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Figure 11.9 Alexandra Reef, near Port Douglas, 2003. Source: Author
themselves, the blasted corals inflicted skin burns and large 'coral sores' that
resembled ulcers, which raises the possibility that those corals were alive until
the explosives were used (Jones, 1973, p317).
No other documentary evidence of the destruction of coral reefs and
cays as a result of coral mining was found in the archival sources. Hence, the
remaining environmental impacts of coral mining can only be estimated. The
nearshore coral reefs, which were the most accessible mining locations, probably
suffered the most sustained and destructive impacts of coral mining. Kings and
Alexandra Reefs are the reefs most likely to have been extensively degraded,
since they were worked from a comparatively early date - before 1930 - and
because, in comparison with the fringing reef at Snapper Island, they were more
easily reached from the coast. In addition, while Snapper Island was inhabited
sporadically, Kings and Alexandra reefs were accessible from population centres
(including Kurrimine Beach, Innisfail, Port Douglas and Mossman) throughout
the period since European settlement of the north Queensland coast. Today,
both reefs appear to be almost completely degraded: the reef flat at Kings Reef
is characterised by coral rubble, soft corals, mud and algae, and lacks extensive
hard coral communities; the surface of Alexandra Reef, shown in Figure 11.9,
comprises dead coral, with living colonies found only at the submerged edges of
the reef . 52 While the dead coral found at these reefs cannot be attributed solely
to coral mining, the blasting and removal of coral has probably contributed to
their degradation.
Oral history evidence suggests that the impacts of coral mining were extensive
at Snapper Island reef and large mounds of mined, unburnt coral still exist on the
island near the remains of the lime kiln. In addition to the removal of coral from
the reef flat using crowbars, the coral cover was probably diminished by trampling
by people and horses, as well as by the construction of rail tracks across the
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