16°S 142°E Dunbar – Queensland by Degrees

Looking north

Looking east

Looking south

Looking west

Location: This confluence point is located on Dunbar Station about 65 km south-east of Kowanyama. It was reached by vehicle on station roads for 35 km from the homestead then a further 8 km by quad bike to the point which was located accurately by GPS. The site is within Carpentaria Shire and the catchment of the Nassau River.

Tree bark and seeds near point (J & M Nowill, 2008)

The Landscape: The country around the point is flat open plain with very little relief. The point has an elevation of 35 m ASL. The soil is a grey clay loam derived from the Cainozoic age (less than 65 million years) sands and other alluvium. Vegetation is an open and low height eucalypt-dominated savannah with a course grass ground cover. Fauna noted in the area included cattle, feral pigs and macropods (mainly Northern Nailtail Wallaby and Agile Wallaby) and a wide range of birds including various finches and parrots. Termite mounds are also plentiful.

An unusual tree with tessellated bark and double-winged seeds was seen near the point. An identification of this tree would be welcome.

Point information and photos: Tony Hillier, Kev Teys, Bruce Urquhart, Dale Farnell and John and Mary Nowill, 2008.

WITHIN THE DEGREE SQUARE

The Country: The landscape across the square is low-lying (for the most part less than 50 m ASL) and is well represented by the confluence point. Soils and geology are alluvium and sands of Quaternary age (less than 2 million years) or slightly older Cainozoic material. Vegetation is predominantly low open savannah with either eucalypt or Melaleuca species dominant.

The area is drained by the Mitchell, Nassau and Staaten Rivers, as well as numerous creeks, all flowing to the Gulf of Carpentaria. There are numerous small waterholes and billabongs as well as seasonal swamps. The estuaries of most watercourses have fringing forests of mangrove.

The dominant land use across the square is cattle grazing.

The Climate: The area has a climate that is classified as tropical savannah and has a very dry winter. Kowanyama Airport has representative statistics.

Kowanyama Airport (site 029038) 1912-2008 (elevation 10 m ASL)

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Year

Mean max
(ºC)

33.1

32.3

32.8

32.9

32.1

30.7

30.6

32.1

34.5

36.2

34.8

33.2

33.2

Mean min
(ºC)

24.2

24.2

23.7

21.7

19.1

16.2

15.3

16.2

18.9

21.9

23.9

24.3

20.8

Mean rain
(mm)

339.6

367.8

234.3

54.2

11.4

4.4

2.5

2.5

2.6

15.7

55.6

171.6

1256.3

The highest temperature ever recorded in Kowanyama was 41.0°C in October 1994, November 1995 and December 2002, while the lowest temperature was 4.5°C in August 1990. Rainfalls also vary greatly. The highest total of 2049.6 mm was recorded in 1956 and the lowest total of 565.2 mm in 1961.

Extremes of Nature: The area is subject to cyclones. The cyclone database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology shows that 59 cyclones have tracked within 200 km of the confluence point between 1906-7 and 2006-7. Of these, 11 tracked within 50 km of the point. They include: an unnamed cyclone of March 1945; an unnamed cyclone of February 1949; an unnamed cyclone of March 1950; an unnamed cyclone of January 1952; TC Bertha in January 1959; an unnamed cyclone of December 1959; TC Fiona in February 1971; TC Bronwyn of January 1972; TC Greta in January 1979; TC Fritz of February 2004; TC Nelson in February 2007.

Cyclone tracks within 200 km of point 1906 to 2006 (Bureau of Meteorology web site)

These storms bring potentially destructive winds, intense rainfall and high seas. Some have caused inundation and erosion to the low-lying coastal areas. Flooding in all streams is a certainty.

The area averages between 40 and 50 thunder days each year. Severe thunderstorms can also bring destructive winds and produce high seas. They can come up very quickly posing a serious threat to people travelling through the area in small boats. During the winter dry season thunder storms may spark bushfires if there is sufficient fuel to promote spread.

Extreme heat is also a serious issue. The climate records for Kowanyama show that on average (over 41 years of records) the area experiences 85 days a year with temperatures over 35°C. Such extreme temperatures can cause heat stroke and death if appropriate measures are not taken such as avoiding strenuous physical effort, keeping as cool as possible and drinking lots of water. Heat waves kill more people in Australia than all other natural hazards combined.

There is one earthquake epicentre within the degree square recorded in the National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia. It was a ML 3.1 event on 13 June 1996 and was located 72 km north-east of the confluence point. No damage was reported from this earthquake.

The Indigenous Story: The land within the degree square is the traditional country of three Aboriginal groups; the Koko-bera along the coast south of Kowanyama, the Koknar further south along the coast as far as the Straaten River and the Kunjen in the interior.

MORE INFORMATION WELCOME

European Exploration and Settlement: The first Europeans to sight the area were the Dutch with Jan Carstensz in 1623, followed by Abel Tasman in 1644 and Jean Asschens in 1756. Matthew Flinders in HMS Investigator surveyed the whole coastline of the Gulf in 1802.

The first Europeans in the area on land were probably Ludwig Leichardt in 1844-45 on his epic exploration from Jimbour to Port Essington. The Jardine brothers passed through the area in late 1864 on their extraordinary cattle drive from Rockhampton to Somerset near the tip of Cape York.

MORE INFORMATION WELCOME

Today: The total population of the degree square at the 2006 national Census was 40. This population would appear to have declined significantly over the preceding five years but this could be simply due to changes in collection boundaries.

Measure

1996

2001

2006

Total Population

84

85

40

Males

66

65

26

Females

18

20

14

Under 5 Years

3

3

3

65 Years and over

3

6

0

Indigenous

6

5

4

Apart from a small sliver of Kowanyama Shire in the north-west edge of the square the area comes under the jurisdiction of Carpentaria Shire.

There is little infrastructure in the square. All roads have natural surfaces that make them impassable during the wet season. There are also a few dirt landing grounds servicing cattle stations. Cattle grazing is the dominant land use.

Site Summary:

Location

On Dunbar Station about 10 km south of the Nassau River

Access

By station roads and quad bike 43 km from Dunbar homestead

Nearest town

Kowanyama 64 km to the north-west

Terrain

Flat plain

Catchment

Nassau River and Gulf of Carpentaria

Geology & soils

Grey clay loam on Quaternary sand plain

Vegetation

Low open eucalypt savannah

Land use

Cattle grazing

Climate

Tropical savannah with a dry winter

Population in degree square

40 at 2006 census

Infrastructure

A few dirt roads and dirt landing grounds

National Parks

Small section of Mitchell and Alice Rivers NP

Compiler: Ken Granger, 2009

Sources: various web sites including EPA, tourist operators, local governments, mining industry and Bureau of Meteorology.

Last updated 6 March 2009. For more information email admin@rgsq.org.au
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