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John Oxley Library

The 1918 Rockhampton Flood

By JOL Admin | 31 January 2011

Now that the floodwaters have receded from Rockhampton and the city is once again accessible by road, rail and air, it is timely to look back at the worst flood in the city's history.  This occurred in 1918 and was the highest flood ever recorded in Rockhampton since records began in 1859.  It was also the only flood to inundate the city centre.  The floodwaters measured 10.11 metres on the Rockhampton gauge and claimed eight lives.  Hundreds of homes and businesses were inundated and the town was isolated for more than three weeks as the road and rail networks were cut.

Fitzroy Bridge during floods in Rockhampton, 1918. Image number 39081.

Despite the lapse of time there are many similarities between the 1918 flood and the recent 2011 inundation as shown by the following article which appeared in the Brisbane Courier, 31 January 1918, p.8.


Rockhampton, January 30

Residents who have been living in Rockhampton since 1859 say they never expected to see such a flood as we are now experiencing.  Rockhampton is an island, with several smaller islands in the raging waters...The flood waters have got into houses which, hitherto, have been regarded as perfectly safe, and there has been a general exodus to different places which have been set apart for refugees.  The accomodation is likely to be severely taxed, but very many are finding refuge with friends.  The water is well up East street in the section between William and Denham streets, and a number of business places have been flooded out....It was a pitiable sight to see the live stock going down the river this morning.  Inside of 10 minutes no fewer than 70 head of fine cattle were counted going under the bridge.  There was one lot of 40, all swimming strongly.  It is estimated that fully 200 head of cattle have gone down the river, these being washed from various holdings higher up the river. 

Articles concerning the flood may be located through the National Library's digitized newspaper:  Relevant newspapers which have been indexed include the Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), Courier Mail, and the Queenslander.

Other material coming up on our One Search catalogue about the 1918 Rockhampton flood held by the John Oxley Library includes:

Panorama of the Great Flood, Rockhampton, 1918 (photograph), Accession No: 6795

Best views of the Rockhampton flood.  Rockhampton: 1918 (sixteen pictures with descriptive matter) RBJ 994.35 BES

Souvenir number of "the Capricornian" of the record flood at Rockhampton   F994.35 CAP

Rockhampton in flood: 1890-1983.  Rockhampton: Record Printing Co., 1983.  P994.35 ROC

Webster, Barbara.  Marooned: Rockhampton's great flood of 1918.  Indooroopilly, Qld.: Cooperative Research Centre for Coastal Zone, Estuary and Waterway Management, 2003.  Q551.489 WEB

North Rockhampton during the 1890 flood. Image number APO-048-0001-0001

Other major floods of the Fitzroy River occurred in 1890, 1954 and 1991.


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