Looking seaward from Bribie’s Ocean Beach, the huge shape of Moreton Island sprawls southward along the horizon. At various points, its vegetation gives way to patches of white: reminding us that the island is mostly sand. Its tallest point, Mount Tempest at 280 metres is reputed to be one of the highest sandhills in the world.
Between Bribie and Moreton Islands, the wide stretch of water is known as the North Passage, shipping’s gateway to Moreton Bay. To the south of Moreton Island, and separating it from Stradbroke, is the old South Passage, the original and more dangerous entrance to the bay.
Following the huge loss of life when the “Sovereign” was wrecked in 1847 while trying to cross the South Passage bar, there was an increasing transference of shipping from the South Passage to the North Passage. Until that time the bay’s Pilot Station had been located at Amity on Stradbroke. From here, when a ship entered the bay, a pilot vessel would be dispatched to guide it safely into port. In 1848 then, the Pilot Station was moved from Amity to Cowan Cowan on Moreton where, by 1860, it was recorded as having in residence two pilots, nine boatmen, and others, all living in wretched conditions. Later the Pilot Station was shifted still further north on Moreton to Bulwer.
To mark the new entrance to Moreton Bay, the Cape Moreton lighthouse was built on the northern seaward end of Moreton Island in 1856. Constructed of stone quarried from the island itself, the lighthouse is now under control of the Commonwealth Government, unlike those within the bay, which come under the auspices of the Queensland Government’s Department of Harbours and Marine.
Because of the inaccessible nature of Cape Moreton, stores for the Cape Moreton light had to be offloaded at Bulwer in the early days and hauled across the island on horse-drawn sand sleds.
In the first few years following Queensland’s separation from New South Wales in 1859, a number of lights with large kerosene burners fitted with dioptric apparatus were erected at various strategic points around Moreton Bay, including Comboyuro Point and Cowan Cowan on Moreton Island. In 1867 the height of the light at Cowan Cowan was increased from 18 feet to 34 feet, so that vessels approaching port would not lose sight of it before the next light was picked up. In the following year, to cater for navigational changes within Moreton Bay, an additional lighthouse was built at Yellowpatch on Moreton Island.
Extract from ‘Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.
(To be continued)