AT THE POINT
Location: This confluence point is located on Oakley Station about 2.8 km west of Torrens Creek Road. It lies within Flinders Shire and the nearest settlement is Torrens Creek is 25 km to the north. The point was reached cross country from the Aramac-Torrens Creek Road.
The Landscape: The country around the point is flat flood plain. The soil is a sandy loam derived from the underlying sand of Cainozoic age (less than 65 million years). Vegetation is desert scrub including wattle, ironbark, quinine bush (Petalostigma quadriloculare) and conkerberry (Carissa lanceolata). Torrens Creek to the east of the point drains to the Thomson River in the Cooper Creek catchment.
Point information and photos: Cody Herrod and Billy Paine, 2009
IN THE DEGREE SQUARE
The Country: The land in the square slopes generally from north to south. The highest land is in the White Mountains National Park with an elevation around 700 m ASL. The lowest country is along Torrens Creek in the south with elevations around 250 m. A large proportion of the square is made up of sand of Cainozoic age and alluvial sediment of Quaternary age (less than 1.6 million years). In the higher country in the north of the square sandstone of Triassic age (251 to 206 million years) is the most extensive geology though there are smaller areas of very ancient schist of Neoproterozoic age (1000 to 545 million years).
The area straddles the Great Dividing Range and is probably unique in Queensland in that it contains sections of catchments that flow to three very different destinations. Torrens Creek, which is the main stream in the square, is a major tributary of the Thomson River which flows to Cooper Creek and the Lake Eyre Basin. In the south-west corner of the square there are numerous small seasonal lagoons which form part of the Torrens Creek system. The Flinders River, in the north-west corner, flows to the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Cape River, which rises near Pentland, is a major tributary of the Burdekin River which flows to the Coral Sea.
Vegetation is mostly low and open eucalypt woodland or savannah similar to that at the confluence point. The White Mountain National Park contains protects 14 different ecosystems in the Desert Uplands bioregion, making it one of inland Queensland's most botanically diverse parks. Lancewood forests, open woodlands, laterite pastures, heath lands and spinifex grasslands are found. Brilliant wildflowers and a host of animals can be spotted throughout the park.
Climate: The climate of the area is classified as hot grassland with a winter drought. The closest representative weather station to the confluence is at the Hughenden Post Office, which is approximately 85 km to the north-north-west, and has an elevation of 324 m. The station has been collecting data since 1884.
The highest temperature to be recorded was 44.0°C in December 1996, and the lowest was -2.0°C in July 1984. The greatest rainfall recorded in any year was 1 085.1 mm in 1891, and the least was 150 mm in 1926.
These and other climate statistics for Hughenden can be found at: Australian Bureau of Meteorology, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_030024_All.shtml.
Extremes of Nature: The area is subject to the impact of cyclones. The cyclone database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology shows that 22 cyclones have tracked within 200 km of the confluence point between 1906-7 and 2006-7. Of these, two tracked within 50 km of the point: an unnamed cyclone in April 1940; an unnamed cyclone in January 1911 and an unnamed cyclone in January 1917. Both of these storms originated in the Gulf of Carpentaria. These cyclones bring with them potentially destructive winds and intense rainfall. 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 tracks within 200 km of point 1906 to 2006 (Bureau of Meteorology web site)
Torrens Creek is very prone to flooding during the wet season. Several severe floods have impacted on the area in recent years. Those floods spread across wide areas and cut roads isolating properties and small towns for several weeks at a time.
On average the area experiences around 25 to 30 thunder days each year. Severe thunderstorms bring with them potentially destructive winds, intense rainfall and lightning strike. Two such storms, one in 1949 and the other in 1998, caused severe wind damage to Hughenden. The intense rainfall can lead to flash flooding and the lightning can spark bushfires if there is sufficient fuel to sustain spread.
Bushfires can cover very large areas in this region in the dry winter and autumn months. Such fires may be deliberately lit to manage vegetation and to promote pasture growth or they may be wildfires.
Extreme heat is also a serious issue. The climate records for Hughenden show that on average the area experiences 101 days a year with temperatures over 35°C and nine days with temperatures of 40°C or more. 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 is one earthquake epicentre within the degree square recorded in the National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia. It was a ML 3 event on 12 January 2007 located about 11 km south-west of Torrens Creek village. No damage was reported.
The Indigenous Story: The land within the degree square is the traditional country of the Yirandali people.
MORE INFORMATION WELCOME
European Exploration and Settlement: The first Europeans to pass through this area were probably in two of the parties searching for the missing Burke and Wills expedition in 1861-2. One was led by William Landsborough and the other by Frederick Walker. The first settlers in the area arrived in 1862 after reports of the fine grazing country along the Flinders River were reported by Landsborough and Walker.
Government geologist Richard Daintree investigated the Cape River area in 1867 following discoveries of gold in that stream by a party of private prospectors. This was one of the earliest gold rushes in Queensland and saw the first Chinese diggers in the north. Once the alluvial gold was worked out the field began to dwindle and discoveries of gold at Etheridge and Ravenswood in 1869 saw many miners desert the Cape River field.
The construction of the railway in 1884 revived Pentland as a small service centre and it became the centre for the developing agricultural area. A meatworks was constructed outside Pentland by the US Army in 1943 to feed troops that were garrisoned across north Queensland. That meatworks was bought by private interests in 1945 and eventually closed in 1989.
MORE INFORMATION WELCOME
The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 290.
Pentland is a small service centre on the Flinders Highway that links Townsville and Charters Towers with Mt Isa. It has a limited range of commercial and public services. The town also has a dirt airstrip.
Pentland (Google Earth image)
Infrastructure in the square includes the Flinders Highway and a network of rural roads and private station tracks. The main western railway also passes through the square. In addition to the Pentland airstrip thre are several station airstrips across the square.
The square is divided between the Flinders Shire and the Charters Towers regional Council. There are two national parks in the square: White Mountains National Park and Moorrinya National Park.
Compiler: Ken Granger, 2009
Edited by: Hayley Freemantle
References: various web sites including EPA, tourist operators, local governments, mining industry and Bureau of Meteorology.
Colin Hooper, 2006: Angor to Zillmanton - stories of North Queensland's deserted towns, Bolton Print.