Wild Weather And Wrecks – Dunbar Rock

dunbar-rock-south-head-sydney-the-gap-front

This week, with the weather so unpredictable and so many storms about in recent days and weeks, it seemed the ideal time to share this image of Dunbar Rock in South Head. Sydney, and Australia more generally, with its abundance of coastline, also has an abundant and tragic history of shipwreck and loss.

The loss of the Dunbar, which happened off the coast of what is now known as Dunbar Rock at The Gap, remains Australia’s worst peacetime maritime disaster. The Dunbar was, at the time of its launch, the largest timber ship to have been constructed at the Sunderland dockyards, and was constructed as a response to the demand for passage to Australia and the booming gold fields. Yet it was not until 1856 that the ship began to ply the route to Australia, as before then The Dunbar was deployed as a Crimean War troopship.

The wreck of The Dunbar happened within a year of this, occurring on the night of the 20th of August, 1857. The ship, which was on just its second trip to Australia, was approaching the entrance to Port Jackson in the midst of a violent storm. The Dunbar was driven by the storm into the cliffs of South Head, just near Dunbar Rock, and rapidly broke apart. Of 122 passengers and crew aboard, only one survived, Able Seaman James Johnson. The disaster was later blamed on insufficient navigational aids, and in response the Hornby Light at South Head was constructed.

Yet the Hornby Light is not the only reminder of this tragic shipwreck. On Dunbar Rock itself, there is an anchor which is believed to come from the wreck of the Dunbar, and was retrieved in 1910. There is also a rock cut inscription which commemorates the terrible wreck, and which is actually believed to have been first carved by an onlooker watching the tragedy unfolding. This inscription was later recut, probably on an anniversary of the shipwreck.

Bulli Pass

illawarra-the-bulli-pass-front

With the holidays well and truly upon us, many people will be thinking of heading away for a family trip, often to the beach. Yet for those heading to the South Coast, the view in the image above might be a little different to the one they see today as they descend Bulli Pass!

Bulli Pass was discovered in 1844, by Captain Westmacott, who had arrived in Australia in 1831 and taken up a grant in the Bulli area in 1836. He discovered the new route up the mountain above Bulli and gained support from both the local citizens and the government to build a road, then known as Westmacott’s Pass, along the route. Yet no vehicles used the road until 1868 because up until this time, it was little more than a track. The new road was shorter and safer than the old road to Bulli and soon became the main route to the Illawarra from the North. The road was sealed in 1926.

Safe is a comparative word though! Throughout the history of the pass there have been runaway coaches and cars, lorries and trucks. In modern times, many of these have been accompanied by the smell of burning brakes! There have also been horse fatalities along the road, including Wirth Brothers circus horses hit by lightning. Perhaps the most interesting incident occurred in 1896 though, when an enraged bull escaped and took over the pass. It charged six pedestrians who escaped into the prickly blackberry bushes along the side of the road, and then overturned their carriage before it could be caught!

Signal Boxes At Sydney Station

Signalling

The image above is a beautifully captured glimpse into what Sydney Station, now known as Central Station, looked like in days of yesteryear. It is an intriguing glimpse though, showing something which most passengers would likely not have seen, or at the very least, not noticed.
The site where Central Station now stands preserves evidence of the very first phase of railway in NSW. Not only does it encapsulate the changes from steam to electric railways, but also changes in the technology which has been used for signalling. Over time Central has had a variety of signal practises, including the signal boxes pictured above. Signalling had not always been part of railway practice in Australia. In the earliest years it had seemingly been assumed that trains would, if they kept to the time table, and even if they operated on the same line, not crash into one another. The earliest use of signalling came in the late 1870s, when there had been several very close misses between trains. Then, in 1878 two trains collided at Emu Plains, and this crash (which killed three) put an end to trains running on single lines. As more lines were introduced, and the system became more complex, signalling became vital to safely running the railway system.
In 1906, when Central Station expanded to include platforms 9 and 10 four signal boxes had to be added. These were overhead signal boxes which used a mechanical system for signalling, but in 1910 electro-pneumatic technology was introduced and only 2 signal boxes were needed. By the 1920s the signal boxes were vital parts of the complex railway system at Central, which had complicated lines, cross overs, junctions and points. The signal boxes kept the passengers, and the valuable railway system and machines themselves safe.

Captain Cooks Landing Place Obelisk

Landing Place Captain Cook Kurnell Botany BayNear Sydney Front

With Australia Day very nearly upon us, this image of Captain Cooks Landing Place, from a postcard dated to 1906, seems an appropriate choice. Many Sydney residents and visitors are familiar with the monument, and most know of the event it commemorates, but the history of the actual monument, and others at the site is much less well known.

Captain Cook arrived in Botany Bay in 1770, and his visit was the very start of the process which led to European settlement in Australia. Although we now know he was not the first European to sight our shores, his visit is an important moment in the history of Australia and has, as a result, been commemorated on the shores of Botany Bay where the landing occurred. The grand sandstone obelisk which features in this postcard was completed in 1870, the centenary year of Captain Cooks actual visit and commemorates that important event. Another plaque was affixed to the obelisk in 1970, and this was done in the presence of Queen Elizabeth, who was visiting Australia at the time. This plaque commemorates the passing of 200 years since Captain Cook and his crew visited the area. This monument has become an important part of our history, and many visit it to remember the ‘discovery’ which led to European settlement.

Captain Cook did not, of course, make the journey to the Great Southern Land alone (or even on purpose, though that is another story!) and there are several other monuments scattered around the area where the landing occurred. Other monuments celebrate Dr Solander, Joseph Banks and Forby Sutherland (the latter being the first British subject to die in Australia).