A Violent Separation

Until the late 19th century, Stradbroke was a single island but together, an unforeseen shipwreck and Mother Nature would change it forever - forming twin barriers between Moreton Bay and the mighty Pacific Ocean.

By Queensland State Archives

Parish map of Stradbroke Island (1927-09-05/1927-09-05) by Beenleigh Shire CouncilQueensland State Archives

For thousands of years, Stradbroke Island, Minjerribah, was occupied by Aboriginal family groups including two distinct tribes – Noonuccal and Goenpul – of the Quandamooka people, who lived in the area around Moreton Bay.

View of the Gorge at Point Lookout, Stradbroke Island (1965-02-01/1965-02-28) by Premier's Department, State Public Relations Bureau, Photographic UnitQueensland State Archives

Captain Cook, who named Point Lookout in 1770, had assumed Stradbroke Island was part of the mainland.    

Matthew Flinders and, 24 years later, John Oxley both surveyed Stradbroke, and the island was given its English name by Governor Darling – the chief administrator of the colony of New South Wales – in July 1827, after the Earl of Stradbroke.    

Scottish ship the Cambus Wallace (1894-01-01/1894-12-31) by Premier and Chief Secretary's DepartmentQueensland State Archives

On 3 September 1894, the ship Cambus Wallace, from Glasgow, washed ashore on Stradbroke Island near an area called Jumpinpin. The ship had run into incessantly bad weather off the Tasmanian Coast and had been unable to locate their position.    

When they saw sunshine again at last, it was on the shores of Stradbroke Island, to which several of the crew attempted to swim.    

The gravestone for the victims of the Cambus Wallace wreck (1895-01-01/1895-12-31) by Premier and Chief Secretary's Department, State Public Relations Bureau, Photographic UnitQueensland State Archives

Five of the crewmen drowned, and another made it to shore but died later due to his injuries. All six were buried on the island.    

Salvage of the cargo from Cambus Wallace Wreck, Stradbroke Island (1894-01-01/1894-12-31) by Premier and Chief Secretary's Department, State Public Relations Bureau, Photographic UnitQueensland State Archives

In the weeks following the wreck, the salvage operation for the ship’s cargo increased the foot traffic on the sand dunes. 

Explosives from the Cambus Wallace were piled together and detonated in bulk. Both factors contributed to the weakening of the sand dunes along the already narrow spit of land.    

Jumpinpin beach before the channel was formed between North and South Stradbroke Island (1890-01-01/1890-12-31) by Premier and Chief Secretary's Department, State Public Relations Bureau, Photographic UnitQueensland State Archives

During the spring of 1896, tidal erosion and storms weakened the sand dunes further. On 8 and 9 May 1898, strong gales and very high tides brought the island to breaking point. A deep, wide channel was created and continued to extend south due to additional erosion in subsequent years. 

Parish map of Stradbroke Island (1927-09-05/1927-09-05) by Beenleigh Shire CouncilQueensland State Archives

The Brisbane Courier reported on 18 May 1898 that "A channel has been cut right through Stradbroke Island at Jumpinpin." The break was roughly 640 metres (700 yards) wide, and through it the sea rushed in towards the mangrove islands of Moreton Bay.      

When one becomes two

The sand dunes, the graves of the mariners from the Cambus Wallace and Jumpinpin were all washed away in the rupture. What remained is the channel at Jumpinpin that now marks the division between North and South Stradbroke islands. 

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