At a glance, Australia’s Inskip Point looks like a small strip of paradise. Yes, the sandy peninsula – surrounded by vividly blue waters – seems as though it could be the perfect place to get away from it all. But on one evening, the ground at the beauty spot begins to rumble. And even more alarmingly, the sand that lies just inches away from visitors’ feet appears to vanish entirely. In fact, it could very well be the beginning of the end for this picturesque part of Queensland.
That’s right: on September 24, 2018, reports began to emerge of a void opening up along the shores of Inskip Point. And, shockingly, this 25-foot-wide hole could ultimately signal disaster for the beach’s future, as experts have since warned that the whole area could itself be swallowed up at some point.
But it’s not as if the locals hadn’t known such a dramatic event may have beeen coming, as something similar had happened there almost three years previously. Back in 2015, a 650-foot-wide hole took everything that laid around it, including a caravan, tents and another vehicle. Luckily, though, no one went under with them.
And during the following springtime, yet another chunk of Inskip Point was lost. On this particular occasion, things were a lot less dramatic; nobody frequenting the area was impacted, and things carried on as normal in the wake of the natural occurrence. Regardless, weaknesses in the land remained a real and ongoing concern.
In fact, in the wake of the hole that emerged in 2018, specialists warned that something similar was bound to happen again. And although a precise date could not be given, another – perhaps even bigger – void is seen as a virtual inevitability. Hopefully, then, nobody will get swallowed at the time that it comes.
And the possibility of the Inskip Point peninsula disappearing altogether should give locals cause for worry – not least because beaches are at the heart of the Australian way of life. The country is entirely encircled by the ocean, you see, and around 85 percent of its citizens are actually based near the coast. According to CNN, there’s actually over 31,000 miles of coastline down under.
It may come as no surprise to hear, either, that beach life is reflected in many Australian TV series, films and popular songs. The popular soap opera Home and Away – broadcast in more than 80 countries worldwide – is based in a fictitious town located along the east coast of the country, for one. And there’s perhaps one beach activity for which Australia is particularly famous, too.
You’ve guessed it: the huge stretches of coastline in Australia have of course contributed to the endless popularity of surfing. Apparently, more than ten percent of the entire population surf recreationally, while thousands more come from across the planet to ride the country’s famous waves.
There are certainly plenty of beaches for Australians to enjoy, anyway – more than 10,000, according to Vogue. And some, such as Bondi Beach in Sydney, are famous all around the globe to boot. But while Bondi Beach may eclipse it in terms of name recognition, there’s another stretch of sand north of Sydney that’s also fairly popular with the crowds.
The area in question is the town of Rainbow Beach, which can be found in the northeasterly state of Queensland. And even though this settlement reportedly has only around 1,100 inhabitants, it’s known to host thousands of visitors – who are catered to by hotels and camping facilities in the vicinity.
Interestingly, however, Rainbow Beach once had a name that is almost diametrically opposed to its current moniker. At one point, you see, it was known as Black Beach; in time, though, the multicolored dunes nearby prompted the change. And while the banks’ vibrant hues can be chalked up to the minerals that they contain, the indigenous Gubbi Gubbi population have an altogether different – and more poetic – explanation for the phenomenon.
The Gubbi Gubbi themselves have roots in the southeast of Queensland, although apparently they once spread themselves much further afield. According to 20th-century anthropologist Norman Tindale, in fact, the Gubbi Gubbi at one time laid claim to more than 3,700 square miles of Australian territory. And although British colonization would go on to severely impair the indigenous people’s way of life, their traditions continue on in some form today.
According to Gubbi Gubbi mythology, moreover, the dunes of Rainbow Beach are richly colored because of an apparition. That’s right: an entity known as Yiningie – who expressed themselves as a rainbow – is said to have been sent crashing into the area following an encounter with a nefarious tribeman. And legend has it that Yiningie’s colors ultimately mixed with the dunes as a result.
Given those stunning hues, then, it’s perhaps no surprise that Rainbow Beach is a hit with tourists. It should be noted, though, that the location also acts as a handy means of getting to nearby Fraser Island. This 76-mile-long land mass is said to be the biggest island on Earth to be made up of sand, with its many grains said to have been gathering for roughly the past 750,000 years. But the history of the outcrop certainly doesn’t end there.
For one, archaeologists believe that humans have lived on Fraser Island for no fewer than five millennia. Sadly, though, the aboriginal population there was devastated when colonizers from Europe arrived. According to a census undertaken in 2011, in fact, just 194 people now live on the island. Nonetheless, it’s still a popular destination for thousands of tourists.
And in order to get to Fraser Island, you can get a ferry from Inskip Point, which lies north of Rainbow Beach. This journey spans less than a mile, taking crowds from the Australian mainland to the south of Fraser Island – an area known as Hook Point.
Mind you, Inskip Point – which was once referred to by indigenous people as Carah – has its own history of colonisation. It’s said, for example, that the location was the first in the vicinity to home European settlers. By the beginning of the 20th century, a school had even been built to educate the kids of workers there.
But Inskip Point certainly isn’t all sand. Along the coast, vibrant examples of plant life can be found, including trees belonging to the evergreen Casuarina and the coniferous Callitris genera. There are also a variety of shrubs that serve as homes for different bird species. Then, of course, there’s the marine life.
Yes, the sea waters surrounding Inskip Point are abundant in fish and other creatures. As such, fishing is common there – though limitations have been imposed on the extent of the hauls permitted. And as you may expect, swimming is a popular pursuit for those lucky enough to find themselves on the beach. Still, as we’ll find out, many of those who do visit Inskip Point won’t necessarily leave the site come sunfall.
Thankfully, at present, that’s not down to the hole swallowing tourists up. Instead, there are a number of areas at Inskip Point that have been designated for camping, allowing visitors to sleep out in what once was an idyllic beach paradise. That said, the dramatic developments to have taken place at the location over the past few years may give potential campers pause for thought.
Back in June 2011, you see, a hole materialized in the earth at Inskip Point. Initially starting out small, the void quickly began to grow and grow. It swallowed up whole swathes of the beach, in fact, sucking sections downwards to a depth of 165 feet. And all anyone could do was to watch on helplessly.
One onlooker at the time was Ron Morgan from nearby Hervey Bay. And in the wake of what happened at Inskip Point, Morgan described the scene to the Fraser Coast Chronicle. “The beach is just falling,” he told the paper. “It’s disappearing into a giant hole.”
Morgan added, “You can’t see the bottom [of the hole]. It’s like a deep crevasse, and it is growing all the time.” And, eventually, according to the bystander, the gap in the earth expanded to cover roughly 325 feet. But that wasn’t all.
You see, while Rainbow Beach worker Greg Haring divulged that holes of this nature had been known to appear before 2011, this particular one had been the largest he’d ever come across. When speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald in 2011, Haring ominously added of the void, “Some of the trees are collapsing into it.” Yet as the next few years would make apparent, this was just the beginning.
Four years later, you see, there was another worrying development at Inskip Point – and this time, people camping in the area found themselves in direct danger. Reports emerged suggesting that a hole that exceeded the size of a football field had opened up, sucking up vehicles and possessions in its wake.
And according to one eyewitness account, the frightening event came complete with its own soundtrack. As tourist Casey Hughes explained to ABC News, the expanding hole “sounded like a thunder noise.” Somewhat inevitably, there was panic at the location, too, with camper Sylvia Murray telling the broadcaster, “People were basically on the edge of it with their van, trying to madly get their vans out.”
ABC News also reported at the time that a woman had rushed around the area, shouting at people in caravans to warn them of the increasing void. Ultimately, then, some 140 people managed to escape from the threatened campsite. And luckily, despite the losses of property, nobody was hurt or killed. But what exactly had happened to the beach?
Well, although a number of reports to emerge in the wake of the 2015 incident initially described the void as a sinkhole, this was later found not to be the case. Apparently, what had really happened at Inskip Point that night could more correctly be described as a landslip.
More commonly known as landslides, landslips can be caused by mudflows, rockfalls and debris flows. And unluckily for some, such collapses have been recorded in numerous places – including on mountains, at cliffs or underneath the surface of a body of water.
Yet although Inskip Point had already had its fair share of bad luck when it came to landslips, this misfortune didn’t come to an end after 2015. Indeed, during the springtime of 2016, it became apparent that the same area was still being eroded – although this time the campsites based there managed to emerge unscathed.
And while talking to ABC News, a spokesperson for the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service explained the processes at work. “[The erosion] is caused by the undermining of part of the shoreline by tidal flow, waves and currents,” they revealed. “When this occurs below the waterline, the shoreline loses support, and a section slides seaward leaving a hole – the edges of which retrogress back towards the shore.”
Unfortunately for Inskip Point, though, respite from the forces of nature would not be easy to come by. And in 2018 another void – even bigger than the ones that had come before – appeared in the area. Owing to the sheer size of the hole, moreover, some experts were even expressing their fears for the entire future of the beach itself.
Towards the end of September 2018, you see, another part of Inskip Point was lost underwater as a section of the beach collapsed. And this time, the void that materialized had a greater impact on its surroundings than its predecessors.
Glen Cruickshank – who works with Rainbow Beach Helicopters – would later describe the scene to ABC News. “I’d have to say this is slightly bigger [than the hole from 2015],” he said. “This new hole – it’s through the beach, it’s through the trees. It’s a round hole, quite deep and quite big.”
But, intriguingly, Cruickshank claimed that the new hole had shown up not far from the ones from previous years. He added, “With all the three sinkholes that have been [at Inskip Point], they have all been in an area that’s only 400 meters [1,312 feet] between them.”
Even so, the relative proximity of the holes may not allay anyone’s fears that Inskip Point will one day be no more. An expert by the name of Allison Golsby, for example, expressed her concerns after the 2015 incident when speaking to ABC News. And considering the damage to the beach that has subsequently been seen in 2016 and 2018, her worries might well be considered valid.
Golsby claimed, for one, that scientific analysis suggests the whole area could be under threat. “People have said that at some stage they think Inskip Point may not be there,” she explained. “Now, that could be thousands of years; it could be hundreds of years.”
Then, following the emergence of the hole in 2018, another expert weighed in with his own thoughts. In particular, Peter Davies – an Earth Sciences academic from the University of the Sunshine Coast – called the event a near-shore landslide, which is caused when rock dissolves below the surface. As was the case with the previous incidents, then, this was not to be designated as a sinkhole, according to Davies.
And even more portentously, Davies suggested to ABC News that another landslide was sure to occur down the line –although he couldn’t predict when. “We could see another one in 12 months, or we could see one in a few years,” he said. “All we can say with any certainty is that it’s an [inherently] unstable area [that] will do this periodically.”
If another landslip does occur, though, perhaps it’ll wow visitors in much the same way as the 2018 hole. Speaking about the Inskip Point void, Matthew Deehan said to ABC News, “We were gobsmacked when we saw it. It’s crazy to believe there was a bank here yesterday, and today it’s disappeared.” But Deehan followed that up by suggesting the reason why visitors can’t leave Inskip Point alone – in spite of any potential danger. “It’s still a beautiful place,” he added.