By Kyle Roberts
The Moreton Island wrecks were changed forever in 2015. Kyle Roberts provides a nostalgic look at the Island and the wrecks.
Moreton Island is located 60km northeast of Brisbane and is steeped in Queensland history of both Aboriginal and European significance. Throughout the island, which is traditionally referred too as Moorgupin, evidence exists of its indigenous heritage with over 300 preserved cultural sites and middens. European influence began in May 1770 with Captain James Cook naming the northeastern tip of the island ‘Cape Morton’ during the Endeavour voyage. In July 1799 Matthew Flinders named the island ‘Moreton Island’, as a result of a clerical error.
The remnants of World War II defence installations endure as a reminder of the islands wartime involvement. The Tangalooma settlement on the western side of the island became Queensland’s one and only whaling station and was operated for a decade in the 1950’s. The original whaling buildings are now incorporated into the Tangalooma resort and marine conservation centre.
As the island has no harbour or safe anchorage in 1963 an artificial break wall was constructed in the form of 15 vessels sunk in a consecutive line just north of the Tangalooma settlement. For over 50 years this shipwreck break wall was as popular as a tourist attraction as it was an anchorage, representing the most iconic aspect of the island and, arguably, for Queensland. In fact there is even an aerial photograph of the Tangalooma wrecks in the check-in area of the Brisbane International Airport.
In November 2015 it was deemed the decaying state of the Tangalooma wrecks posed a public safety concern and consequently the above water structures were removed to the waterline. The removed pieces were integrated into the remaining underwater structure to add to the existing artificial reef. I was lucky enough to kayak around the wrecks three weeks prior to their removal for one last final goodbye.
Today the Tangalooma wrecks are a shadow of their former glory, although the remaining structure provides a substantial marine habitat for numerous species. Notwithstanding, the wrecks standing tall above the water as a great Queensland icon have now forever been lost to memories.