the HISTORY of CAIRNS, Queensland AUSTRALIA :: Genealogy
<< Previous - Next >>


Journal by ngairedith

The transition of the port of CAIRNS from a shanty town to a modern city proceeded relatively quickly, following an uncertain start because of competition from the newly-created neighbouring community of Port Douglas. A succession of major work projects, institution establishments and direct involvement in world enterprise accelerated the settlement's development.

Significant events in the history of Cairns were the construction of the Cairns-to-Herberton railway line commencing in 1886, the establishment of the Cairns Harbour Board in 1906, official recognition as a city in 1923, military occupation in 1942 by the World War II defence forces, the construction of concrete high rise apartments in 1981, the opening of the international airport in 1984, and the establishment of an international-standard convention centre in 1996.

Prior to Cairns settlement

Original inhabitants

The aboriginal population is believed to have entered Australia at least 40,000 years ago. Current opinion favors migration through various parts of Northern Australia including Cape York Peninsula.
Traditional local aboriginal stories recall hunting and fishing on land that once extended past Green Island during a time of lower sea levels. Archaeological evidence shows aboriginal peoples living in rainforest in the Cairns area for at least 5,100 years, and possibly for much of the often suggested 40,000 year period.

The first recorded human occupants of the Cairns area were Australian Aborigines, with local tribal groups speaking dialects of the Gimuy Yidinji language, and, north of the Barron River the Yirrganydji Djabugay language.

Hellenistic coin

An ancient bronze coin, 32 mm (1.3 in) in diameter and 6.4 mm (0.25 in) thick, traced to the reign of Egyptian Pharaoh Ptolemy IV (221205 BC), was found by a contractor in 1910, while digging fence post holes near Kuranda. It had been buried two feet beneath the surface of a gravel ridge in rain forest on an old aboriginal walking track, 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) inland from Cook Bay, suggesting a possible visit to the area by unknown ancient sailors.

James Cook

On 10 June 1770, English maritime explorer James Cook visited and gave a European name to the inlet. In his journal, he commented, "The shore between Cape Grafton and Cape Tribulation forms a large but not very deep bay which I named Trinity Bay after the day - Trinity Sunday - on which it was discovered."
Cook hauled his ship, the HM Bark Endeavour into Mission Bay, at the southern end of Trinity inlet between Cape Grafton and False Cape, and went ashore for a short time with Sir Joseph Banks near the present site of the Yarrabah aboriginal community.

Phillip Parker King

Lieutenant Phillip Parker King, one of the most important early charters of Australias coast, made three marine surveying expeditions to northern Australia in 1819, 1820, and 1821. All three expeditions included visits to Fitzroy Island, located about 22 kilometres (14 mi) from Cairns. On King's first visit, he drew attention to the availability of drinking water and the presence of aboriginal people in the area.

Owen Stanley

In June 1848, Captain Owen Stanley undertook a ten-day hydrographic depth sounding survey of the Trinity Bay region. His consequent official map listed "Native Huts" at present-day Palm Cove, and "Many Natives" and "Native Village" on the stretch of coast immediately north. Green Island was marked "Low Bushes", and the future site of Cairns was indicated as "Shoal" and "Mangroves".


Assessment of siteThe first historical event of significance leading up to the establishment of Cairns was an essay published in a Sydney newspaper in 1866. The article, by J. S. V. Mein, a ships commander appointed to set up a bche-de-mer plant at Green Island, helped increase southern awareness of the northern location. In 1872, William Hann led a prospecting expedition in the Palmer River, where an extensive gold field was located. Announcement of this location in September 1873 by James Venture Mulligan resulted in an influx of prospectors, which became the basis for the first large non-indigenous populations to inhabit Far North Queensland.

In 1873, the extensive and detailed reports of the George Dalrymple exploration party indicated the assets and potential of Trinity Inlet:

The excellent anchorage and watering place appear to have been used some years since as a beech de mer fishing station and to be now a place of frequent call by vessels of that trade and passing ships. I believe very little engineering difficulty will be encountered in forming the necessary wharves on deep water and, from the appearance of the ranges, I do not anticipate any difficulty in obtaining a passable road over them to the interior.
Dalrymple also noted the number of aboriginal groups in the area: "Many blacks were seen round the shores of the bay. Blacks camp fires burn brightly during the night in glens of the mountain sides."

In March 1876, three years after the Palmer River discovery, James Mulligan announced that an even larger and more extensive gold field had been found at the Hodgkinson River on the Atherton Tableland, 122 kilometres (76 mi) west of Trinity Inlet.
This site was of sufficient size to warrant serious consideration to the building of a track to the coast, and the establishment of a coastal wharf and settlement to export the mineral. Sub-Inspector Alexander Douglas led a party to cut an access track in three days, from the tableland to the coast through 32 kilometres (20 mi) of thick lawyer vine scrub. The track was completed on 23 September 1876, and was later named the Douglas Track.

Official settlement

The first government officials arrived by boat and pitched their tents opposite the site of the present-day Pacific International hotel. On 7 October 1876, the Governor of Queensland, William Wellington Cairns, proclaimed a new northern port at Trinity Bay.

On 1 November 1876, the township was inaugurated at a luncheon given by Captain T. A. Lake on board the Government ship, SS Victoria.
This is regarded as the official birth date of Cairns.
The first public land sales in February 1877 were supplemented, three months later, by the construction of the first local saw mill making use of the abundant natural timber resources.

... a lot more info and pictures at the above link

Viewed: 1697 times
by ngairedith Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2011-05-06 08:48:20


Do you know someone who can help? Share this:


Register or Sign in to comment on this journal.