18°S 141°E Normanton – Queensland by Degrees

AT THE POINT

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The degree confluence 18°S 141°E (Google Earth Image) 

n

Looking north

e

Looking east

s

Looking south

w

Looking west

 

Location: This confluence point is on the property called Magowra Station. Getting to the site was along 1 km of station tracks from the Matilda Highway, then 9 km on Quad bikes. The point is 27.7 km from the Homestead. The nearest populated place is Normanton in the Carpentaria Shire, approximately 36 km to the north-east.

The Landscape: Norman River is the main drainage catchment and the landscape is plains broken by the courses of numerous creeks. The major site of drainage for the site is the Flinders River, about 15 km to the west, which then flows into the Gulf of Carpentaria. Elevation at the point is 18m ASL. The soil is heavy grey clay duplex (Gilgai). The geology at the point is Cainozoic (5 million years) sand and gravel. The vegetation of the point is grassland with scattered Eucalypts, mainly Box. Fauna seen in the area were the occasional feral pigs and beef cattle.

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GPS at point

 

Point information and photos: P Feeney, B Urquhart, N O Connor, T Hillier, G Keates and J & M Nowill 7/6/2010

 

IN THE DEGREE SQUARE

The Country: The Gulf of Carpentaria coastline is fringed by mangroves and mud flats backed by extensive areas of samphire and salt pans. In the interior the terrain is low lying outwash plains with elevations generally below 50 m ASL. The highest land in the square is in the south-west corner where elevations are just above 50 m ASL. The plains are drained by numerous watercourses, the largest of which are the Norman and Flinders Rivers which flow in a northerly direction to the Gulf. Most of the tributaries of the Norman River flow in parallel from the east.

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Norman River billabong (Mary Nowill, 2010)

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Flinders River (Mary Nowill, 2010)

 

 

The oldest geology in the square is an area of sandstone of Albian age (100 million years) that lies to the south-west of Normanton between the Norman and Flinders Rivers. To the east of the Norman River the area is mostly sandstone of Pliocene origin (5 million years) while the remainder of the area is of much younger sediments, sands, clays and muds of Cainozoic and Quaternary age.

Vegetation across the square is predominantly grassland with narrow bands of riparian vegetation along the creeks and rivers. The larger trees tend to be Silver Box (Eucalyptus pruinosa), River Red Gum (E. camaldulensis), Coolibah (E. coolabah) together with Casuarina and various Acacia species.

A wide range of birds is resident in the area and their numbers are boosted each spring by migratory birds flying in from the north. The greatest concentrations of birds are around the water holes and streams where various waders such as the Royal Spoonbill can gather in large numbers. The area also has a rich reptile fauna including Estuarine Crocodiles. Mammals include a small number of macropod species.

 

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Brolgas (Mary Nowill, 2010)

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Greater Egret at a billabong (Mary Nowill, 2010)

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Flock of Corellas on the Bynoe River (Mary Nowill, 2010)

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Silver Box in flower (Mary Nowill, 2010)

 

 

 

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The Climate:  The square has a climate that is classified as hot grassland with a winter drought. The closest representative weather station is at the Normanton Post Office, which is approximately 38 km north-north-east of the confluence, and has an elevation of 8 m. The station recorded data from 1872 until 2001.

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Year

Mean max
(ºC)

34.7

33.9

34.2

34.0

31.7

29.2

29.1

31.1

33.9

35.9

36.8

36.1

33.4

Mean min
(ºC)

25.1

24.9

24.4

22.4

19.1

16.1

15.2

16.5

22.6

24.8

25.3

21.3

21.3

Mean rain
(mm)

260.2

249.2

157.7

30.9

7.5

9.2

3.2

1.7

3.0

10.5

45.1

144.4

921.5

 

The highest temperature recorded at Normanton was 43.3°C in both November 1963 and December 1967, and the lowest was 6.6°C in August 1990. The greatest rainfall recorded in a year was 1851.5 mm in 1974, and the least was 354.1 mm in 1884.

Extremes of Nature: Given the area's tropical location, it is very much subject to the impact of tropical cyclones. The database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology shows that 45 cyclones have passed within 200 km of the confluence since 1906. Of these four passed within 50 km - two unnamed cyclones in 1951, another unnamed cyclone in 1957, and TC Alan in 1976. These cyclones bring potentially destructive winds and intense rainfall with them.


Cyclone

Cyclone tracks within 200 km of point 1906 to 2006 (Bureau of Meteorology web site)

 

The area experiences between 40 and 50 thunder days each year. Severe thunderstorms can bring intense rainfall that can produce flash floods, destructive winds and lightning strikes that can spark bushfires. Fires lit for land management purposes may also get out of control and threaten station buildings and infrastructure.

Like most places in the Australian tropics, extreme heat is also a danger. Records show that the Normanton Station experiences 137 days annually with temperatures 35°C or warmer, although very few of these reach 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 record of earthquakes within the degree square since 1900.

The Indigenous Story: -- The land within the degree square is the traditional country of five main groups. To the west of the Flinders River is Kukatji country; between the Flinders and Norman Rivers is Mayi-Kulan country; east of the Norman River and south of the Carron River is Walangama country; north of the Carron River is Kurtjar country; and between Normanton and the Gulf is Kuthant country.

Many Aborigines were relocated from this area to reserves on Mornington Island from about 1914 and others were sent to Doomadgee in 1936.

MORE INFORMATION WELCOME

European Exploration and Settlement: The first Europeans to navigate the waters of the south-east Gulf of Carpentaria were with Able Tasman in 1644. The first British navigator in the area was Matthew Flinders in HMS Investigator in 1802. The first explorer on land to pass through the area was Ludwig Leichardt in 1845 during his epic journey from the Darling Downs to Port Essington. They were followed by Augustus Gregory in 1855-6.

Burke and Wills became the first Europeans to traverse Australia from south to north when they reached the salt pans backing the Gulf near the Bynoe River on 11 February 1861. They left their assistants John King and Charles Gray at their final camp (Camp 119) on the Little Bynoe River before making a dash to the coast. Burke acknowledged that they did not actually reach the sea in his journal:

It would be well to say that we reached the sea, but we could not obtain a view of the open ocean although we made every endeavour to do so.

Several parties searching for the lost explorers, including those lead by William Landsborough and by Frederick Walker, crossed the area. The site of Camp 119 is marked by a plaque and evidence of search parties at the site is seen in several blazed trees. The RGSQ also placed a plaque at the site in 1988.

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Camp 119 plaque (Mary Nowill, 2010)

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RGSQ plaque at camp 119 (Mary Nowill, 2010)

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Camp 119 memorial (Mary Nowill, 2010)

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1934 rail motor (Mary Nowill, 2010)

 

 

Normanton was first settled in 1867 as an alternative to Burketown which had been abandoned because of fever and flood. Cattle grazing in the district followed, but it was the discovery of gold at Croydon, just east of this square, in 1885, that gave the town its first boost. The Normanton - Croydon rail line was opened up in 1891 and the town became the export point for copper from the Cloncurry copper fields. The significance of the port declined after the completion of the Townsville - Cloncurry railway in 1908.

The area had a significant minority of Chinese but following the decline in the Croydon goldfield their numbers declined. There were race riots between the Chinese and Europeans in Normanton in 1888.

Amongst the heritage buildings that remain in Normanton are the gaol, commenced in 1892 and in service until 1945; the Westpac bank building constructed in 1886; the Carpentaria Shire Council office built in 1883; the railway station built in 1891; and the National Hotel (better known as the Purple Pub) built in the early 1900s.

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Normanton gaol (Mary Nowill, 2010)

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Westpac Bank Normanton (Mary Nowill, 2010)

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Carpentaria Shire office (Mary Nowill, 2010)

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Normanton railway station (Mary Nowill, 2010)

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Normanton ‘purple pub' (Mary Nowill, 2010)

 

Today: The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 1206. Virtually all of the population lives in or around Normanton.

MEASURE

1996

2001

2006

2011

Total population

1328

1447

1100

1206

Total males

644

714

544

583

Total females

684

733

556

623

Under 5 years

134

150

101

111

65 years and over

105

104

72

89

Indigenous

640

786

661

666

Normanton is sited on a low stony rise close to the limit of navigation on the Norman River. It has a limited range of services and commercial outlets which supply the surrounding cattle properties and the winter tourists. In addition to the numerous historic buildings, a popular tourist attraction is the Gulflander rail motor that makes regular trips between Croydon and Normanton during the winter. The railmotor used was built in 1950. The main land use across the square is cattle grazing on large runs such as Mugowra.

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Gulflander railmotor (Mary Nowill, 2010)

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Normanton commercial centre (Mary Nowill, 2010)

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Magowra homestead (Mary Nowill, 2010)

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  Magowra cattle (Mary Nowill, 2010)

 

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Normanton (Google Earth image)

There are around 1000 km of public roads in the square including the Gulf Developmental Road, the Burketown-Normanton Road and the Burke Developmental Road. There is an all-weather airfield at Normanton and many of the surrounding stations have their own dirt airstrips..

Two-thirds of the square falls within the Carpentaria Shire with the remaining third (in the east) within Croydon Shire. There is one conservation park within the square, the Mutton Hole Wetland. The Mutton Hole area contains Karumba plains wetland vegetation communities. These amazing wetlands are of local, state, national and international significance for breeding, feeding, moulting and drought refuge for a variety of water-birds that include Whistling Ducks, Sarus Cranes, Brolgas and waders.

 

Site Summary:

Location

On the floodplain of the Flinders and Norman Rivers

Access

Site not yet visited

Nearest town

Normanton is 35 km to the north-east

Terrain

Flat low-lying estuary

Catchment

Gulf of Carpentaria

Geology & soils

Sand plain of Cainozoic age

Vegetation

Grassland

Land use

Cattle grazing

Climate

Hot grassland with a winter drought

Population in degree square

1100 at the 2006 census

Infrastructure

1000 km of public roads, rail link to Croydon; airfield at Normanton

National Parks

Mutton Hole Conservation Park

Compiled by: Jo Grant and Ken Granger

Edited by: Hayley Freemantle

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

EPA 2001: Heritage trails of the tropical north, Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane.

Google Earth