1911 cyclone

Two children sitting with a badly damaged piano amongst the debris from the Port Douglas cyclone of 1911. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 164590

On March 16, 1911, a cyclone devastated the small Far North Queensland community of Port Douglas, 70km north of Cairns, razing many of its buildings.

During the storm, many of the townspeople took refuge at the government bond store, which was described as "a substantial building", though it was no match for the full force of the cyclone. By extraordinary chance, the 40-odd people sheltering there managed to escape before the building collapsed.

Cyclone damage at Port Douglas, 1911. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 164579

Councillor Andrew Jack was killed when a "stack of timbers" fell on him at his farm near Port Douglas, where he resided with his wife and children.

A second fatality was 30-year-old Timothy Joseph O'Brien, who was helping his mother and sister find shelter when struck by a "mass of wood and iron", which dislocated his neck and fractured his skull. There were also tales of heroism. A Mr Twine, manager of the Queensland National Bank, risked his life to save others during the storm by bringing them back to shelter.

Storm debris from the 1911 cyclone at Port Douglas. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 127066

In the aftermath, Port Douglas residents quickly came to the realisation that their town was virtually wiped out - "only about seven residences were partly left standing, besides the Queensland National Bank, the Customs House, the Post Office, and McLean's Hotel".

Two boys looking at the results of a cyclone in Port Douglas, 1911. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 127068

With more than 100 people left homeless, many camped out at the damaged Masonic Hall or at one of the houses left standing. The photograph above shows the extent of the damage.

Telegraphic communication was disrupted with 30 poles blown down within 11km of the town. The nearby settlement of Mossman was also affected by the cyclone.

Myles Sinnamon - Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

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