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The Forts, walking on Magnetic Island - North QLD


This walk leads to World War II coastal fortification with stunning views of the Palm Islands, Cape Cleveland, Bowling Green Bay National Park and the granite boulder landscape below.
Halifax Bay

The first section of the rough track follows a ridge up through a mixed eucalypt woodland, with panoramic views across the island to the eastern bays and surrounding water.
Along the track, I spotted this wild koala, nestling in against the wind.
Koala's have made themselves at home on the island since 18 animals were introduced here from Bowen in 1932 to protect them from mainland threats.
ten years later, the war brought new threats to their island sanctuary.
Now there are around 800 koalas on the island.

Mid-way, the track levels our where marked side tracks lead to remains of the military communications structures that were in operation between 1943 and 1945.
The track becomes steeper on the 'Forts Circuit' where stone steps and a narrow track lead up past huge granite boulders to the solid fortifications, set into the hillside.
It was near here in mid 1942 that the first team of army engineers pitched their canvas tents before surveying and clearing the track used today.
It takes about an hour to walk to the top, it took them about 6 months to finish the job.
A team of 25 local men from the Main Roads Commission built this track and the blocky concrete forts ahead in just 10 months, finishing the job in July 1943.
Arthur Bay
Building materials came by barge from the mainland to Arcadia and were loaded on to the 'red terror', a local V8 truck more often used to cart pineapples. In the tropical heat the crew winched and pushed barrows of concrete. they used timber roads to ram the mix into 30cm thick walls, recycling the timber framework for the next building.

Critical to the forts' operation were the two US-army 155mm guns sited at the gun emplacement, each weighing over 10 tonnes. It was a massive task getting them up here.
Under secure guard they were loaded onto a Townville barge to be towed across to the island by the steam tug Alert.
The weighty gun placements were hauled up the beach over logs and completed their journey up this track towed behind a tractor, with a tense moments when one gun tipped over on the bend ahead and had to be righted.
A powder keg
Located a safe distance from the guns, in case of enemy action, the reserve magazine housed the main supply of ammunition - about 400 high-explosive projectiles, each weighing around 43kg. Further up the hill each gun had it's on supply for immediate use. The guns could rotate 360 degrees and were extremely accurate, with a range of 19.3km. A crew of 1 manned the guns. The disappearance of the guns remains a mystery!

The artillery Command Post
The boxy building looked very different in the war, concealed by a cloak of decorated netting and concrete rocks to blend into th natural environment.
This place controlled all battery operations including searchlights and radar units. It housed the main depression range finder, a long telescope on finely geared mountings seated on the concrete column, used to measure the exact range to a target.
The Australian Women's Army Service plotters used the readings to calculate details for the guns and communicated order to the battery command on Castle Hill in Townsville.
The three storey Port War Signal Station is a typical naval communications facility using light and flag signalling.
The big signal light was readable as far away as Great Palm Island, 50km to the north.
Cleveland Bay
Standing 233m above sea level, the station commands a 300 degree ocean view from the top level.
form here the navy monitored all shipping traffic in and out of Cleveland Bay. In 1943 there were regularly 40 ships stacked in the bay. Ships were challenged with a wartime communication and expected to respond with the code of the day.

Posted by charlystyles 13:40 Archived in Australia Tagged magnetic_island the_forts

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