Moreton Island is a large sand island on the eastern side of Moreton Bay, on the coast of south-east Queensland, Australia. Moreton Island lies northeast of the Queensland capital, Brisbane. The island is 95% National Park and a popular destination for four wheel driving, camping, recreational angling and whale watching. Together with Fraser Island, Moreton Island forms the largest sand structure in the world.
The island was named by Matthew Flinders. At least five lighthouses have been built on the island. A small number of residents live in four small settlements. Tangalooma was the site of a whaling station. Access to the island is by vehicular barge or passenger ferry services. Moreton Island is a popular destination for camping and fishing.
It is one of the wettest parts of the City of Brisbane with precipitation spread evenly throughout the year compared to other parts of South East Queensland. Cape Moreton receives an annual average rainfall of 1,567 mm.
Moreton Island is the traditional home of the Morrgunpin people. The islands contains numerous shell middens, indicating Aboriginal occupation of the island for at least 2000 years. While James Cook named the main headland on the island Cape Moreton on the 17 May 1770, it was Matthew Flinders who, on 31 July 1799, named the island. Castaways Thomas Pamphlett, John Finnegan and Richard Parsons traversed the island in March and April 1823 before heading to the mainland via Stradbroke Island. European residents settled on the island in 1848, after the Sovereign shipwrecked on the island and a pilot station was established at Bulwer. This pilot station was operated until 1909.
At Cape Moreton is Queensland's oldest lighthouse, Cape Moreton Light, which was first lit in 1857. The lighthouse was followed by at least four other lighthouse erected since the 1860s, at Comboyuro Point, North Point, Cowan Cowan Point and Yellow Patch. During World War II, a number of defence installations were installed on the island by the Royal Australian Navy and Australian Army. These sites included anti aircraft guns and mine control buildings. Their purpose was to protect the approaches to the port of Brisbane and at its peak 900 troops were stationed on the island.
Between 1952 and 1962, Tangalooma, on the western side of the island, was the site of Queensland's only whaling station, with humpback whales being harvested on their annual migration north. Each season up to 600 whales were processed with a maximum of 11 whales per day. The site of the whaling station is now the Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort. The flensing plan of the station still exists as part of the resort.
Moreton Island was included in the Greater Brisbane area in 1974. The council initially permitted 60% of the island to potentially be sandmined, however a public outcry lead to the council changing the zoning to open space. The sands on the island contain rutile and zircon. The Queensland Government, led by Joh Bjelke-Petersen supported sandmining on the island and established the Cook Inquiry which produced a report recommending that 94% of the island be banned from mining. Despite this more mining licenses were granted until 1984 when the Federal government announced it would decline export licenses for the island's mineral sands. In 1989, then Premier of Queensland, Wayne Goss halted mining of the island and compensated the companies involved.
A salt-water lagoon on the island was used as a temporary home to a dugong called Pig. Pig was the youngest dugong ever successfully reared in captivity. The dugong was placed in the lagoon to increase its natural instincts before being released into the wild.
Pacific Adventurer Oil Spill
On Wednesday, 11 March 2009, the container ship MV Pacific Adventurer lost bunker oil and cargo north of Moreton Island during heavy seas that were generated by Tropical Cyclone Hamish. The ship reportedly lost 31 containers of ammonium nitrate and as much as 230 tonnes of bunker oil. The spilled bunker oil was washed ashore on beaches along the northern end of Moreton Island including Honeymoon Bay, as well as along Bribie Island and beaches on the Sunshine Coast. These have been deemed disaster areas, although a controversy has arisen as to the lack of early response as well as the refusal to accept offers of help or allow access to clean up the area.
The ship's owners face the possibility of up to $2 million in fines and the skipper could have to pay up to $200,000. They may also be liable for up to $250 million for environmental damage to the shoreline.
Britain's Swire Shipping Ltd., the Hong Kong-registered ship's owner, said containers aboard the ship had slipped from the deck as it rocked in cyclone-stirred waters, ripping a hole in a bunker oil tank and spilling the equivalent of more than 11,000 gallons (42,500 litres) of bunk oil into the sea. Later, the company said a diver's inspection of the hull had led it to conclude the amount of spilled bunk oil was "significantly more" than that, but did not give a replacement figure.