Brisbane & Surrounds :: Bribie Island

Bribie Island. One of the most under-rated locations in our local area, in our opinion. It might be small but it is full of natural, tranquil beauty. We cannot think of a better spot to explore, relax, swim and enjoy fresh-from-the-trawler fish (& chips) while watching the sunset - all in one day. If you are lucky, you might see some dolphins, too! Plenty of suggestions at Visit Bribie Island. In the meantime, here are some photographs from a recent (memorable) day at Bribie Island with friends. <3

THE FAMOUS HUT Artist Ian Fairweather outside his studio and living quarters at Bongaree, Bribie Island.

Fairweather lived on Bribie Island from 1953 until his death in 1974. Those years were his most productive as an artist.

Born in 1891, Fairweather had a solitary childhood. He spent many decades restlessly traveling the world until he settled on Bribie.

Luminaries of Australia’s visual arts community made the pilgrimage to see Fairweather at his Bribie hut.

The site of the hut is now at Fairweather Park on the corner of First Avenue and Hunter Street, Bongaree.

Ichthyology: fish science

Ichthyology is literally the study of fish: ikthus meaning fish and logos meaning study.

As a scientific system, ichthyology began with Aristotle – just a small part of his quest to document and describe everything on earth. By 332 BC he had described and classified 117 species of Mediterranean fish.

The father of modern ichthyology, Peter Artedi, standardised fish classification under the system of Carl Linnaeus, his friend and colleague at Uppsala University in Sweden. Most of Artedi’s work was done between 1724 and 1728. Unfortunately his career was cut short when at the age of 30 he fell into an Amsterdam canal and drowned.

Artedi had been visiting Amsterdam to catalogue the famous fish collection of Albertus Seba, a prosperous pharmacist. Seba had formed, as a private individual, the richest natural history museum of his time.

Fish in bottles

From the earliest days of the Amateur Fishermen’s Association of Queensland, members collected, identified, and preserved specimens of fish to track the changing quality and quantity of fish stocks in Queensland waters.

More than 300 of these are still in the collection. On some of the jars can be seen the meticulous handwriting of the collection’s first curator, the renowned ichthyologist James Douglas Ogilby.

In the years 1905 to 1912, Ogilby was working with the Amateur Fishermen’s Association of Queensland as a professional ichthyologist, publishing papers, attending meetings and even going on the Endeavour’s expeditions in 1909, from which 67 of the 280 specimens made their way to the collection.

The specimens at their peak probably numbered over 2000. In the bumper collecting year 1907, 601 specimens were added to the 456 already in the collection. In 1908, 295 were added. In 1909, at least 215 were added, probably more, and in 1912 another 345 were added. Just these recorded additions amounted to 1912 specimens in the collection.

This collection now has fish, crustaceans, seahorse, sharks, stone fish, one sea snake and even kelp. There are 9 flatheads, 10 gurnards, 10 leatherjackets, 12 eels and 15 cod. The specimens came from all up and down the eastern coast of Australia, from Cape York to Tasmania, but by far the most came from Moreton Bay and Bribie.

At least 30 were officially names and described by James Douglas Ogilby who was also the most active collector, contributing 53 specimens. Next best was EJ Banfield with 28 specimens.

What is a fish?

This question has probably caused more argument than any other. Are sharks fish? What about lungfish? Some eels have no fins, but they are fish. Some animals other than fish breathe using gills.

Only someone wanting to get thrown into the sea would quote Berra who wrote in 2001 that, allowing for exceptions, “we can define a fish as a poikilothermic, aquatic chordate with appendages (when present) developed as fins, whose chief respiratory organs are gills and whose body is usually covered with scales”.

Much easier is to point at a fish and say: “That’s a fish”. Unfortunately we don’t often have one handy when we are arguing about them.

As it happens, along with whiting, bream, snapper and flathead, which we all know are fish – whale sharks, manta rays, moray eels & seahorses are all not only fish, they are 100 per cent fish.

The best answer to the question “What is a fish?” is any animal a credentialled ichthyologist wants to call a fish. Unfortunately ichthyologists are not always handy either.

Fish all have backbones, but they are not always bony – shark have cartilage skeletons. Fish are cold-blooded. This rule is an important one as it excludes dolphins, whales and dugong. They are warm-blooded mammals, just like us.

The Norfolk – Matthew Flinder’s Sloop

This model of the Norfolk was built by Bribie Island resident, Kenneth Aldridge in 2010.