Friday 30 October 2009

History Bites: Cape Grafton and Philip Parker King’s sketch of 1821

CairnsBlog brings you our weekly column, History Bites, a series of historical vignettes, pertinent to our unique and special region.

Produced by Dr Timothy Bottoms, a published and widely respected historian based in Cairns, North Queensland. He has spent ten years researching and writing City of the South Pacific, A History of Cairns.

History Bites is a series of unique and easily readable pieces for CairnsBlog readers. Dr Bottoms is a specialist in Aboriginal and North Queensland history and has wide experience in writing, producing and presenting radio documentaries and music biographies.

Same view as drawn by King in 1821 [John Oxley Library, Neg.No.185931] in 2001 of the eastern side of Cape Grafton, looking S.S-E (taken from latitude 16° 51.12 South, longitude 145° 54.51 East). Cunningham (botanist with King’s expedition) landed in south Mission Bay to the far right of Djilibirri [Cape Grafton].

Philip Parker King in 1821 drew a Sketch of Cape Grafton [the eastern side of its North Point, when looking South South-East]. His eldest son added the erroneous ‘Saddle Hill’, ‘Cairns’ and ‘1817’ date on the 1890s publication.

Phillip Parker King first visited Fitzroy Island in 1819, then two years later on another voyage, Cape Grafton itself. The son obviously misidentified his father’s sketch as the South Point of Cape Grafton Range, ironically now known as ‘King’s Point’ with its adjacent Wide Bay as ‘King Beach’ [1].

Consequently the son’s misidentification had him looking N-W, which required the left background to be today’s Kuranda Range with its Saddle Hill – when, if viewed correctly S.S-E from the North Point, the same background is actually Fitzroy Island. Allan Cunningham, Monday 18th June 1821, [2] recorded that:-

  • The morning was fine, and calm, and moderately warm, our Thermer. Standing at 74 [23.5º C] at 9 [a.m.]…I landed with our Surgeon upon a small Sandy beach in the Bay, with an Intention of returning again on-board at noon, agreeable to Mr.King’s wish, who intended to weigh towards … the Aftn. Or even Earlier, as the wind might be favourable. Some Narrow shaded thickets, the boundary of the beach, which (from the darkness of the recesses) appearing at once interesting, invited me to Explore…

    We saw none of the Aborigines altho’ very recent traces were observed of them, both temporary, as well as more substantial Huts were seen by us, near the beach, the latter being well thatch’d, with leaves of the Calamus of which likewise some of their baskets were constructed.

    Quantities of burnt Shells were strew’d around their fires, the remains of their mussle or cocklefeasts, and a Canoe form’d from the stem of a Tree 12 feet long, with an outrigger and paddles, was found, hauled up among the Mangroves, - a Fishing line and hook made by grinding a shell down, was taken from beneath a Hut.

This is an extract from: A History of Cairns – City of the South Pacific 1770-1995, by Dr Timothy Bottoms, PhD, Central Queensland University, 2002, Photo 2.1, p.72.You can contact Dr Bottoms via email. There is more information on his website.

FOOTNOTES: [1] King, Philip Gidley (1817-1904), Comments on Cook’s Log (H.M.S. Endeavour, 1770) with extracts, charts, and Sketches, G.S. Chapman, Govt . Printer, Sydney, 1891.[2] Information in Cunningham’s diary has been sequentially re-arranged, unlike the original. See Allan Cunningham’s Journal, The John Oxley Library, Microfilm A4-2.

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