AT THE POINT
The point is located about 5 kms East of Elgin Downs station boundary, and about 5 kms west of the Gregory Development Road, which joins Clermont and Charters Towers. Belyando Crossing Roadhouse is 50 kms north of the point.
Elgin Downs homestead is 10 kms west. We were unable to access the point due to flooded creek crossings after Cyclone Ului passed through the area in March 2010.
The site has an elevation of 200 metres.
Location: The Degree Square falls within the boundaries of the Isaac Regional Council, centred at Moranbah some 50 kms East.
The Landscape: The Degree Square is drained by the Belyando River in the Western part and by Mistake Creek in the centre, while a series of creeks, Logan and Diamond, flow into the Suttor River from the Eastern side. The watershed is dominated by the Narrien and Drummond ranges which have peaks up to 700metres, and the flow is from South to North.
The area has been cleared for pasture over the years, and now presents a vast grassland although patches of vegetation remain.
As well as Elgin Downs other properties include Epping Forest, Laglan,Walthum and Avon Downs.
IN THE DEGREE SQUARE
The Country: The terrain is mostly flat to undulating grassland, dominated in parts by improved pasture such as Buffel Grass, but with some native grasses.
The soils seem to be mostly sandy but with a clay mix, and some erosion can be observed. Gravelly red soil was noted in the northern part. At the time of the visit the country was in very good condition.
There are few hills or features in the Degree Square, although the peaks of the Narrien and Drummond Ranges can be seen in the South, and Peak Range to the South East.
Vegetation: Grasses include the introduced Buffel a good fodder grass, and native grasses include Wiregrass, Pitted blue grass and golden Beard Grass. Tree types include Poplar Box with its shiny leaves, Bloodwood, Ghost Gum, Moreton Bay Ash, all of which are plentiful. Some Brigalow still stands as well as Gidgee with its distinctive smell. Wild Bauhinia is common along ancient stream beds.
The smaller trees include Beefwood, Sandalwood, Wilga and Whitewood.1
Native Animals and Birds: Large numbers of Eastern Grey Kangaroos ,Swamp Wallabies and Rufous Bettongs were observed, as one would expect in such a good season. Rabbits are also present, as are Echidnas and Possums with Koalas along Fox Creek. Feral cats, foxes and dingoes are also present.
Northern Hairy Nosed Wombats (an endangered species) are protected at a special Reserve at Epping Forest National Park.
Large Birds noted were Brolgas, Jabiru, and Bustards.
Smaller birds are in profusion and include Brown Goshawk, Peaceful Dove, Squatter Pigeon, Pale Headed Rosella, Redwing Parrots, Boobook Owls, Cuckoo Shrike, Grey Crowned Babbler, Honeyeaters, Bower Birds Magpies and Willy Wagtail. Corellas, Cockatoo, Galahs and Kookaburras are common.1
The Climate: The area has a typical sub-tropical and sub-humid climate that has wet and hot, dry and cool seasons with a high degree of variability. The climate is greatly influenced by the trade wind belt. The closest weather station to the confluence is at the Moranbah Water Treatment Plant, which is 106 km to the east, and has an elevation of 260 m.
The highest temperature recorded was 45.0°C in January 1994, and the lowest was 0.2°C in July 1990. The greatest rainfall recorded in a year was 1 009.6 mm in 2000, and the least was 280.7 mm in 1982. These and other climate statistics for Moranbah can be found at: Australian Bureau of Meteorology, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_034038_All.shtml.
Extremes of Nature: The area has been subjected to a number of cyclones since recording began in 1906, due to its tropical location. There have been five cyclones to pass within 50 km of the degree confluence, and a further 16 have passed within 200 km. 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)
The area can also experience extreme heat throughout much of the year, with Moranbah having an average of 52 days annually that have maximum temperatures equal to or over 35°C.
In March 2010 the remains of Cyclone Ului, which had caused severe damage at Airlie Beach, passed through the area. The Degree Square was mostly undamaged. Heavy rain was experienced and about 60mms were recorded over two days, causing strong flows in local creeks.
Land Use:The main industry is cattle and beef production, which has progressively moved from sheep and wool production since the early 1900s. Drought and wool prices forced the change more rapidly after 1970.
While coal mining and grain growing are large industries in the region, there are no examples of either in the Degree square.
Indigenous History: As in other parts of Queensland, mutual hostility was quite evident between the indigenous tribes and white settlers for many years, from as early as the 1840s.Aboriginal people fiercely resisted the takeover of their lands.3 Leichhardt recognised the hostility at his first encounter at Comet River, further South in 1844. Attacks on shepherds and homesteads in 1860 resulted in heavy reprisals by Native Police,led by the notorious Inspector Wheeler4, where at Grosvenor Downs some"60 blacks were shot"2 , according to an account by Judith Wright. This state of attack and counter attack continued until about 1870. In 1901 it became apparent that steps must be taken to prevent the extinction of the race.
Four main tribal groups have been identified in the region, Kairis, Wangans,Jagalinga (in the headwaters of the Belyando), and Jambina with its several sub tribes elsewhere.5
European Settlement: Historically the land was taken up for wool growing, following the exploration of Ludwig Leichhardt who extolled the virtues of the Peak Range area in 1844.6Avon Downs was occupied in 1863,7 followed by Elgin Downs in 1865, the latter changed ownership frequently until 1872 when purchased by the Muirhead family who retained control until 1952.
Many other properties were taken up at this time including Epping Forest, Apsley, Laglan and Logan Downs.
The discovery of Gold at Miclere Creek , and Copper at Copperfield in 1865 gave an impetus to population growth in the region.
The massive attempt to grow grain to feed Britain after World War 11 also resulted in increased population numbers, but failed due to inefficiencies in the system. The land was subsequently sold to smaller landholders and has since prospered.
The many coal mines in the region provide employment for large numbers of people and the towns to the south and east of the degree square, such as Clermont, Capella and Moranbah have prospered.
National Parks: Epping Forest National Park ( Scientific), has been set up specifically to protect the Northern Hairy Nosed Wombat from extinction, and as a result of much effort by the Environment Protection Agency the numbers have slowly built up over the last 20 years. Another colony has recently been established near St George, with animals translocated from Epping Forest.
Mazeppa National Park covers an area of over 4000 hectares and has been set aside to preserve the Brigalow and Gidgee tree species which have become endangered due to severe clearing for agricultural purposes. It also provides a refuge for wild animals and birds.
The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 225. The steady decline in population is probably due to the decline in the cattle industry.
Compiled by: Brian Mealey
Climate information: Jo Grant
Edited by: Hayley Freemantle
1. Habitat and Wildlife, Central Qld No.2 , Dept Environment & Heritage
2. Judith Wright " The Cry for The Dead" Melbourne Univ.Press
3. Glenville Pike Queensland Frontier pp142-143
4. Clem Lack & Henry Stafford"The Rifle and the Spear"p133
5 .Norman Tindale "Distribution of Australian Aboriginal Tribes" R.Soc.of South Australia 1940
6. Dan O'Driscoll A History of Clermont & District, Settlement of Peak Downs
pub..By Belyando Shire Council 1989 for Aust.Bicentennial. Clermont Library.
7. As Above