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• Earliest Settlers
• Thomas Holt
• Dunes Violated
• The Sandhills
• Alpha House


The Sandhills

When James Cook in 1770, had looked down on what is today called Cronulla Beach from the sandhills, which covered over 1000 acres and rose to 200 feet, he had made no mention of any bare dunes. Less than 100 years later the scrub had been cleared and burnt, the trees had been ringbarked or cut down for the timber industry, and Holt's grazing stock had eaten out the restraining grass cover. This intervention of man unleashed the sands to produce an unstable transgressive dune sheet that moved north at the rate of at least 8 metres a year.
Cattle grazing on the dunes. Sand is beginning to be exposed because of loss of the restraining grass cover, 1860. Mitchell Library Extensive areas of sand exposed because of the grazing sheep and cattle, 1870. Fred Midgley
In 1933 the Sutherland Shire Council asked the Government to set aside the 2000 acres between Cronulla Golf Club and Kurnell as a reserve. But the Government could see no reason to establish another National Reserve so near to Captain Cook's Landing Place Reserve.
Looking north along what is now Wanda Beach, towards Boat Harbour, 1895.  Fred Midgley  Logging in Kurnell in the 1920s. Sutherland Library
In 1937 the Council was offered 720 acres of sandhills at a low price. The Council was evenly split and the negative casting vote of its President, C. O. J. (Joe) Monro, foreshadowed the doom of the dunes. Since then the escalating extraction of sand for the Sydney building industry has seen in excess of 70 million tonnes of sand carted away. The once towering pristine dune-scape, a playground for generations of children, has been reduced to a few remnant dunes and deep water-filled pits, many of which are now being filled with demolition waste from Sydney's building sites.
Paul Allen and David Salt playing on the dunes, 1978. Note the overhead power lines, near the top of the dunes, transmitting power to the Caltex Oil Refinery.
1905, Boat Harbour and Bate Bay Dunes. Cronulla Surf Life Saving Club
Marcel Gorel, Ron Bussing and Ashley Boon on top of a dune; cars can be seen below, 1970. Leni Bussing. Children playing on the dunes, 1979.
Because of the enormous expanse of sand and the sensation of being isolated in a remote desert region these dunes were used until the 1980s for movies such as 40,000 Horsemen, Rats of Tobruk, Thunder in the Desert, Phar Lap, and Mad MaxBeyond Thunderdome
A scene from the movie 40,000 Horsemen, set in the Kurnell dunes, 1938.  National Film and Sound Archives
Tower facade made of wire netting and stucco for 40,000 Horsemen, 1938. Wal Campbell (on left) was in the Charles Chauvel film with actor Chips Rafferty. Don Campbell
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