Tag Archives: postcards

Shipwrecked Near Wineglass Bay, Tasmania 1935.

Never trust a postcard! Calm seas and blue skies, can turn in an instant as the fury of the sea reveals itself in all its might.

While researching Tasmania’s Wineglass Bay, I came across this thrilling story of being shipwrecked on Tasmania’s East Coast from 1935 when you largely had to save yourself from the stormy depths:

SHIP-WRECKED MEN TELL OF TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE .. . . . .

LOST CUTTER Crew’s Thrilling Escape LONG ORDEAL HOBART, Thursday.

Clad in the tattered remnants of the clothing they had worn during their terrible experience, and grasping battered suit-cases, still showing signs of immersion in salt water, Thomas Aldrich and Carl Henderson, survivors of the ill-fated fishing cutter Derwent, stepped wearily from a ferry steamer on to the Brooke-street pier to-day. They had reached Hobart – their goal-in a vessel called the Derwent, but their own vessel, similarly named, with all their personal belongings, fishing gear, papers, and money, lies in eight fathoms of water off the Schouten Peninsula. Unshaven and unkempt, one wearing thigh boots and the other borrowed shoes, with their clothes torn and dishevelled, and their faces want and drawn, as the result of their experience, the two men unfolded a remarkable story of their desperate fight against terrific odds, and of how finally they had won through to land exhausted on the East Coast after their vessel had sunk almost beneath their feet.

Shipwreck

“I have been at sea for 21 years, and have previously been shipwrecked at the Falkland Islands,” began Henderson; “but never in my life have I seen such terrific seas or experienced such a terrible day.” With his companion, who owned the vessel, Henderson continued, he had set out from Stony Point (Vic.) on Easter Sunday in good weather, and had experienced an uneventful run to Wilson’s Promontory. After passing Curtis Island, however, the first mishap had occurred. The cutter began to leak in the bow, and examination disclosed that a bolt in the hull had been jarred and loosened, allowing the water to slowly filter into the vessel.

“Although I was obliged to take long spells at the wheel, we did not regard the mishap seriously,” continued Henderson, “and decided to push on, despite the fact that we were only about 30 miles from the Promontory. The weather became worse shortly after this, and we decided to shelter under Chappel Island. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon we anchored, and we then found that a crack had developed in the tiller as the result of the buffeting we had received.

Raging Gale

Henderson said the tiller had been successfully patched and the voyage had been continued in finer weather. On Monday night last, when the vessel sheltered at Preservation Island, rain began to fall heavily, and the breeze freshened. Driving rain continued throughout the night, and gradually the south-easterly wind became a raging gale.

“We realised that our position was precarious,” said Mr. Aldrich. The sea had been lashed to a fury. The waves were leaping 40ft. high, and a 30-mile gale was blowing. Hour after hour my friend (Henderson) hung on to the wheel, and I pumped desperately. We had lowered the sail, and for 19 hours Henderson endeavoured to keep her to the wind whilst I worked under his instructions. When dawn broke, mist and blinding rain prevented us from sighting land. And then the engine stopped. The boat had been straining heavily under the power of the engine and the reefed sails, and we had sighted land somewhere near Maria Island and Schouten. We decided to make for Wineglass Bay, and would have made it all right only for that mishap.

‘Mountainous seas were dashing over the combings, and the engine stopped. “Our position was now even more desperate,” continued Aldrich. “Abandoning the pump, I clawed my way to where Henderson was fighting to hold the wheel over, and levered my shoulder to the wheel in an endeavour to keep her to her course. The gale was bending the staysail like a whip, and the terrific strain apparently was too much. Suddenly the water began to pour into her. Henderson scrambled below, waist-deep in water, in an endeavour to grasp our bags, while I struggled desperately with the dinghy. He threw a bag up, thinking it was mine, but he had found the wrong one.”

Unforgettable Hours

“We dared not delay,” said Aldric “and we lowered the dinghy with great difficulty into the heaving sea. Immediately the boat was half-filled with water, but, by bailing, we managed to keep afloat and move away from the cutter. Within seven minutes from the time the water began to pour in, she had disappeared. “We spent three hours in the dinghy that I will never forget,” continued Aldrich. “For two hours I bailed while Henderson used the paddles. Then for another hour we searched the coast in an attempt ‘to find a suitable place to land. It was only with the greatest difficulty that we kept the dinghy afloat, and as we could not make Wineglass Bay, we decided to make for Sleepy Bay, where the seas were crashing onto the rocks. Henderson; who was doing a wonderful job, forced the dinghy in, stern first, and with waves spraying up alot, I jumped for the shelving rock. How I landed I do not know, but I managed to grab the rope that Henderson threw to me, and we gained the shore. A few moments later the dinghy was dashed to pieces”

For a ‘while the men rested exhausted on the inhospitable shore, but rousing themselves from the stupor into which they had fallen, they scrambled up the steep hills of the Hazard Mountains. Luckily, Henderson knew the whereabouts of a prospector’s camp, and after wading waist-high through swollen creeks and streams the men reached the camp. “I was all in then,” said Aldrich, “and when I saw McCrac and Fenner I dropped at their feet.” The prospectors did all they could for us, and gave us the first food we had had for 15 hours.” The shipwrecked men stayed the night with the prospectors and then began to walk overland to Swansea “We must have walked 40 miles,” said Henderson, “and when we reached Swansea with our suitcases, which were practically empty, we went to Captain Taylor, of the Bay View Hotel, who communicated with the Commissioner of Police (Colonel J. E. C. Lord) and did all he could for us.” Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 – 1954), Friday 3 May 1935, page 7

 

Poem: Shadows in Byron Bay…a Postcard.

Ghostly shipwrecks,

Snakes in the grass,

Jaws in the surf

Blue Bottles on the beach.

Dingo in the park.

Bee-stings.

Sunburn.

Empty wallets.

Nowhere to park.

Drought then flooding rain.

Crikey, mate!

The fractured postcard

beneath perfect skies.

Think I’m heading home.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

When you’re a local and you know the realities of life beyond the tourist postcard, the perfect tourist view can almost feel like a lie. Those perfect, eternal sunny days printed onto tourist postcards without even a hint of what goes on.

Geoff at Wategoes Beach, Byron Bay.

Geoff at Wategoes Beach, Byron Bay.

While we aren’t Byron Bay locals, we’re not tourists here either. We’re more like migratory birds which keep flying home, although for us there is no particular season. We visit once a year and stay with my in-laws who’ve lived and worked in the district for over 30 years. When I visit Bangalow and go through the shops, I am sometimes recognised and given a “you’re back”. In so many, many ways, I’ve never left because my creative heart belongs in Byron Bay and nearby Bangalow and my in-laws give us such love and support, which touches me very deeply inside. This has been right through my medical highs and lows and looking after what were very young and stressed out kids and they pulled their sleeves up and dug in and helped and not just with the easy stuff either.

Anyway, Australians love scaring people overseas with our various sightings and encounters with deadly wildlife. Carnivorous koalas known as “Drop Bears” are legendary but coming down to earth a bit soe of our wildlife is very dangerous but thank goodness, you don”t see it very often. You just need to use your head and take precautions. We know there’s likely to be Red Back Spiders nesting under stuff in our backyard at home but that also means we’re careful moving things around. Recent shark attacks near Byron Bay are actually unexpected and so we’ve been not so sure how to deal with that and many are just staying out of the water or going elsewhere. Snakes are a fact of life but keep the doors shut. Watch where you’re walking and you’re going to be very unlikely. Most of us Aussies have never been bitten by a poisonous snake, spider, shark or croc.

Blue Bottle

Blue Bottle

The same can’t be said for for the blue bottle, which is also known more formally as the Portuguese Man O’ War. If you have ever been stung by one of these nasty critters, you might well think the war reference refers to its sting However, it derives its name from it’s physical similarity to a Portuguese war ship going back. Blue bottles aren’t unique to Australia so it’s quite possibly that you’ve also experienced the Summer horror of feelings it’s tentacles wrapped around your leg and screaming out for the vinegar.

While we were in Byron Bay this trip,, we actually spotted what looked pretty close to a full-blooded Dingo at the Railway Park. It seemed to be a pet, although I couldn’t quite work out any kind of ownership and he could well have been a community dog. He was quite friendly and used to being around people though. It’s probably the first time I’ve ever encountered a dingo outside a zoo.

An empty wallet is a travelling hazard. I’m not talking about having your wallet stolen but the never-ending temptation which leads you to buy things you know you can’t afford. IN Byron Bay this, for me, goes way beyond buying some dress or fashion item to finding artistic masterpieces which somehow reflect or express an inner part of myself which has remained trapped, or somehow locked in an inner labyrinth. This trip I bought myself a stunning ring which had a piece of ceramic on top with a butterfly on it. The butterfly had its wings spread out and it looked like to was perched on my finger ready to take flight. I bought that ring to encourage myself and to launch myself into the air and learn to fly again after a few severe health setbacks.

Of course, this wasn’t the only thing I found either.I also found a stunning range of gift cards which I felt were me. I’ll have to dig them up and put a link through to the artist.

Bee Sting…Mister somehow managed to get stung by a bee out in the paddock. This is the same paddock where we’d seen the snake and so we wondered how he managed to get stung if he had his eyes out of storks like he’d been told???? Kids!

Painted onto one of the park benches in Railway Park, a dedication to all the young people who have suicided in the region.

Painted onto one of the park benches in Railway Park, a dedication to all the young people who have suicided in the region.

There’s one other thing I should mention about Byron Bay is that it attracts a lot of young people and travellers, which I’ll collectively call “seekers”. Sometimes, they are just looking to party, have a good time etc but Byron Bay tends to attract young people looking for something deeper, more intangible and also more concerning. In once sense, there’s that piece missing in their own puzzle and for repressed creatives, the Byron Bay region can be that missing piece. A way of being themselves. At the same time, your early 20s can be a time when mental health issues start to manifest and that very tenuous, downward spiral into debilitating anxiety, depression can start as well as the hallucination associated with schizophrenia. While drugs and alcohol might exacerbate these problems and intensify the nightmare, they are also a form of self-medication. These people can drift into Byron and find themselves in serious trouble. Sexual assault, rape, suicide are some of the dark, unspoken underbelly of Byron Bay, which is just as much a part of it’s cultural make up as the postcard views of the sun, surf and stoic lighthouse. .

Free art in the park ...the kids did a few paintings and had a ball. Must say they had good quality paints too. Very much appreciated!

Free art in the park …the kids did a few paintings and had a ball. Must say they had good quality paints too. Very much appreciated!

As much as the seekers head for Byron Bay, so does a lot of love and care for the wounded. Mama Dee, whose son died in Railway Park, was running a free art in the park program while we were there and there were people giving free lunches and the young enthusiasts from a Christian group called Youth with A MIssion were giving away a lovely BBQ dinner and also played guitar and sang in the park. The Adventist Church across the road has also been reaching out for many years. At the same time, the huge volume of seekers moving through Byron Bay can exhaust the local community. People arriving in Byron with no money. Nowhere to stay and expecting someone to help.

Mister's vibrant interpretation of a sunflower.

Mister’s vibrant interpretation of a sunflower.

While it is important to be positive and upbeat, it is also imperative to acknowledge what’s real. We can admire the beauty of the rainbow but we also need to be conscious that it takes both sun and rain to produce what has to be one of the most beautiful wonders of our planet. As long as we deny that the dark side exists and sweep it under a picture-perfect postcard fascade, people will keep falling off the edge wondering why paradise never measured up.

xx Rowena

PS: Just to show that these sort of dangers are not unique to the Australian context, here’s an interesting post from True Nomad about A Day in the Life of A Canadian Park Ranger: http://truenorthnomad.net/2015/09/24/day-in-the-life-of-a-park-ranger/

Fractured Fairytales

“Obsessed by a fairy tale, we spend our lives searching for a magic door and a lost kingdom of peace.”

Eugene O’Neill

Quite often, indeed far too often, life deviates from the plan or what we thought we’d signed up for and quite frankly, we wouldn’t mind a refund. We didn’t realise and certainly weren’t consciously  thinking we’d signed up for a fairytale or some kind of fantasy but as evidence mounts up to the contrary, it feels like we’ve been sold a fake or indeed a dud. The Prince and Princess find themselves living in a tent. instead of a castle.Their horse and carriage turns out to be the local bus. Not quite what they’d had in mind!!

Culturally, we perpetuate many ongoing fairytales such as Cinderella who finds her Prince Charming but motherhood and parenting have also been portrayed as quite the fairytale where we all play happy families. Happy families who know nothing about divorce, domestic violence, child abuse, poverty, homelessness, chronic illness, death. After all, aren’t we all just meant to keep smiling?

So much for the fairytale. School holidays can be explosive!

So much for the fairytale. School holidays can be explosive!

Surprise! Surprise! The prospect of having that perfect family holiday or having the school holidays go without a hitch can be just as much a fairytale as finding Prince Charming. Screams of: “Can’t you lot play happily together?”, “If you can’t share, it’s going into time out”, “Go to your rooms” resonate throughout the the burbs along with regrets and reflections on where it all began and wondering how it ended up like this.

The Happy Family

The Happy Family

After the consumption of all that Easter chocolate, I guess I should have anticipated trouble but they’ve been really good over the last couple of days and caught me off guard. There are kids visiting next door and they’ve all been playing exceptionally well together building elaborate engineering structures in the mud and gravel at low tide. They had a fabulous time but the kids went out today and ours were bored yet not wanting to go out or do anything either, which is when things really start to go wrong. That said, Miss did venture into the freezing swimming pool in her wet suit and actually managed to stand up on her surfboard , which was a very exciting achievement and I would have been totally over the moon if the morning hadn’t worn me out.

However,  it’s not just the kids who can ruin a family holiday. In case you’ve forgotten the Griswalds in European Vacation, parents can be just as guilty:

[In England]
“Ellen Griswold: Clark, you’re on the wrong side of the road.
Clark Griswold: Yes I know, honey, I’m also on the wrong side of the car.”

So here I am in Palm Beach which is pretty close to paradise but feeling frazzled. You could say it’s time for a Bex and a good lie down. However, experience tells me that lying down could be catostrophic. With the kids at large, something tells me I wouldn’t be singing: “je ne regrette rien” www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3Kvu6Kgp88. I’d be lucky if the house is still standing!

Freddie the Front Door Frog.

Freddie the Front Door Frog.

On that note, I’ll just add that prior to my frustrations this morning, I was intending to write about Freddie the Front Door Frog who is an Australian Green Tree Frog. Freddie lived on the window ledge underneath my in-laws kitchen window, near Byron Bay for something like a decade. A firm believer of “if you’re on a good thing stick to it”, the kitchen light attracted a smorgasbord of insects providing Freddie with a very steady diet. He was one plump and very happy frog who, unlike so many of his kind, was actually benefiting from interaction with people.  he’d developed what you’d call a mutually beneficial relationship. While not as well known as his furry compatriots, Freddie is an absolutely gorgeous Australian.

Actually, it’s a shame Freddie is so far away. If a kiss can turn a frog into a prince, perhaps it could also bring the fairytale back to life as well.

As I head off to bed after further dramas thanks to the dog, I remind myself that “tomorrow is another day” and who knows? Perhaps, it might just be a fairytale after all!

“Every man’s life is a fairy tale written by God’s fingers”.

-Hans Christian Andersen

This post is part of the Blogging from A-Z Challenge which is taking place during April.

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena