A History of Stradbroke Island
Whilst History, by definition, requires a written record it is important to note that the Aboriginal inhabitants of Stradbroke Island, whilst not leaving us a written record of the thousands of years they lived on Stradbroke, did leave a rich oral history and their traditions. The Stradbroke Island Aborigines were the first humans to live on Straddie and to develop a complex and sustainable relationship with Stradbroke Island's environment. Please go to the page dedicated to the Stradbroke Island Aborigines for more information on their rich culture and history.
As far as mainstream History and Archaeology is concerned the first definite, indisputable, historic record we have of European contact with Stradbroke Island was when Captain Cook sailed past on a nice sunny day in May 1770 however there are a number of claims, as well as historic and archaeological evidence, for earlier visits by Portuguese, Spanish and even Chinese sailors, so we will deal with these before moving to Captain Cook and other British sailors who wandered by Straddie in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
The primary claim for a Chinese landfall on the Australian east coast or on Stradbroke Island comes from Gavin Menzies' book 1421 The Year China Discovered the World. Gavin claims that, as part of a massive naval exploration project, Chinese ships landed on Queensland's coast at various points including Stradbroke Island. His claims are quite controversial and are examined and discussed on a number of websites so I will not go into any detail here. I can only say that in my extensive investigations into the archaeology and history of Stradbroke Island and South East Queensland generally the only place I have seen anything that would suggest a Chinese landfall on Queensland's coast is around the Hervey Bay and Fraser Island region with some proximity to Gympie. Pictured below are two artifacts which might be of Chinese origins found in that area. The dragon kettle is bronze as is the deity statue which is of a Buddhist deity generally associated with Tibetan or Chinese Buddhism. However it is also worth noting that there were significant numbers of Chinese in the Gympie area during the gold rush of the 19th century which would explain both these artifacts.
( Yet another page under construction )
Spanish and Portuguese
Next we come to the Spanish and Portuguese. There is a considerable body of historical and archaeological evidence that suggests one or the other or even both of these nations made a landfall on Stradbroke Island.
The first historic record that suggests a pre-Cook Spanish presence on Stradbroke Island is the account in Thomas Welsby's book "Moreton Bay; Early Recollections." In this book Welsby prints the oral history written by a member of the Campbell family, one of Stradbroke Island's oldest "mixed blood" Aboriginal families. This recollection states that two men walked into the Aborigine's camp from a shipwrecked vessel on the ocean side of Stradbroke Island. Importantly Campbell's records state that one man's name was Juan. Campbell further states that the shipwreck was still visible in the 18 Mile Swamp as late at the 1890's and that the wreck was of English Oak.
Further historic support comes from the Deippe and other associated maps which defintiely have pre-Cook sources and which clearly show Stradbroke Island and Moreton Bay. The map issues are dealt with in detail in the website's page entitled Java La Grande.
Important;ly there are a number of artifacts that have been found in an archaeological or historic context on Stradbroke or adjoining islands of Moreton Bay Island, which are clearly of Spanish or Portuguese origin. These include:
1. A bronze walking stick handle 2. A sailor's dirk
3. The much rusted blade of a Rapier
6. A crudely made lead depth sounding weight