Wednesday, 29 July 2009

When is an island no longer an island?

I read a quote today about Obama and the dilemma he is encountering living up to voters' expectations: "The audacity of hope clashes with the obduracy of reality." It reminded me of this gentleman - young not unattractive. Just sitting watching the water. I stood back and watched for a while trying to gauge from his body-language whether he was as sad as the image conveys. He was sad, but not enough to do anything dumb. It was mid-week, mid-winter, mid-day. It was glorious and he sat and fed the gulls more of his sambo than he ate himself.
The James Cook graving dock (a dock where the water can be pumped out) was opened just as both Rooseveldt and Hitler were departing this world, having been commenced in 1940 as a direct result of wartime exigencies. 30 acres of land was resumed from the harbour. The two vintage photographs show the island before WW2 and the same place when it was no longer an island after WW2.
Gardening was never successful on Garden Island. Like many of the promontories reaching into the harbour, Garden Island was an outcrop of sandstone with very little soil attached and neither colonists nor soldiers had any farming experience. None. They persevered, however, from February 1788 until June 1790 when the Second Fleet arrived with a few provisions for the struggling colony. Some food was grown around the Governor's house in what is now the Botanic Gardens but the real turning point also came in 1790 when James Ruse started to till the far more arable land out at Parramatta - 30 miles inland up the river that shoots off from the harbour.
I spent two hours on the island and only toured the grassy knoll- that expression sends shivers up my spine. I did not have enough time to do the Heritage Museum justice ($5 entry fee) so will go out again just for that. The restaurant between the two parts of the museum looks good, too.
It is a six minute ferry ride from Circular Quay at a return cost of $10.30. It is so worth it! That cost will take you the round trip to Watsons Bay on the ferry, "Susie O'Neill". But be warned: on a sunny weekend, the ferry will steam past some wharves because it is already at capacity.

14 comments:

brattcat said...

Looks like that fellow in the top shot was pondering some important issues. His posture, the way you've caught him, certainly brings out a tenderness, a sympathetic impulse in the viewer. The remainder of this post is just plain fascinating. Loved the two historic shots of the "island" and the story of the agricultural attempts.

Eamon said...

You managed to pack so much interesting info into one post! I can tell you are greedy for knowledge Julie - maybe the only thing worth being being greedy for?

Fascinating before and after photos.

Stephany said...

Beautiful photos, Julie! You did an excellent job of capturing the body language of the man in the first one. I really like the one with the barnacles too, a very unique perspective. The history of the island is fascinating. "Grassy knoll" - yikes!

I'm certain that Obama has days when he would much rather be sitting on that bench than working on our problems. He has a hard road ahead of him. People do have the most unrealistic expectations. It took 8 years to ruin the economics in this country. It can't be fixed in 8 months.

Lois said...

I like the before and after pictures too and I never get tired of looking at that beautiful blue water!

Joan Elizabeth said...

You don't have to be sad to enjoy sitting on an lonely bench by the harbour. The story of the island is fascinating. I didn't know there were interesting things to do there.

As for Obama, you could tell right from the start the expectations were going to be difficult for him.

Leif Hagen said...

Julie - quite a photo of the guy on the bench! I wonder what his life is like? What was he thinking about? How long did he stay there? Does he come often? Just wondering ...

J Bar said...

Great shots and I always enjoy the historical photos that you include in your posts.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Ming the Merciless said...

Great capture on the first photo. His slouchy shoulder does convey a message of hopelessness or sadness as you described.

Martina said...

I suppose it's the guy in the first pic Joan Elizabeth was talking about .. and yes, I am with you - it is a sad man. Not only because of all the signs you described, but also because he seems to wear a business suit - like someone who got a bad message at work and left office to sit on a bench and think about everything.
That's my imagination, :-)

altadenahiker said...

Were they left on the island with no transportation to the mainland? Is that why it took them so long to try farming in another location, or was it just lack of experience.

I find the top picture hopeful. He found a place to be alone.

Julie said...

No no ... the one group did not have to stay there for the full 18-24 months. I think two of them were sailors! They went across and back in row boats. It was lack of experience: they weren't farmers, right? But also this is the southern hemisphere and everything is different down here: the seasons, the direction of the weather, the better side of the hill. That is the sort of thing that defeated them. Plus most of them did not really want to be in this godforsaken place!

As for the chap in the first photo: I find him sad, but not without hope. He has found the perfect place to contemplate and to restore his soul. And also, I saw him jigger-jogger along a while later so not to miss the next ferry back to the Quay.

Sean said...

Why do I feel sorry for the guy at the top... is it your title? Probably no, the picture speaks very nicely!

HolidaysForFun said...

Nice pics

Tash said...

Fascinating - the WHOLE story.