Saturday 15 April 2023

Is it just a piece of driftwood or a relic

 The following article was published in the Bribie Times on 21 November 1986 and refers to a piece of driftwood that was found by Bribie Times staff member and photographer Terry Scarborough. The question posed - is it just a piece of driftwood or a relic from an old ship?

When is a lump of wood, not a lump of wood?

by Wes Thomas B.Sc.

Bribie Times, 21 Nov 1986 p. 6

When is a lump of wood, not a lump of wood! When it is a relic - that's when - and, possibly local photographer Terry Scarborough, has found just that. And not just any old relic either. It is in the right place to be a part of Flinder's boat, the "Norfolk" and it is certainly very old.

Now, before we get too involved in this, let us get a few things straight and, with that idea in mind, we turned to Stan Tutt. Stan is a noted writer and an authority on matters such as this (by the way, Stan has a book coming out in a few weeks time and it will be worth having at hand).

Stan Tutt told us that the relic was in the correct place to make it possible to be associated with Flinder's journies in Moreton Bay. Apparently, early in 1799, Flinders set out in "The Norfolk" to explore the northern coastline but ran into storms which created a serious leak in the ship, Stan outlined the story and referred us to the chronicles of Thomas Welsby.

Thomas Welsby's lifespan straddled the last half of the nineteenth century and the first third of this century [20th]. His talents inclined him to the recording of early history and, in particular, the explorations of Matthew Flinders. His records were gathered together by Thomson in the 1960s and published under the title "The Collected Works of Thomas Welsby" (Jacaranda Press, 1967, Edited by A.K. Thomson). In these volumes we discovered the facts.

Imagine the relief of the crew of the "Norfolk"when they discovered the sheltered waters of Moreton Bay after the battering that they had taken along the southeastern coast. On the afternoon of 16th July 1799, they passed into the Bay and anchored off the southwestern point of what is now Bribie Island. In the morning, Flinders and an aboriginal interpreter named Bongaree (from Sydney) and a few others went ashore. There was a party of natives on the Point and communication was at first friendly but, after receiving presents, they made an attack and one of them was wounded by gunfire.

We may be proud to have an important commercial centre on our Island known as Bongaree. Because of the representations by this remarkable man, the relations between these two isolated groups of people became friendly and Flinders stayed over a fortnight. Of course, they were all anxious to repair the leak, so the vessel was brought more around the point to a place where there was a "small beach close to which the depth was seven fathoms".

This, and other references quoted by Thomas Welsby make it clear that the site of these repairs was a locality we now know as ... [see Editor's Note] ...

That is where this ancient timbering in the form of a ship's plank has been found.

The relic discovred by Bribie Times photographer
& Advertising Manager, Terry Scarborough, November 1986.

A sentence from the writings of Thomas Welsby leaps out - "I wonder if any relics of Flinder's visit will ever turn up on the island frontage where thesloop was repaired". I wonder indeed.

Stay with us to learn about the steps that are being taken to investigate the possibility. Stay with us also to find out if we have got our history straight. For example, is the present day nomenclature with respect to Skirmish Point correct? And what happened to the key man in this situation - the man called Bongaree?

One thing I feel certain about - those men of the "Norfolk" enjoyed their stay while the vessel was being repaired. More about that too - Bribie Island's first tourists --- 187 years and 5 months ago.

Editor's Note: Upon the request of the Queensland Museum, we have withheld naming the vicinity of the relic to protect it against vandalism and sourvenir-hunters. Please, if you have sufficient knowledge of Bribie's history to work out its general location, we implore you not to interfere with it until the Museum can get to it once their work on the "Pandora" is finished in North Queensland. Also be advised that the relic has been officially reported to the Museum and now comes under the ownership and protection of that august body. Any interference with the relic will result in severe penalties to any offenders! 


Lifeboat Bribie [backgrounder series of articles] by Wes Thomas B.Sc.
Bribie Times, Friday November 21, 1986 page 6.