Shoalwater Bay

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Freshwater Bay in September 1999.jpg
Freshwater Bay in the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area
Shoalwater Bay in the north of the Capricorn coast region
RegionCentral Queensland
Basin features
Protection status
Official nameShoalwater and Corio Bays
Designated1 March 1996
Reference no.792[1]

Shoalwater Bay is a large bay on the Capricorn Coast of Central Queensland, Australia 100 km north of the coastal town of Yeppoon and 628 km north-north-west of the state capital, Brisbane. Since 1966, the land surrounding Shoalwater Bay has been under the ownership of the Australian Defence Force, for the purpose of military training exercises. Shoalwater Bay is also a noted dugong habitat and is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.[2] The bay is bounded by the Torilla Peninsula to the west and the Warginburra Peninsula and Leicester and Townshend islands to the east.


The first recorded European to sight Shoalwater Bay was British navigator James Cook on 28 May 1770. Cook referred to the entire region, from Cape Palmerston (south of Mackay) to Cape Townshend, including Shoalwater Bay, as the "Bay of Inlets", a name which is no longer in use.[2] Cook bestowed the name "Shoalwater Bay" on the southeasternmost of these bays, a reference to the number of sandbars in the bay. Following Cook, Matthew Flinders conducted further exploration of Shoalwater Bay in 1802, landing on Akens Island (a small island on the western side of Shoalwater Bay) and exploring the head of the bay. Flinders described the land as such:

The hills are stony, but some of them are clothed with grass and wood, and the pine grows in the gullies between them. The low land is sandy or stony, but covered with wood & herbage. Fresh water stands in ponds at the foot of the hills.

Settlement of the Rockhampton region commenced in 1853. By 1860, vast areas of the Shoalwater Bay region has been claimed by settlers. This settlement resulted in the dispersal—often violently—of the traditional inhabitants of Shoalwater Bay, the Darumbal people.

Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area[edit]

An ASLAV from the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment at the Shoalwater Bay training area

The Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area encompasses 4,545 km2, which includes the Warginburra Peninsula, the Torilla Peninsula east of the Stanage Bay Road, Townshend and Leicester Islands, and a sizable chunk of the Shoalwater Bay hinterland north of the village of Byfield. Suggestions that the Shoalwater Bay region be acquired for the purpose of a training ground first appeared in 1960. The army formally took control of the land on 1 July 1965; by the following year, the last landholder had vacated his property. The training area was used by troops who were deployed to the Vietnam War.[3]

In 2005 the federal government entered into a long-term agreement with the US over the use of Shoalwater Bay for military training purposes. Similar agreements over a shorter time span have been agreed to with the Singapore Ministry of Defence.[4]

Military exercises with team United States have aroused considerable controversy in the Rockhampton-Yeppoon area, due to the threat of environmental damage to the Shoalwater Bay region. In recent years, concern has been raised about the possibility of depleted uranium weaponry been used during training exercises at Shoalwater Bay.[5] Peace activists protesting Exercise Talisman Saber were arrested in 2009.[6]

Support for a permanent US presence has been expressed by the former Rockhampton mayor, Brad Carter in 2011,[7] and by current mayor, Margaret Strelow.[3]

August 7, 2017: "The Australian Navy has located a missing US military aircraft that crashed off Australia's east coast on Saturday, Defense Minister Marise Payne said in a statement Monday. Three US Marines have been missing since what the Marine Corps calls a "mishap" with an MV-22 aircraft. Twenty-three of the 26 personnel on board the aircraft were rescued, the Corps said."


The bay contains one of the most important seagrass habitats in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. A plan of management for the bay's dugong population was released in 1997 to protect the dugong population and reduce impacts on the seagrass meadows.[8]

Important Bird Area[edit]

A 483 km2 area of the bay and its surrounds, covering all the habitat types suitable for migratory waders, or shorebirds, has been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because it supports over 1% of the world populations of pied oystercatchers, Far Eastern curlews and grey-tailed tattlers, and over 1% of the East Asian – Australasian Flyway populations of bar-tailed godwits, whimbrels and Terek sandpipers. It also contains populations of beach stone-curlews and mangrove honeyeaters.[9]

In popular culture[edit]

  • It is also mentioned in the video game ARMA 2, when a USMC private named Kowalski mentions he had a fun time with the "Aussies at Shoalwater Bay".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Shoalwater and Corio Bays". Ramsar Sites Information Service. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b Captain Cook's Journal during his first voyage round the world Archived 17 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine. James Cook. Chapter 8: "Exploration of East Coast of Australia". April 1770.
  3. ^ a b "Shoalwater Bay to benefit from US military deal: mayor". ABC News Online. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 8 July 2004. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  4. ^ "Australia and Singapore Sign Shoalwater Bay Training Base Agreement". DefenseTalk. 24 August 2005. Retrieved 22 May 2011.
  5. ^ (6 June 2005). Mayor seeks depleted uranium reassurance. ABC News Online. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  6. ^ Paul Robinson & Maria Hatzakis (13 July 2009). "Military watches for Shoalwater Bay trespassers". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 22 May 2011.
  7. ^ "Mayor canvasses permanent Shoalwater Bay defence presence". ABC Capricornia. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 22 May 2011.
  8. ^ "Shoalwater Bay (Dugong) Plan of Management". Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Retrieved 22 May 2011.
  9. ^ "IBA: Shoalwater Bay (Rockhampton)". Birdata. Birds Australia. Retrieved 2011-10-09.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cosgrove, B. (1996). Shoalwater Bay: Settlers in a Queensland Wilderness. Central Queensland University Press, Rockhampton. ISBN 1-875998-16-0.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 22°25′00″S 150°25′00″E / 22.41667°S 150.41667°E / -22.41667; 150.41667