17°S 142°E Vanrook – Queensland by Degrees

The Point:

17°S 142°E confluence, Google Earth.

Looking north

Looking east

Looking south

Looking west

 

Location: This confluence point is located on Vanrook Station about 6.1 km from the station homestead. It was reached by station track to within 875 m then on foot to the exact spot indicated by GPS. The point is within Carpentaria Shire and Normanton is the nearest settlement about 120 km to the south-west.

GPS reading at the point

The Landscape: The site is on a flat sandy outwash plain of Quaternary age (less than 2.6 million years) alluvial sands and gravel. Vanrook Creek, which flows to the Staaten River and the Gulf of Carpentaria, is close to the point. Elevation at the point is 48 m ASL. Vegetation around the point is low grassy savannah woodland dominated by a range of eucalypts. Seasonal grasses provide the groundcover. The main animals seen in the vicinity were beef cattle, feral pigs and the occasional wallaby. Land use is cattle grazing.

Point information and photos: Tony Hillier, Kevin Teys, Bruce Urquhart, Dale Farnell, John Nowill and Mary Nowill, 2008

WITHIN THE DEGREE SQUARE

The Country: The country within the degree square is predominantly made up of gently sloping sandy plains of Quaternary origin that are dissected by numerous perennial and non-perennial streams flowing to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The main drainage features include the Staaten River in the north and the Gilbert River in the south. These major streams can flood out over wide floodplains during the wet season but contract to narrow and occasionally intermittent channels and waterholes during the dry season. Elevations range from a maximum of around 100 m ASL in the south-east corner to less than 50 m over much of the square.

Gilbert River (J&M Nowill, 2008)

Vanrook Creek waterhole (J&M Nowill, 2008)

The dominant forms of vegetation across the square are open grassy woodlands, tropical blue grass grasslands and riparian forests along the drainage channels. The seasonal rainfall and seasonal fires that come with the first of the wet season storms, has a significant influence on the vegetation as well as the local fauna. The endangered Gold-Shouldered Parrot, for example, seems to benefit from the fires that preserve the open grassy woodlands and grasslands in areas such as the Staaten River National Park.

Fresh grass shoots after fire (J&M Nowill, 2008)

Gilbert River riparian forest (J&M Nowill)

Waterholes and persistent streams provide habitats for fresh water crocodiles as well as birds such as whistling ducks and egrets. The Northern Nailtail Wallaby is the most common macropod in the area. Reptiles include Gould's Goanna, Eastern Brown Snake, King Brown Snake and various pythons.

Apart from the land included in the Staaten River National Park land use across the area is dominated by cattle grazing.

Climate: The closest weather station to the confluence is at the Karumba Airport, which is 134 km to the south-west of the degree confluence, and has an elevation of 2 m. The climate of the area is classified as being tropical savannah with a winter drought.

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Year

Mean max
(ºC)

32.1

31.7

32.5

32.6

29.8

27.9

27.5

28.6

29.9

31.3

32.6

32.4

30.7

Mean min
(ºC)

24.4

24.1

23.2

20.7

17.2

15.2

14.0

15.2

18.2

21.0

23.3

24.4

20.1

Mean rain
(mm)

231.0

278.8

157.1

24.8

1.1

8.9

7.4

2.1

1.6

7.3

45.5

136.7

868.9

The highest temperature recorded was 41.3°C in December 1943, and the lowest was 5.3°C in August 1939. The greatest rainfall recorded in a year was 1 378.4 mm in 2000, and the least was 475.5 mm in 1943.

These and other climate statistics for Karumba can be found at: Australian Bureau of Meteorology, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_029028_All.shtml.

Extremes of Nature: The area is very much subject to the impact of cyclones. The database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology shows 50 cyclones have tracked within 200 km of the confluence point since 1906. Eight cyclones have tracked within 50 km of the confluence point. They included: TC Dora in February 1964; TC Flora in December 1964; TC Judy in February 1965; TC Fiona in February 1971; TC Alan in February 1976; TC Vernon in January 1986; TC Sadie in January 1994; TC Barry in January 1996. Most of these storms originated in the Gulf of Carpentaria. They each produced destructive winds, heavy rain, and flash flooding.

Cyclone tracks that passed within 200 km of the point since 1906 (Bureau of Meteorology web site

The area experiences between 40 and 50 thunder days per year. Severe thunderstorms can bring destructive winds, intense rainfall that can produce flash flooding and lightning. Storms in the dry winter period can spark bushfires if there is sufficient fuel to promote spread.

Extreme heat is also a serious issue. The climate records for Karumba show that on average (over 12 years of records) the area experiences 23 days a year with temperatures over 35°C and 1 day a year with temperatures over 40°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.

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.

The National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia contains no earthquake epicentres within the degree square.

The Indigenous Story: The land within the square is divided between the traditional lands of the Kunjen people in the north and the Kurtjar people in the south.

European Exploration and Settlement:

INFORMATION REQUIRED

Today: The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was zero.

MEASURE

1996

2001

2006

2011

Total population

114

179

81

0

Total males

87

121

60

0

Total females

27

58

21

0

Under 5 years

3

15

6

0

65 years and over

12

20

6

0

Indigenous

20

38

12

0

The decline in population between 2001 and 2011 is probably a reflection of the decline in the cattle industry brought about by prolonged periods of drought.

Difficulty in travelling around the area in the wet led the manager to import a special Landcruiser from Canada fitted with tracks, but it proved to be unsuccessful in the Cape York conditions.

Vanrook Station homestead (J&M Nowill, 2008)

Experimental Landcruiser at Vanrook (J&M Nowill)

Gilbert River sunset (J&M Nowill, 2008)

 

The area has great potential for tourism during the dry season especially with a focus on fishing and ecotourism.

MORE INFORMATION WELCOME

Site Summary:

Location

On Vanrook Station close to Vanrook Creek

Access

By station roads then on foot to the GPS-identified point

Terrain

Flat outwash plain

Catchment

Staaten River and the Gulf of Carpentaria

Geology & soils

Quaternary age alluvial sands and gravel

Vegetation

Low open grassy woodland

Land use

Cattle grazing

Climate

Tropical savannah with a winter drought

Population in degree square

81 at the 2006 census

Infrastructure

Burke Developmental Road and various secondary
and station roads; station airstrips

National Parks

Staaten River NP

Compilers: Ken Granger, 2009

Edited by:  Hayely Freemantle

Sources: various web sites including local governments and Bureau of Meteorology.