Heron Island's History


The wreck of the HMAS Protector off Heron Island.
Image: Raelene Morey.

 

Friday 13 November 2008
 
Once home to a turtle soup cannery, Heron Island is now a destination for tourists and scientists alike.
 
Situated 72km off the coast of Gladstone in Central Queensland, the 8ha sand cay lies on the Tropic of Capricorn and sits on the leeward edge of a thriving coral reef platform.
Heron Reef is home to around 60 per cent of the approximately 1500 species of fish and around 72 per cent of the coral species found on the Great Barrier Reef.
 
The island is densely forested with surrounding dunes, which provide a nesting habitat for thousands of migratory and resident birds. Heron Island is also a major green turtle nesting site.
 
First occupied by a turtle soup cannery in the 1920s, the focus turned to tourism in 1936. The Great Barrier Reef Committee identified Heron Island as a specialised and unique location to establish the first permanent research station in the 1950s, leading to the construction of the Heron Island Research Station.
 
The island's only tenants are the research station operated by the University of Queensland, Voyages Heron Island Resort and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services.
 
A permanent staff of 10 operates the research station, which can accommodate up to 120 guests, including visiting students and research groups from around Australia and overseas.
 
The research station is currently under construction after a devastating fire tore through the site's buildings in March 2007. A $9m reconstruction over two years allowed the station to reopen in February 2009.