20°S 149°E Whitsunday – Queensland by Degrees

AT THE POINT

Degree confluence 20°S 149°E, Google Earth

site

sea1

Looking south-west from point to Hook Island (left) and Hayman Island (right)

Location: This confluence point is located 7 km north-east of the northern tip of Hook Island in the Whitsunday Group. It was reached by Cruise Whitsunday vessel Seaflight from the Hayman Island resort and was located by GPS. The nearest settlement is the Hayman Island Resort.

The Landscape: At sea.

Point information and photos: Kirsty Patten (principal) and the students from Hayman Island State School, 2008.

 

WITHIN THE DEGREE SQUARE

The Country: Within the degree square are the islands of the Whitsunday Group (Hayman, Hook, Whitsunday, Border, Haslewood, Hamilton, Dent, Long, South Molle and North Molle together with numerous islets and cays); the Lindeman Group (Lindeman, Shaw, Mansell and Thomas together with smaller islets and rocks); the peninsula formed by the Conway Range, and the lowlands of the Proserpine Valley.

The islands, the Conway Range and most of the Dryander Range are composed of volcanic rocks, mainly of Early Cretaceous age (141 to 98 million years). Part of the Dryander Range is granite of much older Triassic age (251 to 205 million years). Elevations in these areas range from Mt Dryander at 820 m ASL in the Dryander Range and High Mountain at 565 m ASL in the Conway Range, to around 400 m ASL on most of the islands. Hook Peak at 459 m and Whitsunday Peak at 435 m ASL, are representative. These mountain areas are very steep and have a rugged terrain with numerous massive rock outcrops.

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Whitsunday Island volcanic rocks (KG, 2008)

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Conway Range above Airlie Beach (KG, 2008)

The coastlines of the two larger islands (Hook and Whitsunday) are indented by several deep indentations of drowned coastline caused by block faulting during the Cainozoic period (less than 65 million years). On Hook Island the two south-facing fjord-like Nara and Macona Inlets are prominent features, and on Whitsunday Island, Hill and Gulnare Inlets provide deep access into the interior from the east and west respectively. The mainland coast has similar drowned coastline features with tall, narrow promontories separating bays of various width. George Point in Dryander National Park, Bluff Point and Pioneer Point near Airlie Beach, and The Beak near Schutehaven are examples.

One of the most attractive landscape features in the area is the pure white silicon sands of Whitehaven Beach just to the south of Hill Inlet on Whitsunday Island. This sand is the silicon remains of the volcanic rocks of the island's interior.

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  Whitehaven Beach (KG, 2008)

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Whitehaven silica sands (KG, 2008)

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cane

Typical cane farm in the Proserpine Valley (KG, 2008

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Forests with Hoop Pine emergents on Hook Island (Ken Granger, 2008)

Apart from the Proserpine Valley, most of the area is heavily vegetated with extensive rainforests and other forest types. The area is notable for the presence of several rare and endemic plant species. Vegetation communities within the area include both closed and open forest communities. The most widespread are the medium height closed forest on the islands and the Conway and Dryander Ranges. It is a complex notophyll (i.e. leaves are between 7.5 and 12.5 cm long) vine forest with species such as Tulip Oak (Argyrodendron polyandrum) and Lemon-scented Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) with Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii) emergents.

The Proserpine Valley is low lying and composed of Quaternary age (less than 2 million years) alluvium. Much of the valley has been drained and given over to sugar cane cultivation.

On the granites on the western side of the Dryander Range open forest a community are composed of eucalypt-dominated medium height and low open forests and on the summit of Mt Dryander is found a unique forest made up almost entirely of the endemic Ristantia waterhousei. This is an evergreen mossy vine forest.

In other areas, depending on the geology and drainage, eucalypt-dominated medium height open forests with local dominants including Yellow Stringybark (Eucalyptus acmenoides), Poplar Gum (E. platyphylla), Moreton Bay Ash (Corymbia tessellaris) and Pink Bloodwood (C. intermedia) occur. The understory ranges from tussock grasses to vine thickets. Mangroves form mid-height to tall closed forest with small areas of samphire and saltpan along the estuary of the Proserpine River.

Fauna across the area is diverse. The waters are home to the migratory Humpback Whale during the spring. The shallower waters around the islands seem to be a favourite area for these marine mammals to calve and mate while males and lone females are more likely to be seen in the deeper water of Whitsunday Passage. Dugong are also present in the shallow waters where sea grass is plentiful.

Of the macropods, the Swamp Wallaby, Wallaroo, Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Red Legged Pademelon, Whiptail (or Pretty-face) Wallaby and Agile Wallaby are the most likely seen. The endangered Proserpine Rock Wallaby is only found in this area. A wide range of bats and flying fox are also found in the area.

Of the reptiles found in the area, the Estuarine Crocodile, Taipan, King Brown Snake, Eastern Brown Snake and Red Bellied Black Snake are undoubtedly the most dangerous. The area is also home to a wide range of lizards, skinks and dragons. Several species of turtle including the Green, Loggerhead and Hawksbill are also found along the coast.

At least 250 species of birds have been noted in the area including numerous species of migratory waders. Of the more commonly seen birds are the White Bellied Sea Eagle, Osprey (often fishing along the coast), Pied Oyster Catcher (along the beaches and rocky headlands) and Bush Thick-knee (around the forest edge or in the cane lands).

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Humpback whale in Whitsunday Passage (KG, 08)

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Pied oyster catchers on Whitehaven Beach (KG, 08

The main forms of land use in the area are sugar cane growing on the alluvial flats of the Proserpine Valley, cattle grazing on the drier land on the edges of the Valley and conservation. There are six national parks wholly or partially within the square: Whitsunday Islands, Gloucester Island, Molle Islands, Conway Range, Dryander and Lindeman Islands. There is also a State Forest area on the western side of the Conway Range and another on the southern side of Dryander National Park.

The Climate: The climate of the area is classified as tropical savannah or subtropical with a distinctly dry winter. It is a maritime climate with temperatures modified by its closeness to the sea. The climate station on Hayman Island provides representative statistics for coastal areas and the station at Proserpine Post Office shows the effect of distance from the sea.

Hayman Island Resort (site 033031) 1934-2008 (elevation 2 m ASL)

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Year

Mean max
(ºC)

30.6

30.3

29.6

28.4

26.0

23.4

23.0

24.2

25.9

27.5

29.6

30.5

27.4

Mean min
(ºC)

24.9

24.9

24.1

22.7

20.4

17.2

16.7

17.4

19.2

21.3

23.4

24.5

21.4

Mean rain
(mm)

212.1

294.1

229.6

137.1

119.8

53.3

36.7

25.7

16.7

37.4

58.7

114.4

1349.6

 Proserpine Post Office (site 033061) 1886-1989 (elevation 13 m ASL)
 
 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Year

Mean max
(ºC)

32.0

31.0

30.1

28.2

25.9

24.0

23.5

25.3

27.5

30.1

31.5

32.4

28.5

Mean min
(ºC)

22.5

22.8

21.5

19.3

16.3

12.3

11.5

12.8

14.9

18.0

20.3

21.7

17.8

Mean rain
(mm)

381.6

384.2

317.6

152.7

94.8

66.1

39.8

33.6

39.0

40.5

70.7

175.2

1796.

The highest temperature ever recorded at the Hayman Island Resort was 38.6°C in January 1985 while the lowest temperature was 9.7°C in July 1984. Rainfalls also vary greatly. The highest total of 2269.1 mm was recorded in 1974 and the lowest total of 716.3mm in 1992.

By contrast, the highest temperature ever recorded at the Proserpine Post Office was 42.4°C in December 1984 while the lowest temperature was 1.4°C also in July 1984. Rainfalls also vary greatly. The highest total of 3499.2 mm was recorded in 1956 and the lowest total of 698.4mm in 1923.

Extremes of Nature: The area is very much subject to the impact of cyclones. The database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology shows 67 cyclones have tracked within 200 km of the confluence point since 1906. Nine cyclones have tracked within 50 km of the confluence point. They included: an unnamed cyclone in January 1910; an unnamed cyclone in February 1943; TC Agnes in March 1956; an unnamed cyclone in February 1958; TC Ada in January 1970; TC Vera in January 1974; TC Gordon in January 1979; TC Kerry in March 1979; and TC Celeste in January 1996. They each produced destructive winds, heavy rain and high seas.

The most destructive of these storms was TC Ada, a very small cyclone with the radius of the eye being only 20 km at Airlie Beach where the central pressure was recorded as 962 hPa. Ada killed 14 people, some of the on yachts that had sheltered in Nana Inlet on Hook Island. Most of the tourist resorts in the area were destroyed and 80% of the buildings in Airlie Beach were badly damaged. The associated storm tide put sea water into shops along the Airlie Beach waterfront. There was widespread damage tone to the forests and crops across the area and flooding was severe in the Proserpine River.

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Landslides can be experienced in the steeper country and on occasions have blocked the Proserpine - Airlie Beach road for a short period.

Over the 19 years 1969 to 1988 Proserpine experienced an average of 10 days a year where the temperature exceeded 35.0°C - the temperature threshold commonly used to designate a heatwave. Given that the area also has a high relative humidity level during the summer, the impact of such temperatures would be significantly increased. 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 two earthquake epicentres within the degree square recorded in the National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia and a further 9 within 100 km of the confluence point. The closes event was a ML 2.3 event on 6 July 1985 located very close to Border Island. The largest, and potentially damaging event, was a ML 4.7 on 8 February 1985 located about 65 km north-north-east of the confluence point on the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef. No damage has been reported in the degree square from earthquakes.

The Indigenous Story: The area is the traditional home of the Giya language group. The local tribe of this group are the Ngaro (or 'Island People'). These people were traditionally marine hunters and gathers and occupied sites on many of the islands and along the coast have been dated back at least 8000 years. A rock art site and midden in Nara Inlet on Hook Island and the South Molle Island quarry site, where stone axes were made, are the better known of these occupation sites.

MORE INFORMATION WELCOME

European Exploration and Settlement: The first known Europeans to visit the area were with Cook on the Endeavour in 1770. Cook sailed through the Whitsunday Passage, which he named, on 4 June which happened to be Whit Sunday, the seventh Sunday after Easter. He named all of the islands the Cumberland Group. Captain Philip Parker King passed through the area during his 1819 survey in HMS Mermaid. Surveys in the 1870s by Captain Bedwell in HMS Virago led to the Cumberland Group being split into their present groupings. Bedwell, for example named Lindeman Island after his sub-lieutenant George Lindeman.

On the mainland, the first European exploration was by George Dalrymple in 1859. Dalrymple had a passionate appreciation for the beauty of the landscapes he explored and an appreciation of the classics. He was so impressed with the fertility of this area, for example, that he named it Proserpine, for the Roman god of fertility - the Greek god Persephone. The area was first settled in 1861 with cattle and sugar cane the pioneering industries. The Proserpine sugar mill as opened in 1897. Logging and sawmilling was also a major pioneering industry. For example, a sawmill was established on Whitsunday Island in the late 1880s to exploit the Hoop Pine and other timbers.

It was not until the 1920s that the tourist industry began to be established on the islands. In 1923 Angus Nicolson established a camp for visitors on Lindeman Island. It was very primitive and it is said that Angus used to advise his 'campers' -

Anytime you run short of bread bring me your flour and I'll cook you some damper. If you want meat, then shoot a goat. But don't get shootin' them for sport.


Tourist development was slow, relying mainly on cruise ships bringing passengers ashore to galvanized iron huts for 'afternoon tea'. It was not until 1962, with the construction of the Schutehaven jetty, that the islands became more accessible.

To mark the unveiling of a cairn on Daydream Island commemorating the 176th anniversary of Cook's naming of the Whitsunday Passage, the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland on 9 June 1946, produced Queensland's first 'pigeongram'. A flock of homing pigeons, some carrying message holders, were released from Daydream Island at the time of the dedication. The flimsy messages carried the inscription:

Carried by Homing Pigeon to the mainland on the occasion of the unveiling of a Cairn and Plaque, commemorating the 176th Anniversary of the Discovery and naming of Whitsunday Passage by Captain James Cook RN.
According to reports, the majority of birds arrived safely back in Mackay after an hour 'but 13 fell victim to hawks'.

MORE DETAILS NEEDED

Today:

The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 17,299. The fluctuation of population is in part a reflection of the vagaries of the sugar industry and the tourist industry.

 

 

MEASURE

1996

2001

2006

2011

Total population

17,671

20,735

15,733

17,299

Total males

9064

10,670

8346

9031

Total females

8607

10,065

7387

8268

Under 5 years

974

1036

859

1199

65 years and over

1488

1925

1297

1582

Indigenous

130

263

292

437

The bulk of the population are located in three urban areas, the Airlie Beach complex had a population of 6811, Proserpine had 3382 and Hamilton Island had 1208 at the 2011 census. The predominance of males over females is probably a reflection of the employment in the agriculture and construction industries and in some aspects of the tourist industry such as cruise boat operations.

Tourism and sugar cane remain the area's major industries. Airlie Beach has grown to be a major tourist hub and backpacker 'must go there' place. Today there are resorts on Hayman, Daydream, Hook, Hamilton, South Molle Long and Lindeman Islands. The airport on Hamilton Island brings visitors directly to the island, otherwise access is through the Proserpine airport then by road to Airlie Beach or Schutehaven for boat transport to the islands.

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Airlie Beach marina (Ken Granger, 2008)

mrna

Schutehaven marina and jetty (Ken Granger, 2008)

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Cruising past Hamilton Island (Ken Granger, 2008)

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Tourist flight at Whitehaven Beach (KG, 2008)

The sugar industry is still dominant in the Proserpine Valley. In the 2007-8 sugar season the Proserpine Co-Operative Mill had a throughput of 1.75 million tonnes of cane, a smaller than average crush because of prolonged drought conditions. In the 2005-6 season by contrast the crush was 2.04 million tonnes. The mill is in the process of diversifying into the production of furfurol (a bio-fuel) and a cane-based soil conditioner.

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Proserpine sugar mill (Ken Granger, 2008)

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Proserpine main street (Ken Granger, 2008)

Apart from the islands of the Lindeman Group, the whole area within the degree square lies within the Whitsunday Regional Council area. The Lindeman Group falls within the Mackay Regional Council area.

MORE INFORMTION WELCOME

Site Summary:

Location

7km north-east of Hook Island

Access

By boat

Nearest town

Airlie Beach

Terrain

At sea

Catchment

At sea

Geology & soils

Islands and mainland are largely of volcanic origin

Vegetation

Significant areas of lowland rain forest on islands and mainland

Land use

Sugar cane growing in Proserpine Valley

Climate

Tropical savannah

Population in degree square

15733 at the 2006 census

Infrastructure

Airports at Proserpine and Hamilton Island; marinas at Airlie Beach,
Schutehaven and several island resorts, extensive road network,
rail link to Brisbane and Cairns, extensive sugar tramway network

National Parks

Whitsunday Islands, Gloucester Island, Molle Islands, Conway Range, Dryander and Lindeman Islands National Parks

Compiler: Ken Granger, 2009

Edited by:  Hayley Freemantle

Sources: Various web sites including EPA, Bureau of Meteorology, tourist resorts and operators and the Proserpine sugar mill.