Wednesday, 7 October 2009

So Close and Yet So Far

We're still at Watson's Bay, at the very top of the point of the entrance from the Pacific Ocean into Sydney Harbour. It sounds daft, but looking at the map brings the story home to me almost more than having actually been there, or at least putting the two together. The vastness of the blue green ocean on the satellite map gives me chills.

You'll want to read this brief account about the wreck of The Dunbar, a ship (built 1853 in Sunderland, near us) that sailed from England to Australia 31 May to 20 August 1857. There are a number of other accounts; The Dunbar is referred to as The Titanic of Australia. It crossed my mind to say they ought to make a movie about it, but I looked and they already have, in 1912. I think it's due for a remake.

The very short story is that after travelling nearly 3 months across the world, the ship just missed the harbour in a storm (I think I read somewhere it was by about 500 metres.) There were 122 deaths and only one survivor, James Johnson, aged 20. Just imagine what it might feel like, being the sole survivor amongst 123 people, having to grieve for 122 people all at one time and to wonder why you alone were spared.

After this tragedy, the authorities decided to build a lighthouse overlooking the harbour. The first irony is that 2 years after the shipwreck, James went on to be the first lighthouse keeper and lived in this house.

Overlooking the place where The Dunbar should have entered instead of crashing into the cliffs just to the south.

He later moved to be an Assistant Lighthouse Keeper at Newcastle, north up the coast from Sydney; I think I'd have moved on as well. (Note: there are a lot of places in the world named Newcastle, mostly named for Newcastle-upon-Tyne.)

The next irony is that in 1866, James Johnson was involved in rescuing the life of the sole survivor (crew member Frederick V. Hedges, aged 31) of another wreck off the coast of Newcastle, that of the SS Cawarra, which lost 60 lives.
Makes one think, doesn't it?

As we meandered around the point, I spotted an opportunity to take a brother and sister snap.

I love taking pictures of Jane and Bill together, partly because of their family resemblance, but mostly because of their obvious affection for one another. As I decided to include this photo, it dawned on me that this post's title has more than one meaning. Bill says that one of the aims of his retirement will be to spend more time with his baby sister.

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