Image Flooding in Brisbane, 1893 - asset 2

TLF ID R8627

This black-and-white photograph of disastrous floods in 1893 shows an inundated section of the Brisbane central business district. The photograph provides a view from Adelaide Street towards the Brisbane River - past a group of men, women and children and a saddled horse at the water's edge, and down Creek Street with its avenue of commercial single- to four-storey buildings. There are several rowboats in the water and several people are immersed to their waists or chests.

Educational details

Educational value
  • The photograph gives some impression of the extent of a flood in 1893 that caused devastating loss of life and damage, especially in Brisbane, Ipswich and Maryborough. From 1 to 15 February, 35 people died, many were injured and 5,000 became homeless. Six hundred homes were destroyed, many washed out to sea. Two major bridges, the Indooroopilly Railway Bridge and Victoria Bridge, collapsed and 5,000 buildings and five large ships were damaged.
  • Brisbane's central business district, part of which is shown in the photograph, is bounded on three sides by the Brisbane River. The River meanders, has tight bends and a fast-flowing current, and is subject to the influences of tides and storm surges for 75 km upstream. Prior to the establishment of flood mitigation schemes, flooding was a common occurrence.
  • The 1893 floods seen here resulted from three cyclones hitting south-eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales over a short period of time. The cyclones occurred within the space of one fortnight in February. In Brisbane, the first flood peak reached 9.51 m, the second 3.29 m and the third 9.24 m, more than 3 m above the previous high flood mark recorded in 1890 and the highest flood levels ever recorded in Australia.
  • In the photograph, people can be seen in boats and wading through the dangerously polluted floodwaters. Floodwaters can carry bacteria picked up from the land, dead animals, released sewerage and contaminants from businesses. Exposure to floodwater can cause skin infections, gastrointestinal illnesses, hepatitis, meningitis and leptospirosis and it is probable that some of the people shown here later became ill.
  • Much of the damage caused by floods is due to debris - such as that seen in the image - being washed along by the water. The railway bridge at Indooroopilly eventually succumbed to the pressure of floodwaters and to sustained ramming by heavy objects such as floating houses or logs. Victoria Bridge had houses, furniture and other items smashed to fragments against it, causing its northern end to separate and sink.
  • The extent of damage to businesses, obvious in the photograph, was partly due to Brisbane's expansion - although the city had previously experienced a devastating flood in 1841, the ensuing half century had seen buildings constructed on flood plains and along local rivers and tributaries. Land clearing had also disturbed natural drainage patterns, so the extent of damage to homes, farms and businesses was greater than in 1841 and there were even more stories of hardship.

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
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  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
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