Awareness Quest Research

The discovery on Fraser Island of a lead fishing weight lends credence to European involvement in the area about 700 years ago.

In 1976 a team from the CSIRO division of soils comprising of Bill Ward, Ian Little and Grahame Roberts, recovered a lead fishing weight from a depth of 2.2 to 2.4m using a sand auger on Fraser Island’s Hook point, where they were conducting a study of sand formation. The lead fishing weight measures 6cm by 11cm and has a hole at the top end which indicates it had been attached to a fishing net. Some of the theories behind the lead weights arrival are:

1) It was cast ashore after drifting from distant oceans.

2) It came from France or Spain, was traded across Asia and then lost by Indonesian fishermen.

3) It came from a Celtic expedition to Gondwanaland; Australia

4) Portuguese or Dutch ships visit

There is a story around that Australia was discovered and mapped about 200 to 300 years before Cook by the Portuguese but they kept it quiet because this part of the world was supposed to belong to the Spaniards. When the Pope divided the world, in the 1500’s, the section which included most of Australia was given to Spain. One of the reasons for the Portuguese theory is the existence of a map known as The Dauphin Chart (1530-1536), which has been interpreted as roughly depicting the eastern coast of Australia. The chart was found in France but was supposed to have come from Portugal and had Portuguese names on it. Sir Joseph Banks was reputed to have a copy of The Dauphin Chart with him during his voyage with Cook.

By comparing isotope content with isotope data from known sources, Brian Gulson from the CSIRO tested the lead to reveal that, the particular lead in the weight, matched very closely with lead from an outcrop in southern France, which was part of a mineral field extending into Spain. Queensland University of Technology physicist Brian O’Leary measured the activities of radio-isotopes in the lead to determine whether it had been mined recently. He said, “While the lead could have been mined centuries ago, the scientific evidence could only indicate that the lead was not mined in the past 100 years.”

By dating the arrival of pumice found with the lead it indicates it was deposited, or left on the beach, between 1235 and 1400 AD. That’s between 600 to 750 years ago.

It is now in the Queensland Museum.

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