1893 Brisbane Floods: Queensland's Most Deadly Flood

1893 Brisbane Floods: Queensland's Most Deadly Flood

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The 1893 Brisbane Flood saw Brisbane and surrounds inundated due to three rain events in the month of February during which the Brisbane River rose to seven metres.

Queensland State Archives has a comprehensive collection of images from the devastating 1893 Floods: https://www.flickr.com/photos/queenslandstatearchives/albums/72157673648844936

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One of the most important reactions to the 1893 flood was recognising the need for a comprehensive river observation and warning network. This was demonstrated at the time by the prominent pioneer, and later member for Stanley (1904-20), H.P. Somerset. Overlooking where the Brisbane and Stanley Rivers combine, Somerset saw a ‘wall of water’ crashing past his Caboonbah homestead in early February. He subsequently sent a man to Esk with the following telegram message addressed to the post master general in Brisbane:

Please warn inhabitants Brisbane, Goodna, Ipswich, Lowood, other centres, of tremendous flood, eighteen ninety level already exceeded several feet. Stanley River only, Brisbane to follow.

At the time there was no direct telegraph line to Brisbane and the message had to be repeated from Ipswich. As no formal procedure was in place, the warning was either misinterpreted or ignored. Only a copy of the telegram was posted outside the office of the general post master. After the flood, eyes were ‘apparently opened’ but the telegraph lines were now down between Esk and Ipswich and roughly beyond Goodna. When the second major peak occurred, Somerset rowed across the swollen Brisbane River with two horses to send a ‘good game stockman’ named Billy Mateer to North Pine where the warning was received.

Brisbane’s first monitoring station was later established at Caboonbah which, as his ‘civic duty’, Somerset offered to operated free of change. Linked by telegraph, other stations were established throughout the Brisbane Valley at Goodna, Ipswich, Lowood, Browns Crossing, Rosewood, Gatton and Harrisville. The entire system was tested in the wet season of 1896.

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You can discover more about the 1893 floods at the Queensland State Archives, such as the Flood Relief Effort: http://www.archivessearch.qld.gov.au/Image/DigitalImageDetails.aspx?ImageId=2936

The Queensland State Archives, located at 435 Compton Road, Runcorn. Opening hours are 9.00am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday.