Friday, 18 December 2009

History Bites: The Cairns beach

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.


CHSP 3051 (Historical Society of Cairns)
Looking north along the Cairns Esplanade in the 1890s.

The Cairns Beach, which before the First World War, had huge sand spits, some of which ran out over a half a kilometre (⅓ of a mile) and began where the East/West streets joined the Esplanade, can be clearly seen.

The combination of filling in the hollows between the sand dunes that ran north/south, as well as swamps, and the continued use of the dredge TSS Trinity Bay to keep the shipping channels open, was to change the beachfront forever.

In 1919, a local wrote in his diary:

  • “We had a walk along the Town beach as far as the Blacks camp near the mangroves past the Hospital…”

Three years later in 1922 a visiting writer recorded on his arrival at the Strand Hotel ‘on the beach of Cairns’, that

  • “The white beach invited our attention first, and we strolled along it. It stretched like a band of pearl and saffron along the blue water’s rim, dotted with palm trees, with giant fig-trees, and flame trees just bursting into flower.”

However, fourteen years later in 1936, after the dredge had been operating for 23 years, saw the editor of the Bendigo Advertiser, observe of the foreshore at Cairns:

  • “At low tide, however, the receding water leaves a rather unsightly mud flat…oozy, mangrove mud.”


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.

3 comments:

Premdas said...

You are amazing Doctor Tim.

Alison Alloway said...

My grandparents told me about the white sandy beach, and how they would stroll along it in the evenings.

pat said...

I would point out that the Cairns Harbour has been dredged since 1887 and not since the arrival of the (Trinity Bay) dredge as implied by Tim as operating since 1913. There was always sand on the beach and there was always mud and comes to a question of what degree and when. A JCU student did an excellent paper on this subject. The date on the photo shown as the 1890s is incorrect as in 1888 the first embankment on the Esplanade in place to protect it from high tides brought about by the wet seasons season.

Pat