On 4 March 1899, a category 5 cyclone hit Bathurst Bay with winds reaching 260 km per hour. A tsunami of 14.6 m swept inland for 5 km. A 13 m wave surge at Ninian Bay adjacent to Barrow Point (30 km south of Bathurst Bay) extended inland for 3-5 km. The cyclone crossed the coast at Princess Charlotte Bay. Barometer read at 914 hPa in the eye. 55 schooners or other large vessels were lost. 55 luggers were lost and 12 badly damaged. 42 other vessels were wrecked and 12 badly damaged. There was a huge storm surge of 14.6m on Barrow Point. On Flinders Island porpoises were found 15m up on the cliffs.

The cyclone is regarded as the worst known natural disaster, in terms of loss of human lives, in Australian European history. In all more than 307 lives were lost from the effects of a severe tropical cyclone.

The search steamer White Star reached Hannah Islands on Friday 10 March and searched the area. They found that between Hannah Islands and Bewick Island everything in the shape of trees and grass had been swept clean and marked the impact zone of the hurricane. In the salvage operations it was found that all the boats discovered close to the shore had their masts carried away just above the decks . From this it would appear that the boats had been rolled over and over along the  bottom. The force of the waves must have been tremendous to turn the boats over and over and it is fortunate that the bottom of the sea at that place was composed of mud, otherwise the boats would have been chafed to pieces. Walking along the shore southwest from Cape Melville there was much evidence of damage. About 2 miles from the Cape the wreckage was most plentiful and in some cases a quarter of a mile inland from the seashore.

The losses included 5 large vessels totally lost, 2 wrecked but refloated, 1 dismasted, 35 diving boats totally lost; 19 swimming boats totally lost; 12 diving boats refloated; 307 lives lost from the Pearling fleet.

At Flinders island searchers found thirteen dead porpoises fifty feet up a cliff hurled there by wind and waves.

Link: More Info on Cyclone Mahina

Rockhampton Regional Council in partnership with the Queensland a…

Position of Cyclone Mahina, 5 March 1899

Location map - Bathurst Bay

Clement Wragge's isobaric chart for 9am Sat 4 March 1899 - wind d…