Shipwrecks of Northern Moreton Bay
Guest speaker at BIHS meeting 14 June 2017
David Jones is a life-long resident of Brisbane with a keen interest in local history, particularly nautical and aviation history. David is a member of the Queensland Maritime Museum and Queensland Air Museum and his books and papers (some co-authored) reflect this interest
David commenced his talk by showing the channels in northern Moreton Bay and explaining why the route, for entering the Brisbane River, changed from the South Passage to the northern route past Cape Moreton.
Beginning with the Norfolk, Lt. Flinder’s sloop David explained that though she wasn’t wrecked, she was laid up near White Patch (Bribie Island) for necessary repairs, caused by a bad leak during his expedition in July 1799. Flinder's journal gave details of the sandbanks and shoals in the Pumicestone Passage and the difficulties of navigating into Moreton Bay because of strong winds and squalls.
The history of the wrecks Avon, Cormorant, Koopa and Gayundah were detailed and photos shown of them as wrecks as well as in their prime. The makeup of the largest group of wrecks near Tangalooma was described with David advising that the first 6 hulks were scuttled in 1963 (Maryborough, Remora, Bream, Dolphin, Kookaburra and Iceberg) followed by 10 more over the next 20 years, the last being the Echeneis in 1984. The reason for their dumping and why in 2015 the wrecks were cut down to water level, which changed the silhouette of the wrecks, was explained.
David then showed some early photos of dumped WW2 landing barges on Bribie Island and a discussion ensued on where they were positioned from the background in the photos.
The story of the grounding of the Anro Asia, a 16,336 ton roll-on/roll-off container ship off the northern tip of Bribie in 1981 was told as was the Kanimbla which in 1952 was grounded off Caloundra because of blinding rain squalls and blasts of wind. The account of the Eastern’s mishap in 1911 was then presented with David advising how she ran aground on the Salamander Bank which flanks the western side of the channel. After being 10 days aground strong winds and seas carried her over and across the Salamander Bank into the deeper water of the north-west channel. Though damaged she was repaired in Sydney.
David then detailed some early shipping catastrophes commencing with the wrecking of the Sovereign, a 119-ton paddle-steamer which plied the coast before being wrecked in the South Passage with heavy loss of life on 11th March 1847. The Young Australia, an emigrant clipper, who broke her back on the rocks of North Point on 31st May 1872. The St Magnus a 300-ton barque that went missing after arriving off Cape Moreton, from Adelaide, on 17th March 1875, in particularly stormy weather, took a pilot on board but failed to arrive in Brisbane. Five days later a passing steamer came upon a capsized hulk, bottom-up drifting 30 miles north of Cape Moreton, she fitted the description of the St Magnus. David spoke also about the Danish barque Aarhus which struck Smith Rock on 24th February 1894 and sank in 15 minutes with no loss of life and the Waipara a passenger ship which also struck Smith Rock, but though needing extensive repairs, survived her encounter. The St Paul, a French steamer, similarly struck Smith Rock but foundered within four minutes with a loss of life of 18. The Marietta Dal arrived on a fine day on 15th May 1950 but ran onto Smith Rock and was firmly wedged. She broke in two and is now completely submerged and a popular, though challenging, dive site.
David closed his presentation with the story of the Kaptajn Nielsen a 1,600 ton Danish dredge brought to Moreton Bay to deepen the north-west channel. On the evening of 18th September 1964 she was in the channel near Tangalooma when at 11.30pm she suddenly capsized trapping men inside the upturned hull. David described how crew member Erik Poulsen raised the alarm and the harrowing race-against-time rescue by divers Joe Engwirda and Ivan Adams as they pulled survivors out one-by-one. Captain Karl Flindt being the last survivor rescued. The three heroes were all awarded the George Medal.
David Jones' books available from Boolarong Press
The Lady of the Water: the story of the SS Koopa 1911 to 1953
by David Jones and Colin Jones