Portland Roads has received Colonial visitors by land and sea for more than 200 years. Despite the bay appearing on British Admiralty navigation charts as far back as the 1770s, the land itself was not surveyed in any great detail until the 1930s. A task which was completed by Land Ranger Chas H Goodwin, on behalf of the Department of Public Lands, Land Administration Board, with all travel done on horseback and foot. The result is a beautifully detailed, hand-drawn map of Cape York Peninsula, complete with mining leases and notes on landscape features and vegetation. A scanned extract of the map is available to download here.
“On the 9-10 April we attempted to carry out inspections on foot, but, as we were compelled to walk over rough country, and through grass over our heads, very little progress was made; we decided to await the arrival of horses, which we expected to arrive almost immediately. However, the horses did not arrive until 21 May and on arrival, were found to be in very low condition, with suppurating sore backs, footsore and in some cases lame. Included in the plant were four mares, with foals at foot, and one ‘green’ colt. It was readily seen that this plant was unsuitable for the work ahead.”
Eventually, Land Ranger Goodwin did manage to be supplied sufficient horses and resources to conduct the survey. No mean feat. As you can see from his map, he traversed this country taking detailed notes. Following creeks, climbing ridges and crossing the flats of the Cape. His conclusion on the special lease application was a resounding ‘no’, but thanks to his work and that of Main Roads, travel across the Cape is much easier nowadays. With 4WDs and convenient pit stops for provisions along the way.
Showing he was a man of insight, Land Ranger Goodwin gave a very telling account of the roads of the Cape. This extract taken from his report, dated 28 September 1932. “We would point out that without going to the expense of building costly roads, this country would be impassible to vehicular traffic in the wet season, when it is only just possible to travel along beaten tracks with pack horses. This is brought about by travellers being compelled to keep to the low lying, swampy devil devil and spewey flats and low sandy ridges, which become very boggy in the wet season.”
“The necessity of traversing these low lying areas is due to the fact that all hard ridges are all far too rough, stoney and broken. We would also point out that the country to the north of Scrub Area “B” is inaccessible from Portland Roads, except by packhorses as it is far too rough and broken for wheeled traffic.” Nearly a century later, construction is still underway on the Peninsula Development Road which will eventually link all of the Cape communities together.
There is an account of the provisions requested by Land Ranger Goodwin to provide sustenance for the duration of his in-field survey work. This was carried by pack horse and one can only assume Land Ranger Goodwin was a very self-sufficient individual. The list of provisions included: 6 x 50lbs bags of flour, 2 x 50lbs bags of self-raising flour, 1.5 x 70lbs bags of sugar, 300lbs of beef (brined and kegged), 28lbs rice, 20lbs sago, 30lbs oatmeal, 2 dozen condensed milk, 2 dozen dry milk, 4 dozen x 2lbs tins of jam, 4 dozen x 1lbs tins of butter, 70lbs coarse salt, 14lbs fine salt, 1 tin pepper, 6 bottles vinegar, 1 dozen bottles of sauce, 2 dozen bottles of pickles, 6 dozen assorted canned fruit, 1 dozen tins syrup, 10lbs honey, 12lbs dry biscuits, 12lbs sweet biscuits, 2 dozen tins (Rex) cheese, 20lbs tea (Highfield), 6lbs coffee (English Soluable), 6lbs cocoa, 1lb mustard, 1lb baking soda, 2lbs cream tartar, 6lbs dripping, 6 dozen x 1b tins of canned meat, 50lbs onions, 10lbs dried fruits (assorted), 2 tins curry powder, 60lbs bacon, 14lbs chocolate (unsweetened), 5lbs currants, 5lbs raisins, 50lbs dates.
It continued with functional items including: 250 cartridges Nos 3 & 4, 2 heavy and 2 light fish lines with array of hooks, 6 rope clothes lines, 1 coil galvanized 16 gauge wire, 25lbs carbide, 2 carbide lamps, 1 x 12ozs bottle of ink, 6 lead pencils, ½ ream of foolscap, 1 hank twine, 12 bars of soap, 1 dozen lifebuoy soap, 1 tin kerosene, I x Hurricane lantern with 2 x wicks, 1 plum axe 4.5lbs, 6 dozen matches (in waterproof tin), 3lbs trade tobacco, 1 Prismatic Compass, 1 andriod Barometer and 66ft chain of metallic tape. First Aid Outfit: 2ozs Permanganate Potash, 4ozs Iodine, 2 dozen packets Epsom Salts.
Side note – you can pack a lot less when planning a trip to the Cape these days.
© Portland Roads 2021 / This website was funded in part by the Cook Shire Council’s Economic Resiliency Investment Initiative.