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The Geology of Mt Quincan

Mt Quincan, now a dormant volcano erupted approx 16,000 years ago. It is 11.2 m deep. Yes, there is water under the floating vegetation root mat. Mt Quincan is an outstanding example of a scoria cone that charactises the volcanic influences on the Atherton Tableland landscape.

Scientific pollen studies were carried out by Dr Peter Kershaw A.N.U. Canberra in 1970. In November 2006 further tests were done by:

• Dr Chris Turney – University of Woolongong – carbon dating
• Dr Simon Habeale – A.N.U. Canberra – pollen specialists
• Dr Nick Porch – A.N.U. Canberra – insect specialist
• Mr Jim Neale – Engineer – Canberra coring machinery designer and operator.

Core Sampling

A raft was set up in the centre of the crater and a core sampling rig set up. Core samples revealed a floating rood mat of decayed vegetation supporting ferns and spike rush. After 1.5m of water, coring revealed layers of decayed vegetation changing to weathered peat and grey clay.  The final sample at 11.2 m was solid dark grey clay. The coring at 1.5 ton pressure could not penetrate further.

The crater never dries out. There is water in it year round under the surface vegetation. The crater has an impervious layer clay (13.2m deep in the centre) lining the crater basin. The crater is not spring fed. The only way water can escape is by evaporation. Very rarely does water cover the crater vegetation.

As the vegetation mat changes quite slowly over time, you can still see the track taken by the team leading to the crater centre.


Mt Quincan, the Wongabel Volcanoes and the Seven Sisters are recognised and classified as phreatomagmatic tuff cones by their shape and depositional features. However, for tuff cones to form abundant quantities of surface water above vent are required.

Mt Quincan exists of approximately 5000 distinct layers of tuff, each representing an individual eruption from the explosive interaction between hot rising magma and water. A continuous supply of surface water is necessary to maintain the phreatomagmatic activity over such a number of eruptions.

Carbon dating studies confirm the age of the volcano to be less than 16,000 years making it one of the youngest in Australia. This is evident when you look at the intact formation of the crater rim:

• The top of Mt Quincan is 889 m above sea level. The lower rim is 750 metres. The surrounding country has an elevation of 690 metres.
• The crater is 150 metres below the top of the mountain and has a diameter of 260m.
• The crater is in fact 25m higher than the surrounding country side.


Scientific team after a sucessful sampling
Scientific team gathering core samples
Mt Quincan Crater