Tangalooma and Moreton Island, have a rich history dating back to the native Aboriginals and early European settlement, some of which is outlined below.
Moorgumpin meaning ‘place of sandhills’ is the Aboriginal name for Moreton Island. The Indigenous people of Moorgumpin are known as the Ngugi. Moorgumpin lies within the area referred to as Quandamooka. Quandamooka is commonly defined as the Moreton Bay region.
Extensive site surveys have established that the Ngugi people lived permanently on the Island, maintaining a marine-based lifestyle for over 2000 years. Fish, shellfish, dugong, turtle and crustaceans formed a major portion of their diet, which was supplemented by the bungwall fern (Blechnum indicum), midyim berries (Austromyrtus dulcis), pandanus and honey.
Archaeological sites on the Island are important to the Ngugi descendants as a reflection of their heritage. Up to 330 cultural sites have been recorded and include shell and bone scatters, large middens and a stone quarry.
In 1770 Captain James Cook named “Morton Bay” after the Scottish Earl of Morton on the 17th May, which was later misspelled as ‘Moreton Bay’ in translations from his journals. It wasn’t until 1823 that the first ‘white visitors’ arrived on Moreton Island. The last of the Ngugi people were forced to relocate to Stradbroke Island in 1850, where their descendants still live today.
World War II
World War II saw two large defence batteries built on Moreton Island — one at Cowan Cowan and the second at Toompani (known as the Rous Battery). During the war a naval base and jetty were built at Tangalooma. The remains of the batteries and other relics are still present and are of historic significance.
In 1950 the Australian Company Whale Products Pty Ltd was formed. Tangalooma was chosen as the site for the largest land-based whaling station in the southern hemisphere.
The first two humpback whales were harpooned in June 1952 near Cape Moreton marking the beginning of operation. By October, the Station had killed and processed the yearly quota of 600 whales, with the season lasting only 124 days.
One whale could yield more than 8000 kilograms of oil, the most valuable resource, which was used to make margarine, glycerine, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. The meat was used for pet food or human consumption overseas, and the bones, offal and low-grade meat were turned into meal for livestock or fertiliser.
In the late 1950s vegetable oil was introduced and then in 1959 there was a fall in world whale oil prices. By 1961 the whales were becoming scarce and light planes were employed to spot the whales from the air. In August 1962, only 68 whales had been caught and the whaling station closed.
In the 10 years of operation 6,277 humpback whales and one blue whale were killed and processed. The operation seriously decimated the east coast population of humpback whales to less than 500 individuals from the original population, which was estimated at 15,000. In 1965 humpback whales were placed on the Protected Species list.
It is estimated that $32 million was earned each year from whaling in Australian waters. Currently whale watching in Australia earns around $70 million per annum.
Tangalooma operates daily whale watching cruises during June - October.
In June 1963 the Tangalooma Whaling Station was sold to a syndicate of Gold Coast businessmen. In 1980 the resort was purchased by a local Brisbane family, the Osborne’s.
Today, Tangalooma Island Resort is still owned and operated by the Osborne family, Brian and Betty, along with sons Jeff and Glenn.