Friday 12 October 2018

Story 10 Describing Bribie Island

The following story is one of 27 stories presented in Describing Bribie Island 1865-1965: historical first-hand accounts of visiting Bribie Island produced by the Bribie Island Historical Society in 2017.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: William Main (1860-1946) was born in Glasgow, Scotland and arrived in Queensland in 1887.  In 1911, William was appointed by the Queensland Government to be an Immigration Agent and obtained agricultural emigrants for Queensland. During the 1920s William was associated with the Commercial Travelers’ Club in Elizabeth Street, Brisbane city, and from about this time he contributed verse and other literary articles to The Queenslander, Sydney Mail and other Australian and overseas periodicals.  William spent his retirement years on Bribie Island and according to the Visitors’ Book for Shirley’s Guest House at Ocean Beach, stayed there on 8 December 1939.  Another guest that day was Thomas Welsby.
William Main’s article The Unnamed Lakes was published in The Queenslander, 9 February 1928, page 8 and his photos of The Nameless Lagoons of Bribie on page 31.
The Unnamed Lakes of Bribie by William Main, 1928 (with illustrations)
Unnamed lakes and streams, in these days [1928], belong to the "Never Never"; but they are still to be found on the main beach of Bribie Island, 35 miles from the city of Brisbane.

Historically, Bribie is the most important island in the Bay.  On July 16, 1799, Captain Matthew Flinders landed at Skirmish Point, the first white man to land on Moreton Bay, and this point of Bribie was named by him because of a short and almost harmless engagement he and his boat’s crew had with the natives after landing.  In his sloop Norfolk Flinders made a wonderfully accurate chart of the Bay and islands, but he missed the Brisbane River, which, after an interval of 24 years, was discovered by Oxley.

Map of Bribie Island showing
William Main’s “Unnamed Lakes”.

Source: The Unnamed Lakes of Bribie. The Queenslander, 9 February 1928, p. 8.
   The island was not named.  It simply got to be known as Bribie’s Island, the name of a convict settler who made his home on it for years.

   During recent times the steamers of the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company have made the island accessible four days a week, and a township has been formed at the jetty, in the passage between the island and the mainland.  This township has been named Bongaree, although the name is unknown to most of the visitors.  The passage itself is a famous fishing ground, and was supposed by the explorers to be the mouth of a river, and consequently was named the Pumicestone River, but is now more commonly known to its frequenters as Bribie Passage.  The scenery and sunsets are beautiful, with fine views of the Glass House Mountains in the background.

   The Tug Company of late years has opened a road across the island to the main beach, and established a motor service.  This is the only road on the island, and as the time between arrival and departure is so short it permits little more than a dip in the surf and lunch at the kiosk before returning to the Passage to join the steamer.

   The main beach, stretching over 20 miles north to Caloundra, is practically undiscovered country.  As far as the eye can reach the beach shows an unbroken fringe of casuarinas.  Behind the casuarinas is thick scrub and timber, which, in the south of the island, stretches from the main beach to the Passage.  The road is through timber all the way.  About three miles north of the road the thick scrub forms but a narrow belt, and beyond, for miles and miles, the island is open country, like a Scottish moor, covered with heath, with occasional clumps of banksia and ti-tree.  Instead of grouse, one starts an odd kangaroo or wallaby, and sometimes an emu.  Dingoes are common, as their tracks prove, right down to the shore; but they are seldom seen in daylight.  In the topmost branches of a dead cypress pine, not far from the open country, is an eagle’s nest of many years’ standing.  There are two young eagles in it as I write, and they are bred by larger eagles than can be found in any other part of the world.
How No. 1 lagoon meets the sea in a wet season.
Photo and caption: W. Main

Source: The Nameless Lagoons of Bribie. The Queenslander, 9 February 1928, p. 31.

The Lagoons
   Three miles along the beach, north from the road, there is a break in the casuarina fringe, and No. 1 lagoon opens out.  It is the smallest of the saltwater lakes, but a fine sheet of water at times.  It has but one arm running into it, from the south.  This arm is over two miles long, and joins up with fresh water lagoons and swamps in the wet season, when it becomes a rushing river, breaking through the sand barrier to the sea.  This lagoon broke through in April last year, after being closed for three years, and the photographs were taken at that time.  There is also a photograph showing it closed up again.
No. 1 lagoon closed from the sea.
Photo and caption: W. Main

Source: The Nameless Lagoons of Bribie. The Queenslander, 9 February 1928, p. 31.

No. 2 lagoon.  Photo and caption: W. Main
Source: The Nameless Lagoons of Bribie. The Queenslander, 9 February 1928, p. 31.
   Two miles north of No. 1 lagoon there is a second gap in the coastline, and one comes on a beautiful sheet of water, which is No. 2 lagoon, the largest of the four lagoons along the main beach.  This lagoon has two large feeders, one stretching south until it almost joins the waters of No. 1 lagoon, and in wet weather, draining swamps and numerous fresh water lagoons that join up to make a river, carrying the accumulated rubbish of the island to the sea.  At such times the ocean changes colour, and becomes a sea of mud and debris along the coastline.

  Sometimes, while the break remains open to the sea, fish rush in, and, when closed, the lagoons are full of bream, whiting, and mullet.  They have always eels.  At the last break the fish were not available, and there are few in any of the lagoons this year.  One whiting, caught in No. 2 last year, measured 18in., and scaled 1 lb. 11 oz.  The flavour of the lagoon fish is inferior to the fish caught in the sea.
No. 2 lagoon looking north.
Photo and caption: W. Main.

Source: The Nameless Lagoons of Bribie. The Queenslander, 9 February 1928, p. 31.

The north branch of No. 3 lagoon.
Photo and caption: W. Main

Source: The Nameless Lagoons of Bribie. The Queenslander, 9 February 1928, p. 31.
   Then, two good miles north of No. 2 lagoon, one reaches the gem of the main beach, No. 3 lagoon.  The permanent water in No. 1 and No. 2 lagoons is dark, like strong billy tea; but the water of No. 3 lagoon is clear as crystal, and makes the finest swimming pool imaginable.  It is not more than 10ft. deep in any part, and there is a beautiful island that one can reach by the aid of a friendly sandbank.  The banks are covered with scrub and beautiful trees, with here and there a group of dark cypress pines, stretching above the surrounding bush and forming a delightful contrast to the lighter shades of green.  

The waters of No. 3 lagoon come mostly from the heathland, and at times there are whiting to be caught, if they are in a biting mood.

No. 4 lagoon.
Photo and caption: W. Main

Source: The Nameless Lagoons of Bribie. The Queenslander, 9 February 1928, p. 31.
  The No. 3 lagoon, the beauty of the bunch, entails a 10-mile walk along the beach; but, when the tide is suitable, the sands are firm, and with a day before one there is no need to hurry.
No. 4 lagoon is much the same as No. 2 lagoon.  It has two feeding areas, and is in the neighbourhood where the wild “Christmas bells” bloom in their season.  Unfortunately, “there ain’t no ‘buses running” and it is a long way to carry Christmas bells seven miles, mostly against a south-easter.

   The main beach itself is a mighty attraction, and a plunge in the surf is available at any stage of the journey.  Sometimes there are rare shells to be found; but often the beach is bare.  And what a beach it is – the finest surfing beach in Queensland!  

An Unknown Island. The Unnamed Lakes of Bribie published in The Queenslander, Thursday 9 February 1928, page 8  and the photos The Nameless Lagoons of Bribie appear on page 31 of the same issue.