Wading and Shore Birds of Moreton Bay

Recently at our Toondah Probus Club our guest speaker was Peter Rothlisberg whose topic was ‘Wading and Shore Birds of Moreton Bay’. Peter is the current secretary of the Queensland Waders Study Group (www.waders.org.au). He has now retired from CSIRO which he joined in 1975, but still works at the University of Queensland campus. The Queensland Wader Study Group (QWSG) was established in 1992 as a special interest group within Birds Queensland, to monitor wader populations in Queensland and to work towards their conservation. The term waders is used in the UK, and shorebirds is used in the US. In Australia we use both terms to denote such species as Plovers, Lapwings, Curlews, and Sandpipers. The survival of all of which are in trouble in Moreton Bay because of the following issues:

Habitat loss
• Coastal development (e.g. Raby Bay, Toondah Harbour)
• Port development (e.g Wavebreak Island cruise ship terminal on the Gold Coast)
• Mangrove incursion
• Feral plants and animals
Human disturbance – recreation
• Dogs off leash
• Beach traffic (4WDs)
• Bait harvesting (birds vs humans)
• Kite surfing (birds mistake kites for predators such as hawks)

In short, it all comes down to competition between humans and the birds – and its we humans who are winning unless we become more mindful of the other animals with which we share our world.

Moreton Bay Ramsar Wetland

Since 1993 Moreton Bay has been named as an important Ramsar Wetland for wading birds and their habitat is designated by the blue sections of our bay. But we cannot consider our bay in isolation because it forms an integral part of the East Asian – Australasian Flyway. Waders that live in Moreton Bay fly as far afield as Russia and Alaska to breed before returning home to Moreton Bay – distances of up to 17,000km to and from their breeding grounds!

The East Asian – Australasian Flyway

Stories From Peel Island – 8 – Quarantine – Throwing Down the Gauntlet (1)

A major concern of any Government is to protect the health of its citizens. Of most concern, perhaps, is an outbreak of infectious disease amongst its general populace. When the colony of Moreton Bay ceased to be used for penal purposes in 1839 and was subsequently thrown open for free settlement, foreign immigrants flooded in. With them came their families, their possessions, their skills, their hopes…and their diseases. Many of these, such as cholera, typhus, smallpox, scarlet fever, consumption, measles, and whooping cough were highly infectious, and an outbreak of any could decimate whole communities. The decision to place a ship in quarantine was not an easy one to make. It was an exercise in expense and inconvenience to the ship’s owners, the ship’s passengers, and to the community in general. However, such costs were justifiable when weighed against those which could occur should a serious infection be introduced into the community. When a vessel made port, a ship’s medical officer had first to furnish a medical report to the Health Officer of that port.  If everything was in order, pratique would be granted and the vessel would be allowed to berth.  If, on the other hand, a case of serious infection was present, the Health Officer could order the vessel and her passengers and crew into quarantine until the danger was over. 2

Moreton Bay map showing Cape Moreton, the Bar at the mouth of the Brisbane River, and Peel Island (all underlined)

Such was the case with the iron clipper ship Gauntletof 677 tons which left England from Gravesend on 18 September 1875 with 272 passengers. During the voyage of three months enteric (typhoid) fever had broken out on board. The first case of fever had broken out about forty days out of London, a boy being the first noticeable case. There were twelve deaths up to 21 December. The Gauntletarrived at Cape Moreton on 20 December, and remained there a day (Ed.to take the pilot aboard). It arrived at the Bar at the mouth of the Brisbane River on 21 December and remained there two days while the ship’s medical officer reported to the Port’s Health Officer. Because of the contagious nature of enteric fever aboard, the ship, was placed under quarantine and on 23 December it was towed to Peel Island by the Government tug Kate.

Buildings on Peel Island were provided for single women capable of accommodating one hundred, but which contained ‘no beds or other convenience’. There was a hospital for females and another for males. There was also ‘a small shed for the quarters of the Surgeon-Superintendent’. Male immigrants and families were compelled by the shortage of shelter to live in tents. However, within a few days of the arrival of the Gauntlet the first instalment of beds arrived.

An enquiry was set up to investigate complaints from those quarantined at Peel Island: many concerned the issuing of rations. It was, however, not the quantity or quality of the rations, but the lateness of the issuing on some days. There were also complaints regarding accommodation on Peel Island. Immigrants were placed under canvas, which proved to be inadequate to protect them from the sun or from rain.

Fresh provisions, including live sheep to provide fresh meat, were sent to Peel Island on 21 December and on the following two days. The Gauntletremained in quarantine for forty days.  There were some complaints about the distribution of food on Christmas Day, though there was a view that some complaints were not justified.  There were some men who were too lazy to do any necessary work regarding the tents.  Two hospitals were established on Peel Island, one for males and the other for females.  There were up to ten patients in each.

On 4 February 1976 the Brisbane Courier published a letter to the Editor from the ship’s Medical Officer, Dr J.A. Hearne, in which he challenged some aspects of the enquiry into the condition of the Gauntletimmigrants during the voyage and while in quarantine on Peel Island. In particular he challenged Brisbane’s Health Officer, Dr O’Doherty’s view that he (Dr Hearne) was incapable of preserving order amongst his people. Dr Hearne claimed that order and discipline on the Gauntletwere as well preserved as on any immigrant ship to Queensland.  He also objected to the arrival of two officers of the law, an implication that Dr Hearne needed their presence to maintain order, and to ‘save us from annihilating one another’.  Dr Hearne enclosed two letters he had received from agents for whom he had worked previously, verifying that he had ‘performed his responsible duties to our satisfaction’, including occasions when he had ‘repeatedly over 1000 immigrants under my charge’.

The passengers were taken to Brisbane on 7 February 1876.

The enquiry continued spasmodically until mid-March.


[1]A brief extract from material supplied by Brian Hedges who writes that ‘most of this information has been gleaned from Pennie Manderson and Colleen Bosel, The Voyages to Queensland of the Gauntlet, Maryborough, c.1997, and from the newspaper editions of the Brisbane Courier.’

2 Ludlow, Peter ‘Exiles of Peel Island – Quarantine’

Stories from Russell Island – 1 – The Giant’s Grave

Like Peel Island’s ‘Hole in the Wall’ Russell Island’s ‘Giant’s Grave’ has long been an easily designated favourite haunt for the fishermen of Moreton Bay.

Peel ‘s Hole in the wall (from the inside)

David Willes, a descendant of John Willes the original European pioneer of Russell Island writes: ‘The Giant’s Grave used to be quite a landmark for the old mariners. Situated on the western side of Russell, just north of Brown’s Bay, this large mound of tree covered earth bore resemblance to the grave of an imagined giant.’

Of the Giant’s Grave Joshua Peter Bell writes in his book ‘Moreton Bay and .How to Fathom It’ : ‘This is simply a large, grave-like mound of earth and rock rising somewhat surprisingly from the partial swamp around it. Doubtless of natural origin.’

Giant’s Grave (photo Ken Goodman)

Steamboat Ken (alias Ken Goodman) writes in his monthly column for the Bay Island News of September 2016: Fellow Islanders, how many of you have heard of or visited the Giant’s Grave on Russell Island? It has intrigued people ever since being reported by Moreton Bay historian Thomas Welsby in 1907. An old oyster gatherer Jack Wall had a camp at the spot for many moons, but I’ll let Tom Welsby do the talking. In his book ‘Schnappering’. Tom says that 30 or 40 feet (9 to 12 metres) above Wall’s camp ‘there rises a curious lengthened mound or knoll. Standing on the southern end, one looks across from Little Rocky to Big Rocky…all appearing to run in the same direction, almost due south or a little west of south. The Giant’s Grave is a some 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.6 metres)  in height, about 20 feet (6 metres) or a little more across, and maybe 80 or 90 yards (73 or 82 metres) in length. The surface consists of pale red-coloured pebbles, with vines and small shrubs growing profusely. Towards the end, dipping in towards the island, there are a few fair-sized trees – the extreme part giving a view of lagoonish-watery country, that might grow something other than mosquitoes and flies, but I think not. One might pass this grave formation and take no heed. Nature’s formation of the mound is indeed curious, yet there it stands in summer boating days and winter’s silence.’

Russell Island Map. Arrow shows site of Giant’s Grave. (Google Earth)

Ken Goodman continues: You need high water to get to the Giant’s Grave by sea. Heading south from the old salt works on Macleay Island towards Rocky Point, when abreast of Brown’s Bay on Russell Island on your portside, swing in towards the northern edge of said bay. The western tip of the bay’s curve is the location of the Giant’s Grave (as marked with an arrow on the accompanying map. Since then, about 40 feet of ground has gone between high water and the grave). Have a look sometime, examine it and wonder at what’s beneath this mound. But don’t linger on your high tide because Browns Bay dries at low water.

Beyond the Bay – 3 – Pipe Dreams

Painting of a man smoking an opium pipe (London Science Museum)

We have all experienced pipe dreams. I had never realised that the term for such fanciful hopes had its origin in the late 19th century and referred to a dream experienced when smoking an opium pipe. Opium smoking may be ‘old hat’ by modern standards, yet many of us in today’s generation still seek dreams by taking other hallucinatory substances from crack cocaine to prescription opioids that have street names such as Goof Balls, Chill Pills, Hug Drugs, Kit Kat, Mellow Yellow, and Magic Mushrooms. 

I grew up in the 1960s when the taking hallucinogens emerged into the zeitgeist of that era.  I never succumbed to the temptation myself, although I was sent a packet of morning glory seeds to chew on. I resisted on the grounds of (a) being a newly graduated pharmacist, I was fully aware of the harmful effects of these drugs and (b) I felt that I was naturally goofy enough without any extra help.

However, like everyone else, I do have dreams during sleep. I don’t dream much, but sometimes the how, when, where, andwhyof my past experiences combine to produce really vivid dreams, that I can savour and want to recall on awaking. 

How to become a lucid dreamer

Recently a newspaper article of this title caught my eye. It began: ‘Most of us aren’t aware when we are dreaming. However, some people are not only aware, but are able to control their dreams. This is what’s known as lucid dreaming. Lucid dreamers become aware that they are asleep while in the dream, and then are able to ‘will’ themselves into particular situations. Some athletes use lucid dreaming as an opportunity to practice real-life skills, as it can improve mental preparation for important events.

‘One of the most famous lucid dreamers is Mary Arnold-Forster. Born in 1861, Arnold-Foster published Studies in Dreams when she was 60. Her findings were very different to the work of her contemporaries, but many of her theories were later proved to be correct.’

I know I’m not a lucid dreamer, and I don’t think I want to try to be one, but I have been writing a novella, so I might give its protagonist such skills (which in itself may just be my lucid dream made real).