There are many interesting things about Magnetic Island that you might not know about, so here are a few facts to impress friends and/or family with....

Fact #1

Did you know that there are more than 20 known Shipwrecks around Magnetic Island? Some of these wrecks are located in areas suitable for snorkelling, some are totally exposed at low tide, some have created artificial islands. To name but a few...

The George Rennie Hawkings Point - The George Rennie (1885 - 1902) was a steel hulled ship scuttled in the lee of Hawking Point, Magnetic Island, Queensland. It was built in Middlesex as a 151 gross tonne paddle steamer but in 1896 was converted into a lighter, transporting coal to Townsville harbour. It was scuttled in 1902 to serve as a breakwater for a small jetty in the bay. The remains of the ship can still be seen at lowtide from Picnic Bay Beach.

George Rennie wreck exposed at low tide. (Above)

The Adelaide found in Cockle Bay near Picnic Bay, The Adelaide was a large vessel, 77 metres long and 842 tons in weight. She was built in Glasgow in 1864 and according to James Porter's Discovering Magnetic Island, "... was used by the Australian Steam Navigation Company in passenger service between Melbourne and later to Honolulu and San Francisco, until 1885". Later she was converted to a four masted sailing barque, by removing her engines and boilers. Eventually she was bought by the Howard Smith Company in Townsville, who used her as a coal hulk for ten years. In 1912 her cargo caught fire and burned for several days before being extinguished.

 

NB: In 2008 two German tourists thought it would be a clever idea to try and drive accross the mudflats in their hire-car, to reach the wreck of the City of Adelaide. It turned out not to be such a clever idea as their vehicle ended up 3m underwater. But luckily Get Around Island Boat Tours came to the rescue and towed the sunken vehicle out of the murky depths!

The Platypus II Iron dredge, 181 tons. Built in Scotland, 1883. Lbd 189 x 38.7 x 14.2 ft. Used to create the shipping channel in Cleveland Bay and is now jammed into a rocky cove at a depth of 3 to 8 metres, at Arthur Bay. The huge steam boilers are still intact and it is now home to large schools of Angelfish, Parrotfish and Batfish.

SS Moltke has earned the title of most-dived wreck both due to its accessibility and interesting history.

SMS Moltke (Above)

Argonaut II Auxiliary ketch, 178 tons. Built 1947. Destroyed by fire while anchored in Horseshoe Bay.

The Peruvian - Muriel Pithkethley - which sank in Cleveland Bay 1846 and the survivor was James Morrill. "An hour before dawn...she crashed onto an outlying spur of reef...there was a terrible surf...and it was very soon evident that the bark was doomed...for within 10 minutes a mighty sea lifted her up bodily a let her down so heavily that the whole starboard side of the bottom was crushed like egg shells... and wave after wave swept over the decks..."

Very interesting account of the fateful events can be read in this article published August 7, 1904, New York Times PDF:-

http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9502E1D81E3BE631A25754C0A96E9C946597D6CF

 

Florence Elliot Ketch, 53 tons. Built 1878; reg. Hobart. Sank November 1898

Stella Maris Originally a Royal Navy gunboat, was last owned in 1917 by the Halifax Trading & Sealing Co. (Farquhar & Co.) After having been wrecked in ice, Captain Farquhar purchased the vessel and re-named her.

Recent Wrecks

The Island's coral reefs, wild weather and rocky bays have long conspired against many yachts and boats - and if there's one lesson to learn its that you can't take any of it for granted! Recent storms have managed to make wrecks out of some unsuspecting yachts in Horseshoe Bay, as these photos can testify Not forgetting... an hour or two boat ride from Magnetic Island is the most famous wreck in this region - the Yongala off Cape Bowling Green, quoted as the best wreck dive in Australia and one of the top 5 in the World.

Fact #2

A continental island composed mostly of granite, it was once part of the mainland before the sea level rose about 7500 years ago.

Fact #3

The Wulgurukaba people, the "canoe people", lived on the island and nearby mainland for thousands of years. Shell middens, stone tools and art sites are physical reminders of their strong connection with the island. Visit the Wulgurukaba website for more info.

Fact #4

The island was named by Captain Cook during his 1770 voyage when he believed the island's landmass was affecting his compass.

Fact #5

Magnetic Island was once a quarantine station for the port of Townsville. In 1875 Magnetic Island was set aside as a place of quarantine - tents were set up on the beach at Picnic Bay. In 1884 the first permanent buildings for the quarantine station were constructed at West Point. In 1896 much of the station was damaged by Cyclone Sigma. Eventually it was decided that West Point was not a very practical location as water was difficult to obtain and it was a long way from the Doctors and inaccessible in the rainy season due to flooding. The final straw came when Cyclone Leonta, in 1903, pretty much wiped out the station and in 1916 it was decided that the quarantine station should be rebuilt on the mainland at Pallarenda, a northern suburb of Townsville that stretched along the coast. The station remained in service until 1973. It is now open to the public and known as Cape Pallarenda Conservation Park. I'd recommend those interested in Australian History and/or Medicine & Tropical Disease pay a visit - entry to the park is free and there are fascinating artefacts on display from its days as a quarantine station. Many original buildings remain, which are open to the public, there is a lovely walk that takes you through the vicinity, and there is also a cemetery where those who died in quarantine were laid to rest.

 

Pallarenda Quarentine Station (Above)

Fact #6

Magnetic Island was once a coastal defences HQ during World War II. Magnetic Island's WWII forts are listed on the Queensland Heritage Register and are among the best examples of such fortifications on Queensland's east coast. One of the best walks on the Island - The Forts walk - 4km return (1.5 hours) From the turn-off to Radical Bay, this track ascends, sometimes steeply, to follow a ridge behind the bays before arriving at the ruins of the Forts complex operated during World War II. This is also a great walk for children to do because they will love climbing into the old bunkers, ammo stores, look-out posts. Koalas are often seen on this walk too, and there are some spectacular views to be seen along the way. Look out for "fake" boulders - cleverly created to as a camouflage for the WW2 base to look like big rocks. You can have fun spotting which boulders are real or not - the fake ones often have wire mesh visible from the side or markings in the concrete!

Townsville became an important base in Australia for troops from Australia and the United States and Cleveland Bay, Between Magnetic Island and Townsville became an important assembly point for supplies and military boats alike. To ensure the assembling fleets were safe from enemy attack a large military facility, The Forts, as the remaining remnants are now known by, was built on Magnetic Island. It included two Sperry 3,000,000 candle power searchlights located at Horseshoe and Florence Bays, a radar screen in the hills above Arthur Bay operated by the 13th Australian Radar Unit and two gun emplacements overlooking the southern entrance to Cleveland Bay (the northern entrance is too shallow for large ships to navigate) as well as the facilities to support these and the detachments assigned to look after these facilities.

The two guns located at Magnetic Island were promptly removed following the war but are one of the most controversial issues surrounding the history of The Forts. It is often contested whether either of the guns ever fired a shot. It is well known that the guns never fired on an enemy vessel; however, it is believed, although not confirmed, that the gun facing the harbour entrance did fire on a boat which was not flying any colours. Information signs around the guns claim that the gun fired a shot "in mild astonishment" when a US navy boat "arrived unannounced".

Fact #7

Pineapple farming was once Magnetic Island's primary source of income and covered much of Nelly Bay, Arcadia and Horseshoe Bay. Many locals still cultivate Pineapples in their own backyards.

Fact #8

Just over half of this large island (2533ha) is protected as Magnetic Island National Park. The island is mostly covered with open eucalypt woodland of bloodwoods, stringybarks and grey ironbarks. Hoop pines and native kapok are found on the headlands, and rainforest is found in sheltered gullies.

 

Fact #9

The island has its own online newspaper full of local events past and present go to http://www.magnetictimes.com