4.3.1 Historic voyages and shipwrecks
As an island nation, ships and shipping activity have played a pivotal role in Australia’s history. The northeast coast is an unavoidable part of the route between Australia’s eastern ports and much of the rest of the world, forcing ships to travel either inside or outside the Great Barrier Reef. The hazards of operating ships through the maze of reefs have amplified the historical maritime significance of the Region. A number of significant voyages of discovery were made through the Great Barrier Reef during the colonial period of Australia’s history, especially to chart the coast and reefs. Some of the more significant voyages are summarised in Table 4.1. Throughout Australia’s history, navigating the Great Barrier Reef has been recognised as a treacherous undertaking, especially during the era of sail when accurate charts were not available. Of the more than 1300 historic shipwrecks known to be in Queensland waters19, the majority are likely to be located in the Region (Figure 4.1). Research continues to locate known wrecks in the Region and new wrecks are discovered regularly. Shipwrecks and their associated relics older than 75 years (termed historic shipwrecks) are protected through the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 (Cth), regardless of whether their location is known. More recent shipwrecks may also be declared as historic and protected under the Act if they are considered significant. Historic shipwrecks are protected for their heritage values and maintained for recreational, scientific and educational purposes. Most historic shipwreck sites can be accessed, but relics must not be removed from the wreck or the surrounding site and the physical fabric of the wreck must not be disturbed, for example through anchor damage.
Figure 4.1 Shipwrecks
There are several hundred shipwrecks in the Region which are over 75 years old, including six with a declared protected zone which may only be entered with permission. Source: Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection
table 4.1 historic voyages of discovery
european explorer Date
Some of the voyages of great significance to Australia’s early colonial history travelled through the Great Barrier Reef. Significance
Louis de Bougainville Lieutenant James Cook Many significant voyages of discovery sailed through the Region.
First European to sight the Great Barrier Reef First European to navigate inside the Great Barrier Reef up to Lizard Island where he left the inner Reef to avoid what he called the ‘labyrinth’ After a mutiny on HMB Bounty, Bligh and 18 crew sailed in a small boat from Tofua in the South Pacific to Timor. He entered the Great Barrier Reef at Bligh Boat Entrance and sailed through it to the north Charged with finding and returning the mutineers of the Bounty, his vessel HMS Pandora was wrecked in the northern Great Barrier Reef First to circumnavigate Australia, though he avoided much of the Great Barrier Reef by going on its outside from Flinders Passage, south of Townsville Charted the substantial area of the inner Reef passage avoided by Cook and Flinders
Commanding Lieutenant William Bligh
Captain Edward Edwards
Lieutenant Matthew Flinders Lieutenant Phillip Parker King