20 January 2011

Brisbane Flood Damage 2011

The January 2011 floods only had an indirect impact on the Boggo Road gaol (such as moving it to the bottom of Public Works priorities). However, some historical sites and museums in Brisbane have been hit harder:

Commissariat Store
This was built in the 1820s and is now home to the Royal Historical Society of Queensland. The convict-built retaining wall on William Street partly collapsed after a water pipe behind it burst, punching major breaches in the wall of the bottom storey of the Store. The water pipe (image here) then gushed water through, although no water entered the Store itself. The building was assessed and judged to be structurally sound, although it was closed for a while. See more here.

Commissariat Store flood damage, Brisbane, 2011.

Maritime Museum
The dry dock holding HMS Diamantina was flooded (video here), and the Capricornia light-ship reportedly sunk. The ground floor of the museum flooded to a depth of about 30 cm.

Queensland Maritime Museum flood damage, Brisbane, 2011.

Queensland Museum
The museum collection was safe from flooding, although the facility was closed for a while. The floods did get close though, as the following image (from this page) shows:

Queensland Museum flood damage, 2011.
BCC libraries
In addition to these heritage sites, three Brisbane council libraries were affected by flood water: Fairfield, New Farm and Stones Corner. These libraries remained closed for weeks, although all the books had been removed from these branches.

17 January 2011

'Big Fish' Flood Stories

UPDATE: 'Shark in Goodna butcher's shop' (where else would a shark go in a flooded town?)

A periodic debate re-emerged during the recent flood crisis when a couple of reports of shark sightings on the flooded streets of Goodna hit the media, such as in this Queensland Times article.

As seems to be the usual case now, a number of commentators decided it was all hokum and there were no such things as sharks in the river. Even Channel 9 presenters declared on-air that these were just tall stories. However, as any local resident or historian would know, it is quite normal for bull sharks to be found in the Brisbane and Bremer rivers, and during flooding these animals will of course follow the water. I know of an Ipswich woman whose back garden was flooded last year, and when the waters receded she found a dead shark on the lawn.

I became aware of the historical extent of such sightings during research for my book Shovelnose: Tales of the Brisbane River sharks. The last fatal attack took place near New Farm in 1921, and since that time the river became highly polluted leading to a decrease in shark numbers and humans entering the waters. This created a measure of cultural amnesia regarding the presence of sharks, but recent anti-pollution measures have seen water quality improve and fish numbers increase. As a result of this there will no doubt be more sightings in future and we could return to the situation of the late 19th century, when reports of sharks in the river were a regular part of the summer news cycle and not greeted with the degree of skepticism that has met some recent stories.