Thornton Peak Landslide

/Thornton Peak Landslide

Thornton Peak Landslide


1 JULY 2018

Heavy, unseasonal rainfall brought a tumultuous 137-mm in a relatively short period overnight, precipitating the slumping of a significant portion of the oldest rainforest in the world. After a dry June, an exceptional downpour of 137-mm on the first night of July initiated a landslide from the top of  Thornton Peak (Wundungu.)  A large swathe, estimated, to be about 10 hectares in area was totally denuded from the peak to the lowland rainforest.  It was on the eastern face of the mountain, acknowledged as the centre of significance in a rainforest that has endured for 180-million years.


Thornton Peak (Wundungu) attracts by far the highest rainfall in Australia.  In the coastal lowlands of the Cooper Valley, we average 5.5-metres/year and merely doubling this average, which is a very conservative allowance, puts the Peak’s average at 11-metres/year.  This average annual rainfall is more than 2.5-metres higher than that of Queensland’s highest mountain, Mt. Bartle-Frere.  Thornton Peak has provided refuge to the last fragment of the oldest-surviving rainforest in the world and the values that specialise in the higher altitudes are so restricted in their distributions that is is hard to reckon how catastrophic the landslide was.

Thornton Peak
Thornton Peak
Thornton Peak
Thornton Peak

Two swathes of collapsed landscape have brought down innumerable plants and their corresponding inhabitants.  An island of retained habitat hangs precariously between the two swathes and will likely collapse with the next significant deluge.  The loss of life and integrity is nothing short of catastrophic.  The awesome power of Nature puts humans into the position of knowing their place of relative insignificance, but also of understanding their responsibilities as the apex species.

“I never imagined that such a thing would occur within my lifetime.  Against all other places, Thornton Peak has long established itself into biological legend for its enduring qualities and then this unexpected disaster!”


What is most perplexing, is how the collapse could have been triggered, when the mountain’s vegetative mantle has worn the ravages of time longer than any other, and yet, in this unseasonal deluge, it fell.

By |2018-07-08T13:00:27+00:00July 4th, 2018|Miscellaneous|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Andrew August 7, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    What goes up must come down

    Landslides play an important ecological role which many observers often overlook. Landslides contribute to aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity. Debris flows and other mass movement play an important role in supplying sediment and coarse woody debris to maintain pool/riffle habitat in streams, of which Thornton Peak has many. As disturbance agents, landslides engender a mosaic of seral stages, soils, etc. and are responsible for maintaining maximum diversity (floristics) and creating optimum habitat for fauna. Gross disturbance in highly localised situations such as this slip will initially result in opportunistic vine species claiming the open ground with some pioneer/nomad species (Dendrocnide spp.) staking their claim. Islands of topsoil will take time in establishing over the subsoil but this is a sliver of disturbance on an otherwise intact mountain clothed in universal forest supporting superlative natural phenomena. I should also add that it will take considerable time to repair (800 years) but what’s 800 years to a green dinosaur

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