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Poulson, Cristian (1890–1947)

by Robert I. Longhurst

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Cristian Poulson (1890-1947), fisherman and resort operator, was born on 16 April 1890 at Logstor, near Ålborg, Denmark, son of Mel Poulson, architect, and his wife Laura, née Olsen. Arriving in Sydney on 28 September 1908 in the Baralong, Cris took various jobs in the city; he also worked as a fisherman and on Coodra Vale, A. B. Paterson's property, near Wee Jasper. In 1916-17 he visited the United States of America. By 1918 he was a master fisherman at Byron Bay, New South Wales. Naturalized in 1920, he subsequently moved to Queensland. At St Saviour's Anglican Church, Gladstone, on 20 July 1923 he married 22-year-old Katherine Mary Lord; they were to have five children before being divorced in 1946.

Poulson was one of several entrepreneurs who entered the lucrative turtle-soup canning industry. In 1924 he established the Barrier Reef Trading Co. Ltd on North West Island. Transferring the business to Heron Island, he was a founding director of Gladstone Fisheries & Cold Stores Ltd in 1926. That year a party of tourists from Rockhampton paid him for a return trip to Heron Island; he used the money as a deposit on a launch. Turtle harvesting and processing was essentially seasonal work, concentrated in the summer months. As the number of turtles diminished, Poulson found that hosting parties of tourists in the turtle industry's off-season was more profitable than canning soup. In 1929 he applied to have Barrier Reef Trading wound up.

After Gladstone Fisheries failed to raise sufficient money to establish a tourist hostel in 1930, Poulson took over the project and opened a resort on Heron Island in 1932. Visitors came in his launch Coralita, walked through the shallows to shore, and slept in the galvanized-iron huts which had once housed turtle-factory workers. The main building served as a recreation hall. Mrs Martin Tait, the wife of a former factory-hand, did the cooking.

In 1936 Poulson acquired the lease of Heron Island. By 1943, when the island was declared a national park, tourist facilities included one large main building, forty cabins, a tennis court, water-storage facilities and a salt-water septic system. The end of World War II brought new prospects for tourism in Queensland. Poulson operated Barrier Reef tours. With Captain S. C. Middlemiss, he formed Barrier Reef Airways in 1946 to provide a weekly Catalina flying-boat service between Brisbane and Heron Island.

On 28 November 1947 Poulson disappeared at sea while returning to Heron Island from a visit to a friend's launch, moored offshore. His upturned dinghy was found about ten miles (16 km) south of Gladstone; despite an extensive search, his body was never recovered. He was survived by his son and four daughters. Some of his children continued to operate the resort and to transport tourists to Heron Island from Gladstone. By 1960 a staff of thirty catered for up to 130 visitors at a time. P. & O. Australia Ltd acquired a controlling interest in the resort in 1973 and bought out the family business in 1980.

Select Bibliography

  • Great Barrier Reef Committee, Report, vol 4, part 1 (Brisb, 1933)
  • L. McDonald, Gladstone (Brisb, 1988)
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 1, 2 Dec 1947
  • Gladstone Observer, 3 Dec 1947
  • naturalisation file, A1, item 1920/7192 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Robert I. Longhurst, 'Poulson, Cristian (1890–1947)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/poulson-cristian-11449/text20407, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 23 May 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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