Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
The impacts of guano and
rock phosphate mining
More than 300 coral cays and 600 continental islands lie within the GBRWHA
and they form distinctive environments of the Great Barrier Reef. The evolution
and geomorphology of cays and continental islands in the Great Barrier Reef
have been discussed by Hopley (1982), who acknowledged that some of those
cays and islands have been significantly modified by human activity since
European settlement. Indeed, the transformation of some island landscapes
probably represents the most comprehensive human impact on the landscape of
the Great Barrier Reef, at least at the local scale (Flood, 1977, 1984; Stoddart et
al., 1978). Examples that illustrate the extent of that transformation, and which
are discussed in this chapter, include the changes wrought by guano miners at
Lady Elliot Islands, Raine and North West Islands, and the removal of rock
phosphate from Holbourne Island. First, however, the earliest recorded European
impact on an island in the Great Barrier Reef is described: the construction of the
navigation beacon at Raine Island, in 1844, using phosphatic sandstone quarried
at the island. Next, the various guano and rock phosphate mining operations
in the Great Barrier Reef are considered, together with their impacts on island
The construction of the navigation beacon at
Raine Island, 1844
The earliest significant construction on a Great Barrier Reef island occurred at
Raine Island in 1844, when a navigation beacon was built to assist ships sailing
near the hazardous reefs in the locality. A beacon was required in the northern
part of the Great Barrier Reef to mark the entrance to the Blackwood Channel,
through which ships could pass relatively safely to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon;
the construction of a feature that was visible from twenty nautical miles away
meant that navigators did not have to approach the outer reefs until they had
established their position. Joseph Beete Jukes (1847, p266), during his visit to
Raine Island, sketched the cay, the newly-constructed beacon and the temporary
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