Friday, 4 June 2010

This could be worth a look

Bust of Governor Arthur Phillip, in front of the MCA at CQ
Each week in May, we tramped the city trying to recreate in our mind's eye what the landscape looked like when the first settlers arrived and for, say the next 22 years until the arrival of Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1810. So what did the first governor, Arthur Phillip go on when he sailed out of Botany Bay looking for a better site to found a penal colony, one that offered more protection and fresh running water?


He HAD to have sailed up this stretch of coastline along South Head, saw a likely opening and nipped in for a look-see. Maybe there have been imperceptible changes to these cliffs. 'Here's a go lads. Let's have a captain-cook in there.'


Ahh, changes to the plateau, but not necessarily to the cliffs. Up on that plateau, both Phillip and Macquarie, and the governors in between, stationed lookouts. They were looking out for supply vessels for food and for word from 'home'. Run a flag up a pole or light a fire, and pretty soon those folk down at the cove would see the signal. The signal station and the lighthouse are in the spots of the originals. There is a coastal walk right along these cliffs.


See the CBD and the bridge way off there in the distance? The signal from South Head got there fairly quickly. As the crow flies, it is about 8 miles. But try to remove all the man-made structures. This is a massive drowned valley, as deep and as wide as the Grosse Valley in the Blue Mountains. It was heavily wooded, mainly with Terpentines which are a variety of eucalypt (gum).


So Phillip in his row boat with his soldiers straining like banshees at the oars, rowed around the tip of South Head. Around where the Hornby Light now stands in all its barber-shop gaudiness. Do a mental Photoshop and take the layer out that contains anything manmade. But but but ... be careful with the colour green that you use to replace that layer.

Lycett's aquatint the property of the Dixon Library, State Library of NSW
One Joseph Lycett tried to reproduce what he saw on South Head in about 1825. Still pretty wild and wooly. But he got the green wrong. This is the green that you might see in fields in England. In Australia, the natural green is more olive or grey-blue. Not sure about the vegetation that Lycett has included either. Yes there is a lot of stunted scrubby stuff out on South Head. It catches the full force of the southerly winds which are laden with salt. But, there are eucalypts out there, too.

It was a gutsy call by Phillip.

16 comments:

biebkriebels said...

Love your history stories and your beautiful photo's. It is like reading a magazine.

Andrew said...

I've seen photos of the south heads in the early part of twentieth century through to the mid twentieth century and it had little of vegetation that it now has, and nor is the vegetation thick in the painting from 1825. Coastal revegetation may have gone a bit too far.

Julie said...

That is interesting, Andrew. I will try to find an old photograph and, if it adds to the discussion, include it in thre post as well.

Miguel Martinez said...

Beautiful photos

Tulsa Gentleman said...

Most of what I know about Sydney has come from your blog. The idea that trees grow a different shade of green there is interesting.

J Bar said...

Great scenic shots Julie. Your historical facts are always interesting and appreciated.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Jayne said...

I've heard the same thing as Andrew stated, that many coastal areas (here in Vic and around Oz) were not as heavily vegetated as they are now.
Love the photos and your post :)

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brattcat said...

"Let's have a captain-cook in there?"...is that a Julie-ism? This is an excellent post by a photographer/writer who is not 'green' in any way.

Julie said...

Hah ... no it is the Australian version of rhyming-slang: captain-cook look.

Joan Elizabeth said...

I wonder if they were able to admire the scenic beauty of it ... or whether it was so alien it didn't seem beautiful .. or perhaps too busy worrying about water and people to care. Your story has got me thinking.

The harbour is beautful but I would not want to see the Grose Valley full of water :-)

lewi14 said...

I saw wonderful shots. Great.

diane said...

Great shots, great harbour. I have always loved reading about this part of Oz history. I don't know about the idea that there wasn't much vegetation then but I do remembering studying Australian Art. In those days artists painted Oz scenes in English colours with English vegetation and English light. They didn't know how to capture the bright light and the strong colours. Also,they thought the Englishization (I made that up) of the Oz scenes would be more acceptable by the English public. They thought the public wouldn't believe that is how it was here and think the artist was making it up.???? Something like that.

Julie said...

Yes. I agree Diane. The Englishization of the Australian landscape is a problem for us to come to terms with. They did not paint what they saw. They painted what they saw through a filter - a northern hemisphere filter.

Leif Hagen said...

I especially like the photos of the magnificent cliff! A wonderful series of snaps!

Jingle said...

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two awards on the bottom,
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