Low Isles History


Low Isles is an inner patch reef 15 km north-east of Port Douglas. It is composed of a small coral cay ( Low Island) and a larger mangrove island (Woody Island), growing on top of senile coral reef. It has ecological importance due to the coexistence of a number of fully developed marine and terrestrial ecosystems.The combination of coral cay and mangrove island type is unique to the Great Barrier Reef. The hook like shape, which provides a sheltered lagoon, is also an excellent refuge and an ideal feeding ground for a large population of adolescent turtles.

A Low Isles is an important indigenous cultural site for both the KuKu Yalanji and Yirraganydji aboriginal tribes. The sea country of both groups overlaps at Low Isles.

The English explorer, Captain James Cook, recorded the existence of theses islands in 1770 during his voyage of discovery to Australia. He described Low Island as “a small low island”. It was officially named Low Isles in 1819.

A lighthouse was built on the coral cay in 1878. It was the tenth commissioned by the Queensland Government to help create the longest shipping lane in the world. There was a continuous presence of lighthouse keepers on Low isles up until 1993, when the lighthouse became automated.

Between 1926 – 1929 Low Isles was the site of the first detailed scientific study of a coral reef anywhere in the world. The expedition, led by Dr C.M. Yonge aimed to study the life processes of coral and of the formation and maintenance of the reef. More than 20 renowned natural scientists spent up to 13 months at Low Isles. Results from the expedition were published by the British Natural History Museum in six large volumes. The expedition created a set of base line data, which is invaluable today for comparison with modern research, in order to study change on the Great Barrier Reef.

Water quality has significantly decreased in the lagoon area due to coastal human activity and the increase of tourist numbers. The numbers are now strictly regulated and a human waste treatment plant has been installed to render human waste harmless. The island is largely run on solar power and is working towards becoming totally carbon neutral



















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