Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Governor Bowen's visit to North Queensland, 1865

The following report from the Brisbane Courier, of Governor Sir George Bowen's trip to North Queensland in 1865, makes for interesting reading:
Queensland's first Governor, Sir George Ferguson Bowen.
Photo:  State Library of Queensland.
His Excellency embarked at the Queen's Wharf, Brisbane, on the afternoon of the 23rd September, and immediately started on his journey. Next day the Platypus crossed the Wide Bay bar, and at the mouth of the Mary River stopped for a short time to take onboard Messrs. Bramston and Douglas from the Leichhardt steamer, which was then lying at anchor in consequence of an accident having occurred to her machinery. 

The Platypus arrived at Keppel Bay on the 25th, and the party went ashore and inspected the pilot station. At five o'clock next evening she ran alongside the Rockhampton wharf, where his Excellency and party disembarked. Nothing of interest occurred during this part of the voyage. There was a detention at Rockhampton for seven days owing to festivities connected with the important ceremony of inaugurating the Northern Railway.

The ship Platypus.  Photo: State Library of Queensland.
The voyage was resumed on Monday the 2nd instant. After threading her way through the tortuous channels between the numerous and picturesque islands along this portion of the coast, the Platypus touched at Port Denison, to land the English mails she had brought on from Rockhampton. On leaving the bay she passed between Gloucester Island and the mainland. This channel is not usually employed by vessels, but in the opinion of the port-master (Lieutenant Heath) it is perfectly safe, an is serviceable at highwater for steamers. 

On the afternoon of the 6th, the party were landed at Cardwell, Rockingham Bay, which was the limit of the trip. His Excellency was enthusiastically received by the inhabitants of the town, and he held a leave there. Cardwell is, properly speaking, situated on the shores of Port Hinchinbrook, and sheltered by Hinchinbrook Island, which is three miles from the mainland, and twenty-three miles in length. The scenery is of a most romantic character, both on the mainland and the island. The country is broken and mountainous, and attains a considerable elevation. 

View of Cardwell, North Queensland, c. 1885.
Photo: State Library of Queensland.
On Hinchinbrook Island the highest peak is 4000 feet above the level of the sea, and is covered with vegetation almost to the top: The island itself is thickly timbered. The climate is pleasant and  cool, and the south-east trades are more regular at Cardwell than to the southward. The harbour is described as one of the most magnificent on the eastern seaboard. It has one drawback - the shallowness of water along the shore, which prevents vessels from landing cargo on the beach; but in a great measure this difficulty is lessened by the softness of the bottom. Small vessels can be beached on a mud flat close inshore, without incurring any danger. The bar is very easy of access, the depth of water is sufficient for large vessels and the anchorage is first-rate. The trade at this port is small at present, on account of the very indifferent means of communication between Cardwell and the back country. During his Excellency's stay a party were out endeavouring to find a better road than the present one, which is difficult to traverse owing to the number and steepness of the "pinches." 

The  Platypus only remained one night at Cardwell. On the morning of the 7th the party went on to Brook Island, which lies about fifteen miles to the eastward of the port. Here the Platypus anchored, and his Excellency and party went ashore for a day's shooting. The sport was excellent - eighty-two birds falling to three guns. The birds were all black and white Torres Straits pigeons, and afforded dainty food to the company for some days. At midnight the anchor was weighed, and the Platypus commenced her return journey. She passed through the Palm Islands, and as the weather was very squally, anchored for a short time under the shelter of the largest of the group. 

On the morning of the 8th she arrived at Cleveland Bay, entering by the channel between Magnetic Island and Cape Many Peaks. Townsville, the name of the town, is situated on the bank of a small stream. Nothing of importance occurred at the time of the visit, but it is evident that the town has made considerable progress for its age. Though it is very little more than twelve months since the first drays arrived from the interior, there are now upwards of 200 inhabitants in Townsville

John Melton Black's house on Melton Hill, Townsville, c. 1865.
Photo:  State Library of Queensland.
The site of the town is good, excepting a portion of which lies very low. There is a scarcity of fresh water in the neighbourhood, but at a creek some two or three miles distant there is always plenty in ordinary season. In consequence of the long drought, the lagoons were nearly dried up. Water is something obtained from wells sunk
near the beach. The port is a convenient place for small coasting craft, which can lie alongside a steep bank in the creek. Large vessels can find a safe  anchorage in the open bay. At low tide there is only eighteen inches of water on the bar at the mouth of the creek, but the rise and fall of the tide is ten feet, with eleven feet at spring tides. His Excellency remained on shore all night, and on the following morning the Platypus got under-way for Port Denison