NPAQ Outing in the 1974 Floods – National Parks Association of Queensland

NPAQ Outing in the 1974 Floods

Author: Cecily Fearnley

2ND Post-War Field Outing to SPRINGBROOK
January’s Foundation Day Weekend, 1947.
As recorded by then new Member, Cecily SANDERCOCK (now FEARNLEY) in 1948 and discovered amongst old papers in 2009.
The N.P.A.Q. Outing to Springbrook was planned for the Foundation Day Week-end, of January 25th – 27th 1947. The Association’s Outing Committee was conducting the trip to Springbrook on the border of Queensland and New South Wales, and it was my first with them. I had joined only a few months before. I knew it was on the Queensland/New South Wales border and separated from Lamington National Park by the Numinbar Valley, but I had never been there. Apart from a group of small National Parks on the tableland there should be farms with a few houses, then rain forest, eucalypt forest, creeks and waterfalls. It would be interesting to camp there and visit for the long weekend.
As two lads also from the Brisbane City Council Works Dept.’s Drawing Office had also joined the N.P.A.Q. recently, we three decided to go together. I persuaded a girl friend of mine, Una to join me on this trip, for Una and another friend (Fay) had recently climbed Mt. Samson with me. However Una had become attached suddenly to a young lad who was already going as part of another group, and we asked if we could join them. They were quite agreeable.
Decisions had to be made as to what food, clothing and equipment should be taken. Then Lionel Simpson, one of the lads offered to take Norm Traves and myself in his car. Una was to come too if she so wished.  But she didn’t wish, as she preferred being close to her new interest. So the back of the car was to be filled with bread and other luggage that the others of our party perhaps would find awkward to carry in the passenger train.
For the previous four days it had rained – nay, it had poured in great sheets from the heavens. Now and then there was relief; then for a change it just drizzled. The cause of all this rain was a cyclone that was slowly moving down the coast.  The morning of Saturday arrived, and early frantic phone calls were made. “Are you going?” “Do you think it will fine up?” “Is it still on?” This was my first outing with N.P.A.Q members, and I wondered how they would react to damp weather. I certainly did not want to be considered a softie or a squib!
With true Sandercock stubbornness and dogged determination I decided to go or die in the attempt. I wasn’t going to buy provisions and pack up my bags for nothing!
So at 0800 hrs (yes, I used to use military time then and sometimes even now) Lionel arrived at our front gate in his little Morris 8/40, and I pushed my huge heavy pack inside. It was the same pack and tent bundle I had carried for Mt. Samson. “I’m going to find a lighter pack somewhere” I thought. We then drove across to the South Brisbane Railway Station and waited there for Norm.
Only a few of the original parties were as foolish as we were, and in our own group we ended up with 7 instead of the intended 11 members. The few who had decided to brave it out ‘no matter what’ were obviously keen indeed.  Though we expected the rivers to be high, we had no doubt that we would be able to get through quite easily.
The train departure time came, and then I realized the other 4  members of the original party including Una had come only to wave off the adventurous ones.  Lionel and I said “adieu” to Rex, Rolf, Bill and Ruth, then continued to wait for Norm. The back of Lionel’s little car was by now packed with luggage, as the train travellers had handed us most of their bundles and packs. They thought it was inconvenient to carry it in what was after all only a suburban carriage.
Norm duly arrived, and we three set off, rain still falling down and coming through several openings of the material roof on my side of the car, despite fitting in the celluloid windows. Indeed I decided to wear my raincoat to keep the water off me!
We three were in great spirits as Lionel drove along the road towards Southport.  A few sections were under water but we merely made a mighty splash and spray as we went through them. In low sections off the sides of the road we saw whole paddocks were under water, and it looked as if we might indeed have difficulty in getting through. A short discussion, and we resolved to go ahead as far as we could, and meet our difficulties when we came to them.
Passing over the Logan River’s bridge, we saw below us a swirling mass of dirty water. The river was very high, indeed it was running a banker! On and on we drove, rain still pouring down, until a car’s driver travelling in the opposite direction called on us to stop. Seeing our small low car, he earnestly suggested we should turn back. The Coomera River had broken its banks and the road was well under water. We thanked him, but decided to press on, and see it for ourselves. I had never seen a really good flood before, and here was an opportunity not to be missed.
Lionel contributed one of the many good patches of humour we enjoyed on the way. Almost every car approaching us signalled for us to go back, and he tired of it. So as each car approached he would lean out, wave, and call out “How are you Mate?” which quite upset the concerned motorist. He uttered it in such a debonair fashion, too!
The Coomera River is very wide at this point, and has a high bank on the northern township side. Consisting of a dozen or so houses, a general store, garage, post office and the inevitable pub, this small town had a great string of roadside parked cars around the pub. We drove on towards the bridge. Only a few cars and owners were stopped there, owners of those previously parked cars were probably drowning their sorrows inside that pub. Here we pulled up, jumped out, and walked right across the bridge in the pouring rain.
Sure enough, the low southern riverbank was well and truly flooded, and side paddocks covered upstream and down. In front of us the road disappeared under a vast sheet of water. Muddy water from the west met the wind and rain from the east, causing small turbid waves to break on the Pacific Highway!
The main river itself was a raging torrent, with debris of all kinds floating down. It was respectable debris in a way, for we saw no dead animals like cattle floating along, just trees, branches and fences. Before the week-end was out though, three men were to lose their lives in these waters, and thousands of acres of crops ruined.
We tried to estimate the depth of water on the road, but thought 3’0’’ to 3’6” a little too deep for our tiny car.  As we stood there in the wet a big truck came along, and stopped to consider the situation. Of course we struck up a conversation with the driver, and a sudden exclamation from both parties revealed that Norm and the driver knew each other from Wartime Service up in Borneo, Tarakan and other similar places.
After swapping yarns, the driver decided to try to get through. Off he went, slowly entering the water, then sinking lower and lower as he progressed.  After about 50 yards he stopped, decided to think better of it, reversed out, and parked the truck. He would wait. As it was presently high tide on the coast, the general opinion was that it was the tide backing up the flood waters. Low tide was to be at 1500 hrs, but after a discussion, we three decided to turn back to Beenleigh. There we would ring through to Mudgeeraba where the train party had arranged to assemble if the mountain road was impassable.
As it happened, the low tide later made no difference, for more water was pouring into the river from the headwaters.  Instead of subsiding, the depth of water increased.
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