Curtis Island, Queensland

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Curtis Island
Sea Hill Lighthouse. Curtis Island, Australia, May 2011.jpg
Sea Hill Lighthouse, Curtis Island, 2011
Curtis Island is located in Queensland
Curtis Island
Curtis Island
Coordinates23°37′01″S 151°09′11″E / 23.6169°S 151.1530°E / -23.6169; 151.1530Coordinates: 23°37′01″S 151°09′11″E / 23.6169°S 151.1530°E / -23.6169; 151.1530
Population323 (2016 census)[1]
 • Density0.4779/km2 (1.2377/sq mi)
Area675.9 km2 (261.0 sq mi)
LGA(s)Gladstone Region
State electorate(s)Gladstone
Federal Division(s)Flynn
Suburbs around Curtis Island:
Coral Sea Coral Sea Coral Sea
The Narrows Curtis Island Coral Sea
Targinnie Callemondah
Gladstone Harbour

Curtis Island is a locality in the Gladstone Region, Queensland, Australia.[2] In the 2016 census, Curtis Island had a population of 323 people.[1] The towns of Beachton and Southend are within the locality.[3][4]


Curtis Island occupies almost all of the island from which it takes its name, except for a very small area in the south of the island which is included in the locality of Gladstone Harbour. Most of the island is protected from development. Most of ocean-facing eastern side of the island is within either the Curtis Island National Park or the Curtis Island Conservation Park. Most of the mainland-facing western side of the island is within the Curtis Island State Forest.[5]

Beachton is on the northern-western coast of the island (23°29′20″S 150°58′44″E / 23.489°S 150.979°E / -23.489; 150.979 (Beachton, Queensland)),[3] while Southend is on the south-eastern coast of the island (23°45′24″S 151°18′40″E / 23.7567°S 151.311°E / -23.7567; 151.311 (Southend, Queensland)).[4] Beachton has some housing along the beachfront but many of its blocks of land are undeveloped, whereas most of the town lots in Southend are developed.[5]

On the south western coast there is an industrial area consisting of three liquid natural gas facilities (23°45′54″S 151°11′53″E / 23.7650°S 151.1980°E / -23.7650; 151.1980 (Curtis Island liquid natural gas facilities)) with port facilities for export.[5][6][7] On the south-eastern coast there is the small town of Southend (23°45′24″S 151°18′38″E / 23.7566°S 151.3105°E / -23.7566; 151.3105 (Southend)) on a peninsula at the confluence of Gladstone Harbour and the Coral Sea.[4]

The waterway between the mainland and Curtis Island is known as The Narrows.[8] It is 27 kilometres (17 mi) long narrow strait. It connects Gladstone Harbour to Keppel Bay (the mouth of the Fitzroy River). However, it is very shallow and in some places it can be crossed at low tide. It is mainly used for recreational activities, including fishing.[9][10]

There are two lighthouses on the island:


Cape Capricorn was named by Captain Cook when he passed on 25 May 1770, since he found it to be located on the Tropic of Capricorn (which was located at 23°28′15″ in 1770).[11] The modern surveyed location of its endpoint is just slightly south of the present tropic.

The locality takes its name from the island, which in turn was named after Port Curtis (the original name for the Gladstone area) which was named by Matthew Flinders on 1 August 1802, after Vice Admiral Sir Roger Curtis, a commanding British Admiral at Capetown who had assisted Flinders with repairs to HMS Investigator in October 1801.[12]

The Canoona gold rush in 1858 attracted many people to the Rockhampton area. However, many ships encountered difficulties negotiating the many sand bars at the entrance to the Fitzroy River, so a pilot station was requested in 1862. The first pilot station is believed to have been established at Cape Capricorn but later was moved to Grassy Hill (23°27′56″S 151°01′34″E / 23.4656°S 151.0261°E / -23.4656; 151.0261 (Grassy Hill)) in 1864.[13][14]

In 1865 Sea Hill (23°29′13″S 150°59′43″E / 23.48694°S 150.99528°E / -23.48694; 150.99528 (Sea Hill)) was chosen as the site for a quarantine station for ships entering the Fitzroy River, but no quarantine station was constructed there until July 1873 when the ship Countess Russell arrived with 15 cases of typhoid fever on board, resulting in a temporary hospital being established.[15] Those who died were buried in the Keppel Bay Cemetery (to the north-west of the present lighthouse). Over 500 Chinese people were quarantined at Sea Hill due to a smallpox outbreak in 1877.[16] In 1878 the problems with mosquitoes and sandflies resulted in the quarantine station being relocated to Mackenzie Island (23°30′39″S 150°51′51″E / 23.51083°S 150.86417°E / -23.51083; 150.86417 (Mackenzie Island)).[13][17][18]

A lighthouse to guide ships into the Fitzroy river was requested in 1864,[19] but it was until the early 1870s that the first Sea Hill lighthouse was constructed.[20] The first Cape Carpricorn Lighthouse was built in 1874.[21]

The Monte Cristo pastoral station was established in the 1860s by John Bonar Peter Hamilton Ramsay (nicknamed ‘Alphabetical’ Ramsay due to the number of his Christian names) and two partners. They raised cattle and bred horses. They took advantage of the shallowness of the Narrows to cross their animals to the mainland at low tide at a point that became known as Ramsay's Crossing.[10] This practice continued until 2014 when the pastoral station was sold to be developed as a gas plant.[22]

The coastal steamer also travelled between Gladstone and Rockhampton via The Narrows but this could only be done at high tide.[10]

Author Rosa Campbell Praed lived on Curtis Island. On 29 October 1872 she married Arthur Campbell Praed,[23] a nephew of the poet Winthrop Mackworth Praed. She described living with him on his property on Curtis Island, "an existence of terrifying hardship and loneliness".[24] Spender says that "The years which she spent on Curtis Island and which played such a crucial part in determining her values – and her voice – could hardly be described as middle-class, indulgent or privileged".[25] She recreates her life at this time in her novel, An Australian Heroine (1880). It was also during her time on Curtis Island that she turned to spiritualism.[26]

The Town of Southend first appears on 1922 survey plan S7341.[4] In February 1923, the first 20 blocks of land were offered as 15-year leases.[27]

In 1964, it was proposed to relocate the population of the island of Nauru to Curtis Island. By that time, Nauru had been extensively mined for phosphate by companies from Australia, Britain and New Zealand damaging the landscape so much that it was through the island would be uninhabitable by the 1990s. Rehabilitating the island was seen as financially impossible. In 1962, Australian Prime Minister, Bob Menzies, said that the three countries involving in the mining had an obligation to provide a solution for the Nuauran people, and proposed finding a new island for the Nauruan people. In 1963, the Australian Government proposed to acquire all the land on Curtis Island (which was considerably larger than Nauru) and then offer the Nauruans freehold title over the island and that the Nauruans would become Australian citizens.[28][29] The costs of resettling the Nauruans on Curtis Island was estimated to be £10 million, which included housing and infrastructure and the establishment of pastoral, agricultural, and fishing industries.[30] However, the Nauruan people did not wish to become Australian citizens and wanted to be given sovereignty over Curtis Island in order to establish themselves as an independent nation, which Australia would not agree to.[31] Nauru rejected the proposal to move to Curtis Island,[32] instead choosing to become an independent nation (a process completed in 1968) operating their own mines in Nauru (acquired in 1967). In 1989, Nauru took legal action against Australia in the International Court of Justice over Australia's failure to remedy the environmental damage caused by phosphate mining resulting in an out-of-court settlement to rehabilitate the mined-out areas of Nauru.[33][34]

Heritage listings[edit]

Curtis Island has a number of heritage-listed sites, including:


There are no bridges to Curtis Island.[5] As at April 2019, a vehicular and passenger ferry runs services from Gladstone to Southend via Farmers Point on Facing Island on 5 days of the week.[35]


  1. ^ a b Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Curtis Island (SSC)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 20 October 2018. Edit this at Wikidata
  2. ^ "Curtis Island - locality in Gladstone Region (entry 47384)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Beachton - town in Gladstone Region (entry 48141)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d "Southend - town in the Gladstone Region (entry 31557)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d "Queensland Globe". State of Queensland. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  6. ^ "The Queensland Curtis LNG Project". QGC. Archived from the original on 5 November 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  7. ^ "GLNG". 1 November 2011. Archived from the original on 7 June 2008. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  8. ^ "The Narrows - a channel in the Gladstone Region (entry 34032)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 5 April 2019.
  9. ^ "The Narrows". Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership. Archived from the original on 5 April 2019. Retrieved 5 April 2019.
  10. ^ a b c "Ramsay Crossing" (PDF). Gladstone Regional Council. Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 April 2019. Retrieved 5 April 2019.
  11. ^ Captain Cook's Journal During the First Voyage Round the World at Project Gutenberg
  12. ^ "Curtis island - island in the Gladstone Region (entry 9101)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  13. ^ a b Bevis, Mary (24 March 2014). "Keeping island's history alive". Gladstone Observer. Archived from the original on 1 April 2019. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  14. ^ "Grassy Hill - hill in Gladstone Region (entry 14662)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  15. ^ "Sea Hill - hill in the Gladstone Region (entry 30312)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  16. ^ "Current News". The Queenslander. XII (85). Queensland, Australia. 31 March 1877. p. 8. Retrieved 1 April 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  17. ^ "Mackenzie Island - island in the Shire of Livingstone (entry 20452)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  18. ^ "NEW SOUTH WALES". Rockhampton Bulletin. XIX (2796). Queensland, Australia. 22 March 1877. p. 2. Retrieved 1 April 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  19. ^ "ROCKHAMPTON". Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay And Burnett Advertiser. IV (169). Queensland, Australia. 11 February 1864. p. 1 (Maryborough Chronicle, SUPPLEMENT). Retrieved 1 April 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  20. ^ a b "Little Sea Hill Lighthouse (entry 602784)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  21. ^ a b "Cape Capricorn Lightstation (entry 601723)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  22. ^ "The end of an era". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 11 December 2014. Archived from the original on 5 April 2019. Retrieved 5 April 2019.
  23. ^ Tiffin, Chris. "Praed, Rosa Caroline (1851–1935)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  24. ^ Spender (1988) p. 210
  25. ^ Spender (1988) p. 211
  26. ^ Spender (1988) p. 212
  27. ^ "Government Sales". Worker. 33 (1656). Queensland, Australia. 1 February 1923. p. 17. Retrieved 1 April 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  28. ^ "Island Purchase For Nauruans". The Canberra Times. 38 (10, 840). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 6 May 1964. p. 5. Retrieved 1 April 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  29. ^ "Nauruans Likely To Settle Curtis Island". The Canberra Times. 37 (10, 549). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 30 May 1963. p. 9. Retrieved 1 April 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  30. ^ McAdam, Jane (15 August 2016). "How the entire nation of Nauru almost moved to Queensland". The Conversation. Archived from the original on 1 April 2019. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  31. ^ "Lack Of Sovereignty 'Disappoints' Nauruans". The Canberra Times. 37 (10, 554). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 5 June 1963. p. 45. Retrieved 1 April 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  32. ^ "Nauru not to take Curtis Is". The Canberra Times. 38 (10, 930). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 21 August 1964. p. 3. Retrieved 1 April 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  33. ^ Highet, K; Kahale, H (1993). "Certain Phosphate Lands in Nauru". American Journal of International Law. 87 (2): 282–288. doi:10.2307/2203821. JSTOR 2203821. Archived from the original on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2008.
  34. ^ Case Concerning Certain Phosphate Lands in Nauru (Nauru v. Australia) Application: Memorial of Nauru. ICJ Pleadings, Oral Arguments, Documents. United Nations, International Court of Justice. January 2004. ISBN 978-92-1-070936-1.
  35. ^ "Ferry Timetables". Curtis Ferry Services. Archived from the original on 5 April 2019. Retrieved 5 April 2019.


  • Spender, Dale (1988) "Rosa Praed: Original Australian Writer" in Adelaide, Debra (ed) (1988) A Bright and Fiery Troop, Ringwood, Penguin

External links[edit]

Media related to Curtis Island at Wikimedia Commons