While Magnetic Islanders are currently considering the landscaping of the Nelly Bay Harbour breakwall it may come as a surprise that the mouth of the harbour and end of the breakwall is also the site where, almost a century ago, a 40 metre shipwreck once imposed its presence and protected a frail timber jetty which serviced Nelly Bay. It was the "Presto".
The Presto was positioned as a breakwater where, almost a century later, the construction of the new breakwater and the harbour irrevocably changed Bright Point and its reef surrounds. This created division and acrimony within the community and is consdered by some as the most dramatic event in Magnetic Island's history since European occupation.
In front of the units built along the entrance to the Nelly Bay harbour there is an unprepossessing lump of metal and concrete – all that remains of the partially submerged vessel that was such a dominant feature at Bright Point. No one knows what will happen to this last trace of the Presto.
All that remains of the "Presto" today
The title ‘What happened to the Presto’ is deliberately enigmatic. ‘The history of the Presto tells of extreme change on Magnetic Island,’ said Zanita Davies President of Magnetic Island History and Craft Centre. ‘History is fundamentally about change and not all of our twelve exhibition histories have the impact of the Presto saga. The golf club changes have been almost evolutionary and changes in the Sports and Recreation Club site have been scarcely controversial.’
A group photo taken at the MI Country (golf) Club in 1963
Since opening Butler Hut to the public last year MIHCC has been working to establish Magnetic Museum with the assistance of our honorary museum curator Fairlie Sandilands. With this particular annual exhibition MIHCC formalizes Magnetic Museum.
‘What happened to the Presto’ will be opened at 2.30pm 19 September 2009 and an invitation is extended to all interested people. The exhibition is also part of the Magnetic Bay Days festivities and can be viewed daily except Tuesdays, 10.00 – 2.00pm until 3 October.
To add your comment, or read those of others, see below
What happened to the Presto
Actually it was 112 years ago in July 1897, some months after Cyclone Sigma wrecked Townsville harbour and much of the town, that the wreck of the Presto was towed to Nelly Bay. It was many years later that the little jetty, built off the end of Bright Point and connected back into the bay by a rickety wooden 'boardwalk', served as the landing for ferries coming almost daily to Nelly Bay.
Woops. It was 113 years ago at the end of June 1896. Fortunately there is an excellent record in local newspapers from the period (most held at JCU) - this one from the North Queensland Herald dated 1 July 1896.