A visit to Postans’ Logging Camp by the Fraser Island World Heritage Advisory Committees in early March was a glimpse for many into the logging heritage of Fraser Island (K’gari). John Sinclair relates his memories of Postans in the 1950’s.
My first real opportunity to explore Fraser Island came to me in January 1958. This was my first time to visit Postans Camp. I was helping to trans-ship a load of recycled timber for Maryborough builder Len McConnell (aka Rockem) to the Poyungan Valley on the “Back Beach.” Rockem had chartered Andrew Postans to take the timber from Urangan to and across the island to his house under construction. Rockem needed labour and I needed a break from service station work prior to returning to Gatton College.
The timber was ferried in dinghies out to Andrew Postans’ launch at the Urangan Gravel jetty that is now the Urangan Boat Harbour. It was a memorable and arduous task taking hours. The most unforgettable part of the passage across was seeing the elegance large flocks of black swans taking off as we neared Poyungan Creek just prior to being swallowed up in a wall of mangroves. As the tide dropped, we carried plank after plank up the bank to be loaded onto Andrew’s truck.
Before we could set off, we detoured into Postans’ Camp at the top of the hill above the log landing. It was located up here to escape the biting midges that thrive on the western side of the island closer to the mangroves. However, by removing the trees and keeping the grass short the site was afforded my breeze and provided little habitat for the midgies.
Andrew Postans had been in the same year as me at the Maryborough Boys State Intermediate and High School. We both left school before we were 16, to work in our respective family businesses. I worked in Dad’s service station as a grease monkey, before seizing an opportunity to study agricultural science at Gatton College. Andrew on the other hand came from a family with a long history of working in the timber industry on Fraser Island (K’Gari). Both his father (Andy) and his uncle, Laurie had built up the largest base camp for their timber operations on the island.
I had just a brief chance to take in Postans’ Camp, while Andrew sought out something needed for our journey across the island. There was then only one other timber contractor on the island, Joe Cunningham whose base camp wasn’t far away at Bogimbah. When Joe left the island leaving the Postans with a monopoly on harvesting and hauling all of the timber from the island, it wasn’t hard for Joe’s machinery and vehicles to migrate up to Postans’ Camp, but that merger didn’t happen until the 1970s.
When I first saw Postans Camp, it had more sophisticated accommodation than most timber contractors enjoyed. Many lived in bush timber, galvanized iron and bark dwellings in very rough conditions, whereas the Postans provided proper housing both for themselves and their workers. One exception was an old Brisbane bus that Andrew had acquired that he parked when working in more remote locations on the island to minimize the need to return to the base camp as often. Like the other machinery, this remains rusting away at Postans Camp.
Andrew never tired of the adventure and excitement of working with big equipment in a challenging environment and experiencing this amazing island. He taught himself to fly and eventually replaced the launch with an aircraft to travel to and from Maryborough.
I got to know Laurie Postans much better than Andrew’s father. On 31 December 1962, New Year’s Eve, my wife and I as newly weds were enjoying a five day break at Poyungan Valley. Laurie and friends were in the adjacent, more substantial, house when the eye of a small and unpredicted cyclone passed right over us, leaving us cut off from our transport home. Sadly, Laurie Postans was killed on K’Gari only a few weeks later when a tree fell on him.
Back in 1958, I appreciated just how much Andrew loved the island as he us drove through Bogimbah Scrub. He stopped the truck, climbed to the top of the load, cut a water vine with his machete, and drank the fluid from it. That first crossing was an indelible introduction to the island.
Sadly, my relationship with Andy Postans changed from friend to foe in 1971, when FIDO began advocating that the whole island should become a National Park. He knew that would mean the end of Fraser Island logging. It would be another 20 years before logging ended. However, I was never invited, nor given the opportunity to return to Postans’ Camp from 1971 until 2017.