AT THE POINT
Location: This confluence point is located on private land within a wide bend in the Calliope River about 4.2 km north-east of the Mount Alma Crossing locality. The closest settlement is Calliope which is 21 km to the east. The point lies within the Gladstone Regional Council area. The point has not yet been visited on the ground.
The Landscape: The area around the point is low undulating steep-sided hills. The underlying geology is sandstone and siltstone of Late Devonian age (369 to 354 million years). The natural vegetation has been cleared for pasture. Cattle grazing is the dominant local land use. Elevation at the point is around 50 m ASL.
Point information and photos: Ken Granger, Google Earth, 2009
IN THE DEGREE SQUARE
The Country: The land within the square has four distinct forms of landscape: the large continental islands adjacent to the coast (Curtis and Facing Islands); the deltas of the Fitzroy, Calliope and Boyne Rivers; the coastal plain and the river flood plains; and the hills of the two main but disjointed ranges that parallel the coast (they include the Ramsay, Mount Larcom, Castle Tower, Ulam, Calliope, and Dawes Ranges).
Curtis and Facing Islands form the eastern side of Port Curtis. They are low continental islands of sandstone and mudstone of Carboniferous age (354 to 298 million years). Curtis Island has a maximum elevation of 161 m ASL. Facing Island, by comparison, is little more than 10 m ASL. The larger island has several areas of mangrove forest, especially in the north and along Graham Creek in the south-west. The natural vegetation has largely been removed for grazing.
The delta of the Fitzroy River is quite extensive and has numerous channels. It is composed of estuarine mud of Quaternary age (less than 1.6 million years). It has extensive areas of mangrove forest. The Deltas of the Calliope and Boyne Rivers are much smaller but are similar in all other respects.
The coastal plain is generally less than 50 m ASL in elevation. At their widest the plain is around 16 km but in most areas it is less than 5 km wide. For the most part the natural vegetation has been removed or thinned to provide grazing for cattle.
The ranges of hills that parallel the coast are generally steep sided with deep erosional gullies on the flanks. The maximum elevation is around 940 m ASL in the Krombit Tops National Park. There are several peaks such as Mt Alma that exceed 700 m ASL in elevation. A few stand-alone peaks such as Mt Larcom, are part of this landscape.
Mt Larcom from Port Curtis (KG, 2008)
The geology of the ranges is quite mixed and complex. The oldest formations are Late Silurian age (425 to 410 million years) granite and sandstone near Calliope, however the most common material is sandstone and mudstone with ages ranging from Middle Devonian (384 to 369 million years) to Early Carboniferous (354 to 325 million years). The younger rocks in these ranges are granite, dolerite and conglomerate of Permian age (298 to251 million years). Vegetation on the ranges is mostly undisturbed eucalypt forests with some dry rainforest patches in the more protected gullies. The foothills of the ranges, however, have been extensively cleared for grazing.
The main drainage catchments within the square are the Calliope and Boyne Rivers. The Boyne has been dammed to form Lake Awoonga to provide water supply to the heavy industry of Gladstone. On the western side of the Calliope Range Callide Creek has also been dammed to provide water for the town of Biloela and the major Callide power station.
Lake Awoonga (KG, 2008)
Climate: The climate of the area is classified as sub tropical with a dry winter. The Bureau of meteorology climate station at Gladstone weather radar site provides representative statistics for the coastal area and the Primary Industry station at Biloela is representative of the interior.
Gladstone Radar (039123) 1957 to 2009 (elevation 75 m ASL)
The highest temperature ever recorded in Gladstone was 42.0°C in March 2007 while the lowest temperature was 4.4°C in July 1960. Rainfalls also vary greatly. The highest total of 1 731.6 mm was recorded in 1971 and the lowest total of 432.5 mm in 1965. These and other climate statistics for Emerald can be found at on the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_039123_All.shtml.
Biloela DPI (039006) 1924 to 1996 (elevation 175 m ASL)
The highest temperature ever recorded in Biloela was 44.0°C in November 1990 while the lowest temperature was -4.3°C in July 1965. Rainfalls also vary greatly. The highest total of 1 132.3 mm was recorded in 1978 and the lowest total of 318.0 mm in 1957. These and other climate statistics for Emerald can be found at on the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_039006_All.shtml.
Extremes of Nature: The area is prone to the impact of tropical cyclones. The database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology shows 33 cyclones have passed within 200 km of the point in the 101 years from 1906-7 to 2006-7. Of these four passed within 50 km of the point. They were: an unnamed cyclone in April 1921, an unnamed cyclone in February 1949, an unnamed cyclone in March 1953 and TC Emily in March-April 1972. These cyclones would have produced very high seas that would have caused damage to the coastal areas within the square. They also bring destructive winds and intense rainfall that can produce wide-spread flooding. 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 that passed within 200 km of the confluence point 1906-2006 (BoM web site)
Several cyclones have had a destructive impact on the Gladstone area. On Ash Wednesday (2/3 March) in 1949 a severe cyclone passed over Rockhampton and Gladstone. The central pressure at 5 am on 2 March was 972 hpa. The cyclone caused widespread damage in 15 towns and at least four deaths. The impact on Gladstone, however, was apocalyptic and gave the cyclone it's name as the 'devil's cyclone'. The Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian churches were each severely damaged, whilst all of the town's drinking palaces were spared damage. A brick church in Goondoon Street was completely destroyed, as was the wooden Catholic Convent and School. Roofs in Auckland Street were ripped off, fences, homes and out buildings were destroyed, moored vessels were sunk. Power and communications were cut off, which led the Gladstone Town Council to write to the ABC requesting the provision of better services to Gladstone, especially the provision of storm warnings.
As if to prove the old adage that it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good, the Sisters of Mercy described the 'devil's cyclone' as an Act of God because it did result in a new convent being built in 1952. The showgrounds got a new grandstand and a new jetty was constructed at South End. The Secretary of the Queensland Cruising Yacht Club, Mr Drouyn, announced that revenue gained from holding the inaugural Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht race (in the days following the cyclone) would in future fund assistance for victims of cyclones.
From the 18 to 20 January 1976 TC David, which crossed the Queensland coast about 250 km to the north of Gladstone, produced some of the strongest winds and wildest seas on record. Mr Noel Boely of the Gladstone Port Authority witnessed a tide at least 0.5 m higher than the forecast high tide level. This forced sea water onto the roads and foreshore bordering Auckland Inlet. The bund wall system between Auckland Inlet and Calliope River was also seriously eroded. The retaining wall at Barney Point Beach was covered by the 3.5metre tide on the 20th and when it receded, 92 m of the wall collapsed. Industry was affected, with the power station giving its employees the day off on full pay and Queensland Alumina Ltd assisted in producing community emergency action leaflets. There was beach erosion at Tannum Sands through to Oaks Road and the caravan park was evacuated. Power supplies were cut across a wide area.
TC Fran in 1992 will probably be the most recent cyclone event in the minds of many of Gladstone's current residents. This Category 3 storm finally dissipated on St Patrick's Day after three days of strong winds and heavy rains. Fran had been preceded three weeks earlier by very heavy rainfall. The combination of sodden ground and the cyclone's strong winds led to a number of large trees being uprooted in Sun Valley, Calliope and the Gladstone CBD area. Power supply and telecommunications were again seriously disrupted. Mobile generators were sent to telephone exchanges, whilst the Capricornia Electricity district manager reported that there had been 'multiple power losses in Gladstone, Tannum Sands and Calliope areas'. Aerial services were cancelled although the airport facilities were not affected. Gladstone Hospital records indicate that TC Fran did not cause serious injuries or fatalities.
Large cyclones can have impacts far from their track, especially with the generation of large waves and storm tide. For example, TC Justin in March 1997 was at least 500 km offshore from Gladstone, yet the seas it generated did significant damage along the foreshore at Canoe Point (Tannum Sands).
This area is also prone to the impact of east coast lows (so-called winter cyclones).
Evidence of major flooding was recorded by Oxley in his exploration of the Boyne River in 1823, reinforcing his rather jaundiced view of the suitability of the Port Curtis area for settlement. Whilst neither the Boyne River nor the Calliope River pose a direct threat to the urban areas of Gladstone, they have caused dislocation to transport and set back development in the past. In 1875, for example, one of the early sawmills established along the Calliope River was washed away; in 1911, flash flooding washed away a eucalypt distillery located on Clyde Creek; and in 1966, flash flooding in the Boyne River twice destroyed a large temporary dam built as part of the construction of the Awoonga Weir.
The area experiences around 20 to 25 thunder days each year. Such storms can bring intense rainfall leading to flash flooding. They can also bring strong winds, hail and lightning strikes. Lightning can start bushfires if there is sufficient fuel to sustain a fire.
Bushfires in the rural areas can be difficult to control but are unlikely to do significant damage. Stock and fencing losses are likely.
The area can experience extreme heat throughout some of the year, with Gladstone having an average of 5 days annually with maximum temperatures equal to or over 35°C. Biloela, by contrast experiences 30 days a year with temperatures of 35oC 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.
The National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia contains 21 earthquake epicentres within the degree square. The most significant was a ML 3.5 event on 6 December 1912 and was located 7 km from down-town Gladstone. No damage was reported from this quake.
More distant earthquakes have, however, been felt and done minor damage in the area. Queensland's largest recorded quake on 7 June 1918 was a ML 6.3 event located 125 km away, in which many local houses experienced severe shaking but no damage or injuries were reported.
The Indigenous Story: The land within the degree square is divided between the traditional country of two groups: the Bayali in the north, including Curtis and facing Island, and the Guren Guren in the south. Reports by the early visitors to the area indicate that these people were very nomadic because of the scarcity of permanent water in the area. The early settlers also found them to be quite aggressive in their resistance to white settlement.
MORE INFORMATION WELCOME
European Exploration and Settlement: The first Europeans to sight the area were with James Cook on the Endeavour in May 1770. Cook described what became known as Curtis Island as 'barren'. The first Europeans to actually set foot in the area were with Mathew Flinders during his 1802 expedition in the Investigator and Lady Nelson. Flinders charted and named Port Curtis, and was unimpressed by the area. Approximately twenty years later, further exploration was made by John Oxley. His impressions were even less enthusiastic. From the observations made by Oxley and his crew in 1823 it appears that the region was not well regarded in the context of the requirements for the new colony. Most notable of his observations at this time was the shortage of available water and the unsuitability of the existing river (the Boyne) for settlement due to its likelihood of flooding. The lack of an adequate water supply became a recurrent theme in the history of Gladstone.
Port Curtis was selected by the then Colonial Secretary, William Gladstone, to be the capital of the Colony of North Australia which was established by Letters Patent signed by Queen Victoria in February 1846. In January 1847 the Lord Auckland, carrying George Barney, the man chosen to be the lieutenant governor and superintendent of the new colony, and 87 soldiers, settlers and convicts ran aground in charted waters at the entrance to the Port. The first settlement site was on Facing Island. It was here that the 'townspeople' sheltered from bad weather in tents and witnessed the pomp of Barney declaring the Colony of North Australia and officiating at the governmental business of the new colony. Three months later, following a change of government in England, the Colony was disbanded, and the fledgling Port Curtis suffered the first of its many setbacks in development.
Port Curtis was renamed Gladstone in 1854 in honour of the English politician who had championed its establishment. At that time it had a population of 215. The town was described as a 'settled district'. History suggests a limited enthusiasm by the government to encourage the development of infrastructure and services at Gladstone after the drawing of the northern boundary that declared Queensland a separate colony, with Brisbane as the capital in 1959. Growth was slow and even the discovery of gold at Canoona Station to the north n 1857 saw the influx of fortune seekers heading to Rockhampton taking with them more Gladstone residents. At one point the population was just 12! Instead of bringing people and capital to the area, the northern gold rush served to undermine Gladstone's progress in favour of Rockhampton. In spite of such setbacks, Gladstone persisted and on 21 January 1860 it was declared a town. In 1863 it was declared a municipality, and in 1879 the Calliope Divisional Board was established.
Economic development and urban growth continued at a slow pace in spite of the excellent port and the town's location close to rich mineral and agricultural resources. The lack of a reliable and adequate water supply remained a major limiting factor until the construction, and subsequent extension of the Awoonga Dam on the Boyne River between 1966 and 1977.
The establishment of an alumina refinery by Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL) in 1967, the Callide Dam for the irrigation of grain growing, a new power station and three coal loading facilities in the 60s brought rapid economic growth and a massive shift in the physical and social environment of the region. By 1970 the town's population had grown to 14 000. The drought of the late 1960s coincided with the commissioning of the refinery, and the failure of the Awoonga Weir to provide adequate water created a conducive environment for private sector subsidisation of public works - such as the raising of the Awoonga Dam. It marked a future trend of private sector funding public works for Gladstone.
Concurrent with this development was the successful export of coal. Discouraged for many years by a lack of governmental support for opening up the coal fields, even to the point of government subsidisation of South African imports, Thiess Peabody Mitsui (TPM) began selling coal to Japan. Mitsui provided $1million to deepen the entrance to the Harbour. They developed their own facilities at Barney Point to export coal which came via a circuitous rail route through Rockhampton. The construction of the Gladstone - Moura railway, in 1968, expanded the opportunity for export and the Harbour Board reclaimed 33 hectares of tidal flats around the point to lease to TPM. Coal was also shipped from Blackwater. This coal was eventually railed directly to the power station established to supply the alumina refinery and a new aluminium smelter and the State grid. By this stage the future of Gladstone as an industrial centre was assured.
The Callide Valley in the interior was first visited by Charles Archer in 1851 in search of new pastoral lands.
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The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 59,874.
At the 2011 census Gladstone had a population of 31,618, a significant increase from the 27,672 in 2006, the Tannum Sands-Boyne Island area had 8397, up from 6664 in 2006 and Calliope had grown from 1554 to 3061. Of the more rural centres, Mt Larcom had 277, Biloela had 4826 and Thangool had 296.
The strong growth in the Gladstone area is directly related to the major expansion of the industrial and coal export industries located within the area, especially the development of natural gas export facilities on Curtis Island.
Gladstone is the principal heavy industry centre of Queensland. One of the longest established industries is the alumina refinery that processes bauxite shipped from Weipa on Cape York. The bauxite is unloaded at the South Trees wharf and the refinery is located on the southern side of the town. The some of the processed alumina is exported but a large proportion is sent to the Boyne Island aluminium refinery, the world's largest such facility producing 500 000 tonnes of the metal each year. These industries are powered by the very large Gladstone coal fired power station located to the north of the town.
The major export through the Port of Gladstone today is coal. This is brought into the port from the fields around Moura and Emerald by rail and transferred to very large bulk carriers by several coal loaders along the R.G. Tanner and Fishermans Island facilities. A large cement plant is also located in the north of Port Curtis and there are plans for the construction of a major natural gas processing facility to be located on Curtis Island. These facilities have greatly increased the capacity of the port from its original facilities at Barney Point. That facility still exports some coal and grain but is now the main terminal for importing fuels and containerised cargo.
The town of Gladstone has spread inland from the port and contains a very wide range of commercial services along with a range of public services including schools and hospital. Tannum Sands and Boyne Island have grown in more recent years as dormitory suburbs that are away from the coal dust and other industrial pollutants. The city has a large marina and fishing base as well as a good range of cultural and environmental features such as the Tondoon botanic gardens.
Gladstone (Google Earth image)
Boyne Island refinery and Tannum Sands (Google Earth image)
In addition to the major industries there are several significant support chemical industries including the ammonium nitrate plant that provides explosive-grade ammonium nitrate to the numerous coal mines in the interior and the sodium cyanide plant that supports the gold industry.
A very large area of land between Gladstone and the village of Mt Larcom has been set aside for future industrial development.
Water supply for these industries is drawn from the Awoonga Dam on the Boyne River. Lake Awoonga has become a popular inland fishing spot.
Given the heavy industry there has been considerable attention paid to pollution, especially fumes from the alumina refinery and dust from the coal loaders. A series of air pollution monitoring stations have been established to record levels of contaminants.
Pollution monitoring station on Auckland Point (KG, 2008)
Biloela is a rural service centre with a good range of commercial and public services. Biloela's economy is driven by pastoral and agricultural enterprises and by the local coalmines, although, mercifully, it could never be described as a mining town. Specifically, local income is generated by annual livestock slaughtering, cotton production, dairying, wheat, sorghum, lucerne and other grains and cereals.
Biloela (Google Earth image)
The area within the square has one of the highest concentrations of major infrastructure in Queensland. The 1680 MW Gladstone power station is one of the largest in the State, the coal loading facilities in the port are amongst the largest in Australia, the alumina and aluminium production facilities are amongst the largest in the world. To service this concentration of industry there are around 4 760 km of public roads including sections of the Bruce and Dawson Highways. There are both main line freight/passenger rail lines and dedicated coal rail lines. Gladstone also has an airport that has regular scheduled services to and from Brisbane and other ports.
The Callide power station is located around 10 km north-east of Biloela. This coal fired station has a capacity of 1720 MW. The oldest section, Callide A, was commissioned in 1965 and refurbished in 1988. It has been taken off-line to be prepared for conversion to a demonstration low carbon emission facility. The Callide Oxyfuel Project aims to prove how a combination of oxygen combustion and carbon capture and sequestration can be combined to achieve near zero greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired electricity generation. The demonstration project will also assess potential commercial applications of the technologies.
Callide Power Station (Google Earth image)
Most of the square falls within the Gladstone Regional Council. There is a section of the Rockhampton Regional Council area in the north-west corner and Banana Shire in the western part of the square. There are 15 national and conservation parks in the square. They are: Boyne Island Conservation Park, Bulburin National Park, Calliope Conservation Park, Castle Tower National Park, Curtis Island Conservation Park, Curtis Island National Park, Dan Dan National Park, Dawes National Park, Futter Creek Conservation Park, Garden Island Conservation Park, Kroombit Tops National Park, Mackenzie Island Conservation Park, Rundle Range National Park, Wietalba National Park and Wild Cattle Island National Park. These parks have a combined area of 1.17 million hectares within the square.
Compiler: Ken Granger, 2009
Edited by: Hayley Freemantle
Various web sites including EPA, local governments, tourist industry and Bureau of Meteorology.
Ken Granger and Marion Leiba (eds), 2000: Community risk in Gladstone - a multi-hazard risk assessment, Australian Geological Survey Organisation, Canberra.