The separation of North and South Stradbroke Island

North Stradbroke Island, Minjerribah is Quandamooka land. The Government of Australia proclaimed Native Title to the area on 4 July 2011.

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

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.

Image of Jumpin Pin before the separation of North Stradbroke and South Stradbroke
Jumpinpin c.1893, also known as The Pin, became a channel between North and South Stradbroke islands following tidal erosion between 1896 and 1898. The name Jumpinpin is though to be a Yugambeh word meaning ‘Pandanus root’. The channel formed due to weather and gradual erosion, exacerbated by the detonation of explosives from the Cambus Wallace; ITM436335

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.

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 managed to swim. 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.

Image of the ship Cambus Wallace which wrecked on the shores of Stradbroke Island
The Cambus Wallace left Glasgow, Scotland, in May 1894, on her maiden voyage. The steel Basque was en route to Moreton Bay with salt, whiskey and dynamite. It was to then return to Scotland with Queensland wool. Terrible weather caused the ship to run aground 200 metres offshore from Stradbroke Island and six crew members perished. Parts of the ship were used to form a memorial for the sailors lost at Jumpinpin. The memorial was washed away as the channel widened and there are reports the ship was looted after it was wrecked. A fund was soon set up to assist the surviving sailors. The Cambus Wallace Fund was quickly acquitted by the public, allowing the shipwrecked sailors to receive much-needed financial assistance; ITM435759

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.

Image of the salvage operation for the Cambus Wallace on the shores of Stradbroke Island
Salvaging the cargo of the Cambus Wallace, 1894. Within 12 hours the ship was mostly broken up. The remains were auctioned off later in September of that year; ITM436348
News article from the Brisbane Courier, listing the auction items salvaged from the Cambus Wallace wreckage
Auction listing from the Brisbane Courier, 25 September 1894

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.

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. 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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