Ever day-dreamed about the world’s largest sand island, Fraser Island? Wondered what lies across the 166,000 hectares of land that’s located off the coast of Hervey Bay? Here are 10 facts you didn’t know about the island.
This UNESCO World Heritage Listed island is home to a myriad of wildlife and plant life, as well as a rich and incredible history. It is estimated that the island is over 800,000 years old, and for 5,000 of those years, the Butchulla people occupied the land.
1. The World Largest Sand Island
Measuring in at 123 kilometres long and approximately 20 kilometres wide, it is classified as the world’s largest sand island. Beating out North Stradbroke Island and Moreton Island for first.
Quite literally, everything on Fraser Island grows out of the sand. Generally, sand is not an ideal environment for plant life to flourish. But the sand on Fraser contains mycorrhizal fungi present, providing nutrients for the perfect atmosphere for plants to grow. The oldest trees on the island are brush box, aged at around 1,200 years old.
2. The Sand
All the sand on Fraser Island is originally from the south of the border. During the last Ice Age, it was all swept up by prevailing winds, from the New South Wales’ tablelands. It is believed that the sand on the island is purer than that of the Sahara Desert. Another record held here is that Mt Bowarrady’s sand dunes are considered one of the tallest in the world, standing high at 240 metres. And as the land is covered in silica sand, it has created brown rocks from the sand cemented together (also known as coffee rocks).
3. Famous Dingoes
The famous dingoes that inhabit Fraser Island are classified as the purest strain of dingo. Being protected by the law and Dingo Conservation society, the island prohibits domestic dogs from entering, in case of cross-breeding.
Originally the dingoes were introduced to Australia about 5,000 years before Captain Cook claimed Australia, by South East Asian Seafarers. At the time, Fraser Island was only a couple of kilometres from the mainland as it just cut-off. The dingoes were able to swim to the island and live peacefully among the Indigenous cultures.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Rangers have created a guide on how to be dingo safe.
4. Eliza Fraser & K’gari
The island was originally named K’gari, meaning paradise. The Indigenous Butchulla people who named it occupied Fraser Island for over 5,000 years.
In 1836, the ship Stirling Castle sunk just off of the island, while the captain and his wife, James and Eliza Fraser, managed to escape on a lifeboat, along with other ship crew. Captain Fraser died on the island and Eliza was stranded there for six weeks, being taken hostage by the tribes. Successfully integrating herself into the Indigenous culture and society, she was soon rescued. The Butchulla people eventually named the island after Eliza Fraser.
Lake Boomanjin, one of the island’s prettier sights, is officially the largest perched lake in the world at 190 hectares. A perched lake is one that is above the water table, only containing rainwater and doesn’t flow to the ocean, and Fraser Island has multiple. Lake McKenzie, another perched lake here, is Fraser’s most popular tourist spot. The water in McKenzie is so pure that it is unsuitable for many sea life to live in.
6. 75 Mile Beach
Most people don’t know, but, 75 Mile Beach on Fraser Island is a registered national highway, as well as a landing strip for aircrafts. It is home to so many tourist attractions, the Maheno shipwreck, Champagne pools and Indian Head (a volcanic rock formation). Locals advise people not to swim on the beach due to dangerous currents. Many like to 4WD down the ‘highway’ to explore the sites.
7. Flying Foxes
If you think your commute to work is a drag, spare a thought for the flying foxes. They have to fly to the island every night from Hervey Bay, as there are no caves on Fraser for them to sleep in during the day. Fraser has around 19 different flying foxes visiting the island regularly. With fruit bats and insectivorous bats, making the majority.
8. Maheno Shipwreck
In 1935 a seasonal cyclone caused the crash and wreckage of the SS Maheno. The ship was originally housing hospital patients in Sydney during WWI and was then sold to a Japanese company. As they began to sail towards Osaka they got hit and washed up on 75 Mile Beach. The survivors attempted to fix the boat but were unsuccessful, hence the abandoned shipwreck.
So far, just over 350 species of birds have been found on Fraser. A large portion of these birds is classified as rare or vulnerable. The island is home to nocturnal birds, birds of prey and wading birds. Birdwatching is a popular activity for tourists who visit the island. Yearly, birds come to the land from as far as Japan, Alaska and Siberia.
10. Use in WWII
During WWII, Fraser Island was used as a secret training base for commando troops. Deemed perfect for both jungle and amphibious training, the site saw more than 900 Allied soldiers put through a gruelling regime.
The men trained daily from early in the morning stretching through too late at night. The training included an 8 kilometre run in full uniform across to Lake McKenzie and back. They were taught how to pull off a silent killing and how to survive in the jungle.