AT THE POINT
Location: This confluence point is located on Coolullah station, about 2 km from an unnamed road about 5 km north-west of the settlement of Kajabbi. It is within Cloncurry Shire. The point was accurately located after travelling by vehicle to the end of the road, with the last two kilometres covered by foot.
The Landscape: The terrain around the point is flat and has an elevation of 160 m ASL. It is within the floodplain of Six Mile Creek. The soil is a light red clay with small gravel derived from the underlying regolith of Quaternary age (less than 1.6 million years). Vegetation around the point is low open woodland dominated by eucalypts such as Bloodwoods (Corymbia sp.) and Coolibah (Eucalyptus coolabah). Ground cover is a mixture of Mitchell Grass (Astrebla sp.), Spinifex and Prickly Acacia. The land is currently used for cattle grazing.
The most notable fauna seen were kangaroos.
Point information and photos: Tony Hillier and Kev Teys, August 2008
WITHIN THE DEGREE SQUARE
The Country: The country ranges in elevation from a low of around 50 m ASL in the north in the floodplain of the Leichardt River and Dismal Creek, to heights of over 400 m in the Mount Godkin and Waggaboonyah Ranges in the south and south-west. The Leichardt River is the main drainage system - it flows to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The area has a very complex geology and contains some of the oldest rocks in Queensland. The western two-thirds of the square is composed of a complex mix of basalt of Orosirian age (2050 to 1800 million years) and siltstone, dolerite and basalt of Statherian age (1800 to 1600 million years). These formations have a north-south trend and have been subject to much folding and faulting producing a very disjointed and rugged landscape. To the east, and in the floodplains of streams such as the Leichhardt River, the area is composed of mostly Quaternary alluvium and regolith (less than 1.6 million years).
Complex landscapes north-west of Kajabbi (Google Earth image)
Vegetation across the square is predominantly grassland with spinifex and Mitchell grass the main types involved. Along the drainage channels riparian forest and woodlands of River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), Coolibah (E. coolabah) and various she oaks and paper barks (Casuarina spp and Melaleuca spp) are common. Scattered individual Snappy Gum (E. leucophloia) trees are also found across the area.
The area has a rich bird and animal life. Among the more common bird species are Black Kite, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Galah, Corella, Cockatiel and Zebra Finch. Of the larger mammals the Northern Nailtail Wallaby and the red Kangaroo are the most common. Reptiles represented include Gould' Monitor, various skinks and dragons, Death Adder and King Brown Snake.
The Climate: The area has a climate classified as grassland with a winter drought. The nearest climate station at a similar elevation is Cloncurry.
Cloncurry Airport (site 029141) 1978-2008 (elevation 186 m ASL)
The highest temperature ever recorded in Cloncurry was 46.9oC in December 2006 while the lowest temperature was 1.8oC in July 1979. Rainfall also varies greatly. The highest annual total of 996.8 mm was recorded in 1999 and the lowest total of 90.2 mm in 2008.
Extremes of Nature: Tropical cyclones pass close enough to the square to bring destructive winds and flooding rains on average about once every five years. According to data held by the Bureau of Meteorology 18 cyclones have passed within 200 km of the confluence point. Of these only one came within 50km, an unnamed cyclone in February 1920. Cyclones can produce floods that can isolate properties in the square for extended periods because of flooded and damaged roads.
Cyclone tracks that passed within 200 km of the point since 1906 (Bureau of Meteorology web site)
The area averages around 40 thunder days each year. Severe thunderstorms can bring destructive winds, intense rainfall causing localised flooding and lightning strikes that can spark bushfires if there is sufficient fuel available.
Drought and heatwave are probably the most potentially dangerous natural hazards across the area. Cloncurry averages around 150 days with temperatures that exceed 35oC each year and 35 days with temperatures in excess of 40oC. 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 does not contain any earthquake epicentres located within the degree square.
The Indigenous Story: The degree square covers the intersection of the traditional lands of the Mayi-Kutuna, Mayi-Yapi, Mayi-Thakurti, Wakabunga and Kalkadoon peoples.
Of these groups the Kalkadoon are the best known, largely because of their violent resistance to European encroachment on their traditional lands. The Kalkadoon lived in large family groups along the Leichhardt and Cloncurry Rivers and were skilled in the making of stone axes and knives that were traded extensively across the Gulf and as far away as Lake Eyre.
Initially, contact between the Kalkadoon and Europeans was peaceful, indeed it is believed that it was a group of Kalkadoon that showed the explorer-pastoralist Ernest Henry the green rocks that led to the discovery of the Cloncurry-Mt Isa copper fields. As the numbers of settlers increased and competition developed for pasture and water between their cattle and the native animals on which the Kalkadoon depended clashes ensued. The Kalkadoon were responsible for a series of guerrilla-type raids on settlers and their stock that lasted for more than a decade. The Kalkadoon people's intimate knowledge of the country made it very easy for them to evade capture so much so that some settlers began to believe that the Kalkadoon has supernatural powers.
The conflict reached a flash point in 1883-4. In 1883 five Native Police troopers were cornered in a gorge and killed by Kalkadoon. Some months later a prominent pastoralist by the name of James Powell was murdered near Kajabbi. In a later incident a Chinese servant was also killed. These killings led to a major punitive raid led by Sub-inspector Frederick Urquhart. The final major confrontation occurred in September 1884 at a place known as Battle Mountain in which the Kalkadoon were cut down by gunfire as they charged the troops. It is not known how many Kalkadoon were killed in that battle but it may have been between 200 and 600 warriors. This battle marked the end of Kalkadoon resistance. The exact location of Battle Mountain is uncertain but it is generally believed to have been in the general vicinity of Kajabbi.
In addition to the legendary Kalkadoo, the area is associated with Curlew and his gang who terrified the Mt Cuthbert and Leichhardt River area around 1916 by attacking prospector's camps. He is said to have killed at least 15 people. Some believe that he was the European Ronald Bliss who had disappeared from his parent's home on Surprise Creek as an infant in 1900 - some suggested that he had been kidnapped by Kalkadoon.
European Exploration and Settlement: Certainly amongst the first Europeans to explore and settle land within the square were Ernest Henry and his partner Rodger Sheaffe who entered the area in 1866 after reports from the Burke and Wills search team led by William McKinley reported good pasture. Henry was shown deposits of native copper in the area by Aboriginal people and he went on to establish several mines, including the Great Australian (south of Cloncurry - in 1867), Argylla (in 1880) and Mt Oxide (in 1882) and, throughout the area. He had great difficulty with transport processing his ore. Gold was also discovered in the Leichhardt River in the 1870s and the Bower Bird field (now under Lake Julius) had spasmodic activity through to the early 1900s
Henry's discoveries led to an upsurge in exploration and mining development with mines at Kalkadoon, Koolmarra, Dobbyn and Mt Cuthbert, the last two being the longest lived. At one stage around 1918 Mt Cuthbert had a population of 1000 and had smelters, rail access and services such as a picture theatre, post office and school. By 1924 the population had declined to around 400.
The railway from Cloncurry reached Kajabbi with spur lines to Dobbyn and Mt Cuthbert in early 1916. The railway closed in the 1990s and the track has been removed.
MORE INFORMATION WELCOME
The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 483.
Infrastructure In the degree square includes the Julius Dam on the upper Leichardt River which has a storage capacity of 107,500 ML. It was constructed to augment the water supply for Mt Isa and surrounding mines and is connected to Mt Isa by underground pipeline.
A network 1250km of public roads is also present, most of it being unimproved dirt. There is, in addition, numerous private roads on stations and in mineral exploration areas. The Burke Developmental Road is the major north-south route linking the Gulf area and Cloncurry. Cattle grazing and copper mining are the major economic activities.
About two-thirds of the square is within Cloncurry Shire and one-third (in the south-west corner) in Mt Isa City. A small section of Burke Shire is in the north. There are no national parks in the square.
Compilers: Tony Hillier and Kev Teys with additional material by Ken Granger, 2008 and 2010
Edited by: Hayley Freemantle
References: various web sites including local governments and Bureau of Meteorology.
EPA 2001: Heritage trails of the Queensland outback, Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane.
Colin Hooper, 2006: Angor to Zillmanton - stories of North Queensland's deserted towns, Bolton Print 6th edition.