Blue skies, crisp air and brilliant sunshine. The perfect May day.
A little red lightship bobs in the waves.
The Cape Bowling Green lighthouse reflects blinding white on North wharf.
Over on South Head another beacon stands, decked out in circus- worthy stripes.
This week I have had more than my share of time out on the harbour enjoying some amazing historic lighthouses.
First it was out one of the small fleet boats Arvor, cruising around the shores of the Museum to take some footage of the Commonwealth Lighthship 4, Carpentaria, with Elias and Eleanor from Curiousworks.
Usually Carpentaria is one of the vessels in our collection that can only be enjoyed from the comfort and safety of a wharf-side walkway but today we get a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with this flame-coloured beauty. It’s a little precarious climbing the narrow ladder up the side and over the top rails ( not to worry, we have our self-inflatable life-jackets on!) . Up top is spectacular though, and for the purpose of the film’s soundscape we get to unloose the bells. The deep ring echoes on and on and on, it’s almost like a clocktower’s midnight chime, smothering the chatter of seagulls and the beating whistle of the breeze. You can almost imagine the sounds of that fateful moment in 1944 when Carpentaria broke free of her moorings on Breakfree Spit during a cyclone. This warning bell was designed to toll with the motion of the ship, ringing out in case of poor visibility during foggy weather or a malfunction of the light.
The footage taken of Carpentaria will be used for one of a series of short films being made about our collection for the release of the anniversary publication One Hundred Stories, coming out later this year. It’s also the last we will see of this little lightship for a few weeks as Carpentaria is off to Garden Island for repairs.
The next day I’m back out on the harbour for our Shipwrecks cruise forum, held in partnership with WEA Sydney.
After an introduction to the science of the corrosion and conservation of shipwrecks led by some of the museums wonderful teacher guides we set out for Watsons Bay on board the Radar.
No shortage of beautiful weather and fresh breeze to enjoy and we have expert commentary courtesy of curator Nigel Erskine who has joined us for the day. Over at Watsons Bay our destination is the Hornby Lighthouse.
We take a walking track past the soft sands of camp cove beach, said to be one of the first landing places for the fleet in 1788, past disused cannon and gun turrets and alongside the spectacular views of sparkling waters and sailboats. The walk is quick and easy. Before we know it we are turning the corner to encounter the sandstone lightkeepers cottage and then the petite but spectacular red and white striped lighthouse. There is something endearing and cheerful about Hornby lighthouse that belies the horrific tragedies that brought this beacon into being.
In 1857 the Dunbar crashed with the loss of 121 out of the c.122 lives on board. The Hornby Lighthouse was built in 1858 to make sure this never happened again. It was also just the third lighthouse built in NSW.