Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
Coral collecting was a feature of many subsequent European exploratory
voyages, including those of Joseph Beete Jukes (1871, p230), who discussed his
own coral collection in a letter of 27 July 1844:
How you would envy the corals which we get here! The most magnificent
masses of branched corals are now dying on the poop; but, alas, they are too
bulky and too brittle to get home, so I shall content myself with small pieces.
Other instances of coral collecting by early European explorers, naturalists,
natural historians and scientists were described by Bowen and Bowen (2002),
who showed that large collections of coral were transported from the Great
Barrier Reef to institutions in Sydney and London. Oral history evidence also
suggests that large scientific coral collections were created before 1960, including
a large collection made during a voyage aboard the Cape Moreton by Professor
Stephenson of the University of Queensland and Dr Wills of Cornell University,
and another collection made during the scientific expedition to Low Isles in
1954, although those collections were not maintained . 4
However, those collections were few in number and highly selective; they
formed a very small part of the cumulative impact of coral collecting. In contrast,
the collection of coral for commercial ventures represented a much more
significant impact on coral reefs. The coral trade had commenced by 1879, when
six packages of coral were exported from Queensland to New South Wales . 5 I n
1890, Saville-Kent (1890a, p734) stated that:
A remarkable species of coral that is not infrequently obtained by the pearl-
shell divers in Torres Straits and throughout the Barrier region is the black
coral, Antipathes arborea . This coral possesses a high commercial value in
the Indian market, the supplies hitherto having been chiefly derived from
the vicinity of Jeddah, in the Red Sea. I am informed that the produce of
the Jeddah Fishery has greatly diminished within the last few years, and that
the discovery of new sources of supply would be gladly welcomed. There is, I
consider, every element in favour of the development of a profitable black-
coral fishery in North Queensland waters.
By around 1900, coral collection was taking place at Masthead Island, as
Figure 9.1 illustrates, and by 1929 the commercial collection of coral - including
other species besides Antipathes arborea - for sale as curios and ornaments had
increased. An account of Green Island produced by the Cairns Harbour Board
stated: 'There is a caretaker on the island who has a very fine exhibition of reef
products and marine life, and pretty coral specimens are obtainable at a very low
cost' (Cairns Harbour Board, 1929, p46). In addition, visitors to the island were
encouraged to explore the reef at low tide for themselves, and the opportunity
to collect coral souvenirs was regarded as one of the attractions of the island
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