18°S 139°E Doomadgee – Queensland by Degrees

AT THE POINT

18°S 139°E confluence, Google Earth

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Location: This confluence point is located on the lower floodplain of the Nicholson River about 2.3 km north of the Doomadgee Road and 1.5 km south of the Nicholson River itself. Elevation at the point is 32 m ASL. The point was accurately located using GPS after travelling on foot from the Doomadgee Road. Doomadgee which is 18.7 km west-north-west of the point is the closest settlement. The point lies within Burke Shire.

The Landscape: The topography around the point is flat, low-lying flood plain. Geology and soils are Quaternary age (less than 2.6 million years) alluvial sediments. There are no rock outcrops evident though termite mounds are a feature in the landscape.

Vegetation at the point is open grassy woodland dominated by various bloodwoods and bauhinia (Bauhinia cunninghamii) with a ground cover of spear grass (Heteropogon contortus). Fauna noted in the area included brumbies and cattle.

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

IN THE DEGREE SQUARE

The Country: Across the degree square relief is generally low with elevations of 50 m or less composed of alluvial sediments of Quaternary age. A small area of Statherian age (1800 to 1600 million years) sandstone with elevations up to 150 m ASL occurs in the south-west corner of the area between Lawn Hill and Archie Creeks.

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Vegetation is predominantly open grassy woodland in the south-western half of the square, merging to open grassland dominated by tropical blue grass (Dichanthus spp) on the heavier alluvial clay soils in the north-east half. Coastal vegetation of samphire and mangroves become established in the far north-east immediately inland from the Gulf of Carpentaria. Along the rivers are stands of Coolibah (E. coolabah) River Red Gum (E. camaldulensis) and various Melaleucas. Termite mounds are also a common landscape feature across the area.

The most common larger mammals in the area are Northern Nailtail Wallabies, Agile Wallabies and Common Wallaroo. Brumbies and cattle are also common. Bird life is plentiful and varied, ranging in size from Emu and Brolga, Galahs and Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, to tiny finches, including the endangered Gouldian Finch.

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Nicholson River at Doomadgee (J&M Nowill 2008)River sunset (J&M Nowill 2008)
quietDoomadgee
Quiet contemplationBrumbies near Doomadgee (J&M Nowill 2008)

Climate: The area has a climate that is classified as being tropical savannah. It has a pronounced dry winter. The closest weather station to the confluence is at the Burketown Post Office, which is 64 km east-north-east of the confluence, and has an elevation of 6 m.

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Year

Mean max
(ºC)

34.2

33.6

33.5

33.1

30.5

28.0

27.7

29.4

31.9

34.2

35.4

35.4

32.2

Mean min
(ºC)

25.0

24.6

23.5

20.7

17.0

14.3

13.1

14.5

17.7

21.1

23.6

24.8

20.0

Mean rain
(mm)

221.4

192.8

151.7

23.3

6.1

6.3

2.4

0.8

1.9

12.6

38.8

115.8

785.6

The highest temperature recorded was 46.0°C in January 1973, while the lowest temperature was 3.3°C in July 1941. The greatest rainfall recorded in a year was 2 026.6 mm in 1998 and the least was 187.6 mm in 1902.

These and other climate statistics for Burketown can be found at: Australian Bureau of Meteorology, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_029004_All.shtml.

Extremes of Nature: Given the confluence's tropical location, it has been subject to numerous cyclones since records were first taken in 1906. Eight tropical cyclones have passed within 50 km of the degree confluence during this time, and a further 36 have passed within 200 km. Most of these storms originated in the Gulf of Carpentaria. They each produced destructive winds, heavy rain and flash flooding. Perhaps the most difficult issue with cyclones that form in the Gulf is the generally short warning time available because they tend to form very close to the coast. 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

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

The area experiences between 50 and 60 thunder days per year. Severe thunderstorms can bring destructive winds, intense rainfall that can produce flash flooding and lightning. Like most places in the tropics, the area experiences a notable contrast in rainfall between summer and winter, with the former being markedly wet, and the latter being very dry; although December through to March experiences over 5 days a month that have rainfall, there are few days in other months with any rain. Thus, 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 Burketown show that on average (over 112 years of records) the area experiences 86 days a year with temperatures over 35°C and 4.3 days 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.

The National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia contains no earthquake epicentres within the degree square. The nearest event was on 15 November 1995 with an epicentre located just inside the northern boundary of Boodjamulla National Park about 95 km west-south-west of the confluence point. The database does not give a magnitude for this event so it was probably a very small event. No damage was reported.

The Indigenous Story: The area has been occupied by Aboriginal people for at least 17,000 years and may extend beyond 30,000 years. The land to the north of the Nicholson River is the traditional country of the Ganggalida people while the land to the south is the traditional country of the Nguberinji people, with the Waanyi people being the traditional owners of the land along the western edge of the square.

A mission was established in 1931 on the coast at Bayley Point on the Gulf, however this 'Old Doomadgee' site was abandoned in 1936 following the impact of a cyclone and because the site lacked adequate water. The mission was moved to the current site on the Nicholson River where a number of people were also settled. In 1983 the community was gazetted as a Deed of Grant in Trust (DOGIT) community under the Community Services Act. The DOGIT area was made a Shire in 2007.

MORE INFORMATION WELCOME

European Exploration and Settlement: The Nicholson River was named in 1845 by Ludwig Leichardt during his epic journey from the Darling Downs to Port Essington. He named it in honour of Dr William Nicholson of Bristol who, Leichardt stated, 'whose generous friendship had not only enabled me to devote my time to the study of the natural sciences, but to come out to Australia'. Augustus Gregory surveyed the general course of the river in 1856 as he returned from his expedition to the Victoria River district.

Grazing leases in the area were first taken up in the 1860s and went through many periods of difficulty including an outbreak of 'Gulf Fever' (a form of typhoid fever) in the 1870s and severe drought in 1903.

MORE INFORMATION WELCOME

Today:

The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 1638, of whom 1257 lived in the township of Doomadgee. The spike in population in 2001 may have been associated with the construction phase of the Pasminco Century Mine to the south of the square and the slurry pipeline that carries the copper concentrate from the mine to the port of Karumba.

MEASURE

1996

2001

2006

2011

Total population

988

1750

1313

1638

Total males

517

1003

708

901

Total females

471

747

605

737

Under 5 years

98

159

172

191

65 years and over

54

81

36

46

Indigenous

658

1029

1050

1249

The main centre in the degree square is Doomadgee. This is the centre of the Doomadgee Shire and has a wide range of government and business services including hospitals, ambulance, child care hub, women's shelter and schools. Businesses such as the Doomadgee bakery and roadhouse have been supported by the Gulf Aboriginal Development Corporation that receives funding as part of the Gulf Communities Agreement with Pasminco, the State Government and native title groups.

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Doomadgee roadhouse (J&M Nowill, 2008)Doomadgee Shire Council office (J&M Nowill, 2008)
bakery 
Doomadgee bakery (J&M Nowill, 2008)

Doomadgee is served by an all weather airstrip and is accessed by road. Most roads in the degree square will be subject to flooding and closure during the wet season and the town can be cut off by road for lengthy periods during that season.

The slurry pipeline that carries copper concentrate from the Century Mine to the port facilities at Karumba passes through the area.

Cattle grazing remains the principal broad hectare land use in the square.

Site Summary:

Location

Between the Doomadgee Road and the Nicholson River about
19 km east-south-east of Doomadgee

Access

By road to within 2.5 km then on foot to the confluence point

Terrain

Flat river flood plain

Catchment

Nicholson River and the Gulf of Carpentaria

Geology & soils

Quaternary alluvial sediment

Vegetation

Open grassy woodland

Land use

Cattle grazing

Climate

Tropical savannah with a winter drought

Population in degree square

1 313 at the 2006 national census

Infrastructure

Services available at Doomadgee include hospital, schools, police etc;
Doomadgee airfield; main roads including the Wills Developmental
Road and Doomadgee Road as well as station roads; the Century
Mine to Karumba slurry pipeline also passes through the square.

National Parks

A small section of the Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) NP is in the south-west corner

Compilers: Ken Granger, 2009

Edited By: Hayley Freemantle

References: various web sites including local governments, QPWS and Bureau of Meteorology.