With Peter Ludlow
My first interest in Moreton Bay’s history was aroused in the late 1940s when I came across a map published by the Shell Company of Australia. My father, a great fishing enthusiast, must have bought it with fishing in mind, but my youthful interest was triggered by just two words printed on its outline of North Stradbroke Island, just above Swan Bay: Spanish galleon.
I guess I was at the ‘playing pirates’ stage of my youth and the idea of having our own Spanish galleon here on our doorstep was very exciting. But had there really been a Spanish galleon in Moreton Bay? The riddle just added to its mystique.
So it was with a great interest that fifty years later, I discovered that Eric Reye, who had contributed so much to my writings about Peel Island, had also been fascinated by the same map references to the galleon. But he had gone one step further and about 1940 had paddled off in his canoe to seek it out!
In actual fact, the galleon was probably Portuguese and not Spanish and is thought to have been wrecked here in the early 1600s. However, although many sightings of the wreck have been recorded and there are tales of artefacts being removed, no concrete evidence has yet been found to prove its existence.
Of course, these European navigators were not the first humans to visit Moreton Bay, for the Aborigines have lived here for thousands of years. One can only imagine their surprise at seeing the masses of white canvas sails on these huge, square rigged ships. And when Cook sailed past in 1770 they little knew that he was giving a name to their still unwritten land: Morton Bay(after James Douglas, 14th Earl of Morton, and misspelled by later cartographers as Moreton Bay).
Matthew Flinders in 1799 made the first recorded contact with the Bay’s indigenous people when he landed at Bribie Island and was met by a group of Aborigines. A short attempt at trading only heightened the tension and mistrust between the two groups and ended with a spear being thrown and a musket fired in return. The spot of this encounter was named Skirmish Point by Flinders, and symbolises much of the early encounters between the indigenous people and the European newcomers.
For come they did when John Oxley arrived in 1824 with a group of convicts to set up a settlement at Redcliffe Point. The following year it was moved to a site on the Brisbane River and continued as a convict settlement until 1839. From 1842, when Moreton Bay was thrown open to free settlement, immigrants arrived in their droves. Life for the indigenous people would never be the same.
(Extract from ‘Moreton Bay Letters’ Peter Ludlow 2003)