressure of 978 hPa and 80 knot winds. A Dutch merchant ship, the Sibigo, was bashed by huge seas and developed engine trouble and could only steer into the wind. Seas broke right over the top of the vessel. At 5.30 pm Friday 16th the captain gave the order to abandon ship and minutes later the Sibigo sunk. Extensive air and sea searches rescued 13 of the 85 crew though 72 seamen were lost at sea. Two ships heard the Sibigo's S.O.S, and one ship got within 30 nm of her but could not get much closer and by 6 am, Saturday 17th the barometer was dropping and the wind reached 80 to 100 knots. The captain stated it was impossible to see the sea from the bridge as the air was full of spray and spume. This ship just made in back to port with little fuel left. Shipping damage included the wrecking of a ketch at Port Douglas. Details of the coastal affects of the cyclone are sketchy due to the large war coverage in the press at the time and communication from Cairns northwards was lost, though a Bureau of Meteorology report mentions "storm damage at Mossman on the 17th".
The most recent severe cyclone in the area was TC Rona made landfall just to the north of Cow Bay which is near the Daintree River mouth on 11 February 1999. The main wind damage extended from Newell Beach to Cape Tribulation with the major damage between Cape Kimberley and Cape Tribulation. Some trees in the Cape Tribulation area which survived the 1934 cyclone were felled by Rona. The maximum wind speeds were recorded by the Low Isle automatic weather station with 10 minute average winds to 71 knots and a maximum wind gust of 85 knots. The lowest pressure of 983.0 hPa (not in the eye) was recorded at Low Isle. A 1 metre storm surge was recorded at Port Douglas (at low tide) and a 1.4 m surge was recorded at the mouth of the Mossman River. These sites were south of the maximum wind zone where the largest storm surge would be expected. Despite the confined wind fetch inside the Barrier Reef, Rona generated some large waves as indicated from wave recording stations run by the Beach Protection Authority. At the Low Islet station the peak significant wave height (the average of the one-third highest waves in a 26.6 minute period) exceeded 3.5 m and the maximum wave height exceeded 6.3 m.
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.
In the drier interior of Cape York bushfires can cover very large areas 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 Low Isles show that on average (over 41 years of records) the area experiences 7 days a year with temperatures over 35ºC. To the west of the range that average increases to over 80 days. 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 are three earthquake epicentres within the degree square recorded in the National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia. The strongest was a ML 5 event on 1 December 1958 and was located about 3.5 km off Port Douglas. This event caused minor damage as far away as Cairns. The other two quakes occurred at the same approximate location close to the Laura River 18 km north-west of Lakeland. The first was on 19 August 1961 and had a magnitude of ML 4.1. The second was on 9 February 1967 and had a magnitude of ML 3.7. No damage was reported from either of these events.
The Indigenous Story: The land within the degree square is the traditional country of the Kuku-yalanji people.
The community at Wujal Wujal is thought to have existed on the site for thousands of years. It is set around the highly sacred waterfalls of Wujal Wujal, which means 'many falls' in the local Kuku-yalanji language. Wujal Wujal is a Deed of Grant in Trust (DOGIT) community. It was originally known as Bloomfield and then later as Bloomfield River Mission. It was founded in 1886 by Lutheran Missionaries, who later withdrew from the area because of the difficulties of isolation. The site was dismantled and residents moved to camps in the area.
The site re-opened in 1957 and was administered by the Hope Vale Mission Board, a branch of the Lutheran Church of Australia.
In 1979, the community became known as Wujal Wujal and in the following year the Aboriginal Council was formed.
MORE INFORMATION WELCOME
European Exploration and Settlement: The first European navigator to explore the coast of this area was James Cook in HMS Endeavour in 1770. Cook named features such as Cape Tribulation, Weary Bay and Hope Islands, names that reflected the difficulties that he and his crew were experiencing navigating through the reefs and shoals of the Great Barrier Reef that eventually led to them striking Endeavour Reef - to the east of the Hope Islands. Cook was followed in 1815 by Charles Jeffreys in HMS Kangaroo, by Philip Parker King in HMS Mermaid in 1819 and Owen Stanley on HMS Rattlesnake in 1848.
The first European explorer to pass into the area was George Dalrymple who was looking for a suitable port to serve the recently opened Palmer River gold fields. Dalrymple named to port Island Point in 1873. By 1877 merchants from Cooktown hired bushmen Christie Palmerston and William Little (with their Aboriginal guide Pompo) to cut a track from the Hodgkinson gold field to Island Point. In June of that year the SS Corea from Cooktown arrived to survey the inlet and a town site. By September the 'Bump Road' which followed Palmerston's track was opened and by November the town had been surveyed and named after the then premier of Queensland John Douglas. By 1879 the town had 18 hotels, banks, a community hospital, two newspapers and government services. The decision made by the Government in 1884 to establish Cairns as the terminus for the rail line to the Hodgkinson field led to a rapid decline in the importance of Port Douglas.
Mossman became a centre for the cedar getters by 1875 and Daniel Hart began experimental plantings of crops. A small number of settlers began growing maize, rice and coffee using Chinese and Malay labourers. Citrus growing and bee keeping also helped them to survive until the sugar boom of the 1880s. The Mossman Central Mill was established in 1895 and from that time the town grew around the mill which made its first crush in 1897. A cane tramway was built to Port Douglas in 1900, a development that kept that town going and gave a strong impetus to the growth of Mossman as well. The Chinese and Malay labourers were replaced by Italians by 1906.
Both Port Douglas and Mossman suffered severe damage from cyclones in 1911, 1920 and 1934. The construction of the Cook Highway to Cairns bypassed Port Douglas causing it to decline further. During WW II the area became important to the war effort. Four Mile Beach south of Port Douglas, for example became a base for Catalina flying boats that operated into the Pacific Islands. The area was base for the 6th Division in 1944 and the beaches in the area were used for exercise landings in preparation for landings in the Islands.
By 1960 the population of Port Douglas had declined to just 100 and the Government sold off buildings such as the Court House. Tourism began to develop in the 1970s and saw the town come back to life. The tourist boom that continues today was under way with resorts, cruises to the Low Isles and the outer Reef and other attractions making the town an international tourist destination.
Creation of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area in 1988 led to the cessation of logging in the area's forests and the growth of national parks and rainforest tourism. Construction of the controversial road from the Daintree River to Cape Tribulation to provide access to freehold land within the World Heritage area saw protests and blockades, however the road now enables many people to experience the rainforest and its animals.
Today: The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 7990.
The apparent decline in population may in part be explained by changes in census boundaries however the decline in the sugar and pastoral industries may also have been a contributing factor. The population of Mossman was 1773 (1741 in 2006), that of Port Douglas located within the square was 941 (827 in 2006), and the Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal had 270 (324 in 2006). The remainder of the population was spread across the rural areas and in villages such as Daintree.
Mossman is the main service centre for the area's sugar industry. It has a good range of commercial and public services, including a hospital. The Mossman Central Mill is still the main industrial enterprise. It is the jumping-off point for travel into the Daintree area and has its own tourist attractions such as the Mossman Gorge and the weekly markets under the ancient Raintrees beside the main road.
Mossman (Google Earth image)
Port Douglas is very much a tourist town with resorts, tour facilities, bars, restaurants and night clubs. It spreads from the port and original CBD south along Four Mile Beach.
Port Douglas (Google Earth image)
The Daintree National Park is also a major tourist destination. Daintree Village is the base for tours on the Daintree River where estuarine crocodiles are commonly seen. The ferry across the Daintree River provides access to resorts and freehold areas north of the river and the Bloomfield Track, the original road link to Cooktown.
The degree square is well served by public roads including the Cook Highway, Mulligan Highway and the Peninsula Developmental Road.
About two thirds of the square falls within the Cook Shire. In the south-east corner Cairns Regional Council is the authority and in the south the Tablelands Regional Council is the authority. Wujal Wujal Shire is responsible for that Aboriginal Community. There are nine national parks and conservation parks within the degree square. They are: Annan River National Park, Archer Point Conservation Park, Black Mountain National Park, Bloomfield River Conservation Park, Cedar Bay National Park, Daintree National Park, Hope Island National Park, Keatings Lagoon Conservation Park and Mount Wilson National Park.
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, Brisbane, 2001.