James Murrells at Cape Cleveland
A second chapter of the history of Cape Cleveland began in 1846, when on Wednesday,
25th February the barque "Peruvian",
a wooden ship of 304 tons, left Sydney on a voyage to China with a cargo of hardwood.
The Peruvian carried a full complement of hands along with seven passengers, and was
captained by George Pitkethly. Amongst the crew was one James Murrells, (Morrill) able
A week into the voyage they struck bad weather and several days later struck rocks at Minerva
or Bellona Reefs, about 500 miles off the Queensland coast. A rough raft was constructed and 21
survivors took their chances on the raft. After 42 days, and with only seven survivors, the raft came ashore
on the south eastern side of Cape Cleveland; almost certainly on what is now referred to as "AIMS
The privations for the survivors were extreme, but by the end of the second week on shore
the remaining four castaways were adopted by the local Aboriginal tribes. Within a
year the sole survivor was James Murrells (Morrill), who lived with several tribes in the area for
17 years, until in the Cape Upstart area he was able to make contact with white men on an
Following his return to white civilization he was able
to convey in some detail, information on the habits and foods etc. of local tribes. With a resurgence in interest
in bush tucker, this table gives the local name,
and where possible the current name of the plant, as well as comments on the practical way in which the food was
Perusal of the list shows that foodplants were readily available in the
general area, and were quite sufficient to support a considerable permanent population. When considered together
with animal and marine food sources it can be seen that local tribes had little need to be nomadic, other than
local movements to follow seasonal food sources.
Photos of Abelmoschus moschatus,
Planchonia careya and Pandanus sp. may be seen by
clicking on these names.
On his return to civilization, Murrells had discussions with Rockhampton
botanist, Anthelme Thozet, regarding the food plants favoured by the aboriginal tribes of Cape Cleveland. The
comments combine those of Thozet together with notes from other sources on bush tucker.