51st anniversary of a 100 year time capsule

Guest blogger: Julie Hornibrook – 2015 Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellow

On 4 May 1966, 51 years ago, the Amoco Memorial Time Capsule, was buried in a ceremony at Bulwer Island, Pinkenba, by the Premier of Queensland, the Honourable G.F.R. Nicklin. The plaque on site describes it as containing ‘documents and materials of significant historical importance for the benefit of posterity.’ Indeed a Sunday Mail article from 1966 lists hundreds of documents in the time capsule, including the biography of my grandfather, Sir Manuel Hornibrook, written by Waveney Browne.

Plaque on time capsule monument – photo by Julie Hornibrook

Plaque on time capsule monument – photo by Julie Hornibrook

Coming across this reference as part of my Fellowship with State Library Queensland and the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame sparked my interest in the time capsule, finding where it is, who is looking after it and wondering if Brisbane will remember to open it on 4 May 2066?. Hence, a small quest to find answers has emerged!

I have gained clues from Brisbane City Council archivist, the Department of Environment & Heritage Protection, BP Bulwer Refinery Transition Project, a local Brisbane Councillor and a person who was there at the time of the time capsule burial. A current search of the land title where the capsule is buried in Tingira St, shows that BP is the current trustee of the land. The location is over the road from the monument unveiled by the Queen in 1963 to commemorate the discovery of oil in Queensland, and is marked by a three metre high replica of the underground vault. The reserve is listed on the Brisbane City Council Heritage Register so if changes to the use of the land were proposed they would be notified. No state department has carriage or responsibility to ensure the time capsule is opened in the future, so the task belongs to BP.

Survey plan (R2071 – Res for Park, Time Capsule) from the Department of Natural Resources and Mines

Survey plan (R2071 – Res for Park, Time Capsule) from the Department of Natural Resources and Mines

Julie Hornibrook and her brother Sam, visit time capsule, Pinkenba. Photo – Jakob Pfaeffli

Julie Hornibrook and her brother Sam, visit time capsule, Pinkenba. Photo – Jakob Pfaeffli

The Sunday Mail article of 1966 (May 1) describes how the capsule was designed to last 100 years and the material is contained in four brass cylinders held in a concrete vault, pumped with gas to assist with preservation. The paper describes it as designed to ‘withstand anything but a direct atomic blast.’ It also boasts that 15,000 items are buried in the capsule with fifty local Councils and eighty five organizations having contributed local histories and predictions for the future. A ninety minute tape recording includes a talk by the Governor, Sir Henry Abel Smith, bush and traffic sounds, interviews with farmers and the sound of a cane fire. (I hope someone will have equipment to play a tape in 2066!) Many items were microfilmed and originals donated to the John Oxley Library, most likely dispersed in the library, rather than accessible as a single collection.

To all our young readers, please note the date of opening in your diaries, to ensure a special event for the opening of such a public treasure on 4th May 2066. How special it will be to rediscover the historical material and see how it has fared over that time. It may be a bit like ‘a message in a bottle’ from a distant land of the past, being opened with curiosity and wonder in a changed world.

Julie Hornibrook

Julie Hornibrook was the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellow in 2015 and is the granddaughter of Sir Manuel Hornibrook.

Discover more of Julie Hornibrook’s research –