Queensland Places - Thursday Island Earthquakes

A little more than one hundred years ago, Thursday Island found itself at the centre of a series of earth tremors, which were amongst the earliest recorded earthquakes in Australia.

On 29 October 1907, a severe earthquake was felt throughout the Torres Strait region at around 7am, followed by a series of smaller shocks over the ensuing hours. Although there was limited damage reported on Thursday Island itself, there was severe damage caused to the Goode Island lighthouse. A few days later, at around 6am on 2 November 1907, a sharp and severe quake was felt on the island as well as in the surrounding area. Ten days later, on 12 November 1907, further severe tremors were felt on Thursday Island. These further earth tremors occurred from around midday, causing widespread fear and concern for residents. The original shock is said to have lasted for around twelve seconds, followed by up to eight smaller tremors.

Further earthquakes were experienced in the Thursday Island area on 5 January 1909 and on 25 February 1913. The 1913 earthquake was aid to have lasted for some time, “shaking the island considerably”, however there was only limited damage reported. A further severe quake was recorded on 6 August 1932, again shaking the island and causing widespread concern for property as well as personal safety.

As mentioned previously, the 1907 quake is said to have been the first officially recorded in Queensland and one of the earliest recorded in Australia. In terms of modern measurements, the severity of these quakes has been estimated at between 3 and 5 on the present day Richter scale. As well, the 1907 series of tremors is one of the most persistent series of earth tremors to have been experienced in Queensland.

Goode Island Lighthouse, ca. 1909

This image shows the Goode Island lighthouse in around 1909, only some two years after sustaining significant damage in the 1907 earthquake. Also seen in this image are the lighthouse keeper together with his family or visitors to the island.

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

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