Here’s a few more pictures from my time in Sydney last week, accompanied by an excerpt from Damien Murphy’s appreciation of Sydney Harbour, one that is aptly entitled, “A Sparkling Jewel.”
Sydney exists because the harbour offered sanctuary [to the First Fleet on January 25, 1788] . . . Australia was created by a maritime nation far away. It’s unsurprising, then, that all the capital cities were established on rivers that offered both safe anchor and water supply. The other cities are in essence river towns. Remove the rivers from Hobart, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth today and the cities would remain the same. Take away the harbour and Sydney fades, not to the sameness of the other capitals but to oblivion, unrecognizable, its essence forever gone.
Over the years, Sydney Harbour has served as a sort of main street, a cesspool, and a speculator’s tool but it gave her people work, play, and a sense of self. Sydneysiders identify with the harbour in a way that is peculiar to the city. They know it’s their birthright and nothing can take it away.
. . . [A]s well as the beauty and lightness there is a sense of tragedy and loss about the harbour: Aborigines dying in her waters in an attempt to cool the effects of disease that came with the First Fleet, convicts banished to Pinchgut to roast in the sun, sinkings of coastal shipping and ferries, the Japanese submarine attack, and the early-morning joyriders catastrophe of this year are constant reminders of the other side of paradise.
Maybe it has to do with the harsh and remorseless dominance of time and tide, where sea and land come together so majestically, turning generations of human endeavour into something palpably fragile and stoic.
Many of those who first tried to define an Australian identity wrote and painted of the bush, yet curiously most chose to live around Sydney Harbour. And as their pastoral age faded into history, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House secured Sydney Harbour as the personification of the past and future Australia, both to the rest of the nation and the world at large.
Above: The circular tower at the centre of this photograph was Australia’s first skyscraper. From 1967-1976 it was the tallest building in Sydney. It’s officially known as the Tower Building and is the main feature of a retail and business complex known as Australia Square.
I took this particular photo, along with the previous ones of Sydney Harbour, on Thursday, December 18, 2008.
Above and below: Coogee Beach - Sunday, December 14, 2008.
Above: Sydney skyline - Tuesday, December 16, 2008.
Above: Briody, Simon, Tess, and Victor. I was Tess and Briody’s fifth grade teacher in Goulburn in 1992! We’ve stayed in touch over the years and met for dinner in Newtown on Thursday, December 18, 2008. (You were missed, James!)
Above: A poster for the Sydney Dance Company that caught my eye at the Macdonaldtown train station.
Images: Michael J. Bayly
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
. . . and the 2006 posts:
Last Days in Australia