We went on an 11 day cruise of the Queensland coast starting in Sydney with stops at Newcastle, Cairns, a cruise by Willis Island in the Coral Sea destroyed by Cyclone Yasi but being rebuilt, Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays, Brisbane and back to Sydney. Now why would a Queenslander want to do a Queensland trip and visit their home city, Brisbane?
While I do have ancestors who arrived in other colonies, quite a few of my families came direct to Queensland and they sailed down the Queensland coast and I have often wondered what they thought as they got closer to their new homes. This was a chance to follow that same route.
Visiting Sydney and Circular Quay always makes us think of our convict ancestors and Newcastle also has a genealogy interest for me. My convict ancestor Richard Walker's daughter Maria Walker married Alfred Hill Austin who in 1844 was Harbour Master and Pilot at Newcastle. Alfred left that position in 1846 and I haven't found where they went too. Their story was part of my thesis for the Diploma of Family Historical Studies with the Society of Australian Genealogists in 1992 and that was over twenty years ago! As we traveled in Newcastle's historic tram to the old lighthouse and harbour area I resolved to revisit this as perhaps now I will be able to establish what happened to the Austin family.
From Newcastle it was a two day cruise to Cairns - I knew it was a long way as I have flown and driven to Cairns many times (a father in law used to live there in the 80s). This gave us a chance to enjoy the comforts and entertainment on board Rhapsody of the Seas which is smaller than Voyager of the Seas which we travelled on for the 3rd Unlock the Past genealogy cruise. I enjoyed the smaller ship, less chance of getting lost, and while I thought I would miss genealogy lectures I still found plenty to do on the days at sea.
The two days in Cairns we spent in the city itself, an easy walk from the cruise terminal. However others took advantage of the tours to the Great Barrier Reef and the Atherton Tablelands, the Kuranda Railway and even Port Douglas. We did however tour a trip around Cairns Harbour, the Inlet and Wetlands on That's Awesome to see the mangroves and perhaps a crocodile or two (no luck that day but do you really want to see them so close to Cairns)? My family connection to Cairns (apart from the father in law) is John Finn, my great grandmother's brother who went to WW1, came home and moved north to work as a cane cutter before finally dying in Cairns. He never married and I've always wondered if his war experiences led him to move so far from his family in Brisbane. Read his story here.
The next stop was Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays, another area that I have been to numerous times over the years. This time the family connection was more personal, in fact my own history. My first ever travel trip was in 1971 and it was a school group tour to North Queensland including Cairns, the Tablelands, Townsville, Rockhampton and the Whitsundays. Back then we spent a couple of days out on Daydream Island and I have always been fascinated by islands (we've even been to places like King Island in Bass Strait, Norfolk Island and of course we now live on Bribie Island). So the cruise also reawakened a lot of my early personal travel memories.
From Airlie Beach it was another two day trip back to Brisbane and it seemed a long way to us, so it must have been even further for my various ancestors who travelled down the Queensland coast in a sailing ship way back then. Herbert White disembarked in Townsville, Anders and Aose Gunderson disembarked in Maryborough sadly without their two sons who died on the voyage, my Irish ancestors Adam Johnston, Maria Jeffers and John and Sarah Finn all went to Brisbane at various times. See Letters Home - My Irish Families.
But it was my Scottish ancestors who I was thinking about most as we approached Brisbane. John and Helen Carnegie eventually settled at Toorbul near the Glass House Mountains (and Bribie Island) and I was interested to see that area from sea as the only way into the port of Brisbane is to sail between Bribie Island and Moreton Island. As luck would have it, we woke about 3.30 am and a look out the porthole showed what looked like the lights from the Sunshine Coast. If that was the case we were arriving much sooner than the 6.00 am we had set the alarm for.
Hastily dressing we raced up to the top deck in time to see the Glass House Mountains (named by Captain James Cook when he sailed past in 1770) opposite and we could easily see Woorim, the ocean side suburb of Bribie (thank goodness for no daylight saving in Queensland, it was already light at 4 am). We then zig zagged down the shipping corridor and it was fascinating to see the wrecks on Moreton, Tangalooma, and Redcliffe on the mainland side. Due to the ship's size it had to dock at the Fisherman Island cruise terminal and not the usual cruise terminal further up river at Hamilton. We took the opportunity to visit old friends from Darwin who have recently bought a river side apartment in the Brisbane CBD and after a great lunch, they took us back to the ship. On the way out of port we sat up on the top deck and watched the ship sail past Bribie Island while our friends on the Island flashed their car lights so we could see them fare-welling us!
From there it was another full day at sea before arriving back in Sydney and the plane trip back to Brisbane. As I said earlier I wanted to think about what it was like for my ancestors sailing down the Queensland coast (although they didn't have onboard shops, casino, swimming pools etc). Shipboard diaries and newspapers can help us build up an image of what the trip was like and this desire to know was the reason behind my first ever guide with Unlock the Past - What Was the Voyage Really Like? I think I have a much greater understanding now and I'm really glad I did the cruise.
I also took the time to have my yearly break from all e devices (no mobile phone, laptop, tablet, email etc) and yes it is possible to survive. But you do come back to a mountain of emails, enewsletters, blogs to read, Facebook and Twitter posts to catch up on. However one new piece of information I will pass on now is the extension to the Public Record Office Victoria online index to wills and probates - it's now 1841-2007 which is great news for anyone with Victorian ancestors. AFFHO have accepted and approved in principle my report and recommendations so I can start to promote National Family History Month 2014 so watch out for that.
As I get back into the swing of things I'll have more genealogy news and Diary will start to be more regular (and less lengthy) again. If you don't know what to tell people when they ask 'what do you want for Christmas' then read Geniaus' really useful blog Gifts for the Girl who has Everything. Until next time!