Queensland Places - HMS Dart and the naming of some Cape York locations

In the late 1890s, the government survey vessel HMS Dart was undertaking on-going hydrographic survey work in the waters of far North Queensland. As well as this work preparing more detailed surveys, in areas important for the safety of coastal shipping, a number of places were named during the vessel’s various travels.

In the midst of this continuing hydrographic work, HMS Dart found itself in the vicinity of the Nisbet River, in particular at the time of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, in 1897. This significant anniversary was seen as important to commemorate by those on board HMS Dart, thereby influencing the naming of a group of reefs to the north-east of Cape Sidmouth. These reefs were therefore duly named Celebration, Diamond Reign, Jubilee Reefs and Throne Shoals. As well, nearby Parry Rock and Glennie Reef each bear the name of a serving Lieutenant on HMS Dart.

Cape Sidmouth itself was named well before the voyage of HMS Dart, in honour of Henry Addinton Sidmouth, First Viscount Sidmouth, who had served as Speaker of the British Parliament in Prime Minister William Pitt’s ministry. The Nisbet River was also visited by HMS Dart during its survey voyages, as well as earlier, during the 1880s, being a focus for the explorations undertaken by Queensland Government Geologist, Robert Logan Jack. It was Jack who named the river the Nisbet, in honour of the then Chief Engineer for the Queensland Department of Harbours and Rivers.

Following this convention of naming prominent places, sites or localities in honour of well-known or leading members of the government or of the community in general, is the naming of the Macrossan Range. This prominent range was named in honour of John Murtagh Macrossan who had undertaken extensive exploration as well as prospecting across the region. John Macrossan also served in the Queensland Parliament from 1874, later achieving ministerial appointments in the Queensland government.

HMS Dart was one of a number of government vessels to bear this name, believed to be based on or derived from the River Dart, in Devon, England.

HMS DART, State Library of Queensland Neg. No. 67499

This image shows HMS Dart in dry-dock, in between its many survey voyages.

Brian Randall, Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland.


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Hi, I've been recently researching a family story that my great grandfather had an island named after him.I believe I have confirmed this to be a fact.My relative was on board HMS Dart during its survey work in the Torres Strait 1889. His name was George James Travers aged 16. I believe the island Travers Island ( small and uninhabited) was named after him because of his young age. I have lots of documents to back this up. I was beyond excited when all the information came together and this family story proved to be true.

My PNG [ Daru Island } friend said his great grandfather was named TRAVERS and that there was an Island named after him..My friend lives here in Murrarie , Brisbane to contact your "NEW " relative email me .

Hi Rhonda, I can't believe I only just saw your message. I would be very interested to hear your friends story.
Hopefully you get this message quicker !
Caroline 😃

Hi Caroline,

Mrs Rhonda Lynch has just emailed us and she would love to share her friend's story from Daru island. If you are ok for her to get in touch with you, would you please email us your email address to this inbox (webmanager@slq.qld.gov.au)? I'll pass on your email to her. Thanks!

Mankit (from the State Library)

I am very excited to hear the Travers Island story of Mrs Rhonda Lynch's friend.
As I said in my previous messages-
Our family story is concerning my great grandfather George James Travers a sailor on HMS Dart between 1st April 1989 and June 1892. He had joined the Navy aged 12 and was 16 when he joined the Dart .He told a story that he had gone off in a small boat from the Dart with a few others but a storm ensued and they got washed ashore on a small uninhabited island .When the main ship found the missing crew members they named the island after George as he was the youngest.
It's a fabulous story that I've only been able to research over the last couple of years with the power of the internet.
I have no idea if there is a connection with this other Travers from Daru Island but I'm very excited to hear their story.
Kind regards
carlisloan@aol.com is my preferred email
Many many thanks