Monday, 30 March 2015

TOD Tour, Day 47 - Point Dangar

Sue in the gardens at Mavis's Kitchen
After leaving our digs mid morning, we only just warmed the engine before we stopped, even beforecrossing the baby Tweed River, at Mavis' Kitchen.

Run by the same organisation that has the lease at the Tweed Regional Gallery, we were greeted by a Frenchman and seated on the rear balcony which gets a last look at Korrumbyn Creek before it joins the Tweed. A popular spot for such occasions, the downstairs area was high in preparation for a wedding later in the day but despite all the activity, we were still made welcome. After our coffees, we went for a wander through the garden where much of the fruit and vegetables for the table are grown. Circular raised beds edged by roofing tiles make concentric circles from the centre of the garden and sculptures accentuate its European feel. It was a delightful interlude.

Following the Tweed after morning tea, we traced it to the ocean and an hour wandering at Point Danger on the NSW/Qld border.

Captain Cook Memorial
The Captain Cook Memorial Light dominates this high point above Tweed Heads and is part navigation device, part sculpture, part tourist attraction and stands on what is still controversially named, Point Dangar. The argument is over whether the location named by Cook on 17th May, 1770 is here or Fingal Head. In 1823, John Oxley surveying in HMS Mermaid concluded that Fingal Head was the place named by Cook but in 1828, Henry Rous sailed up the eastern coastline from the south, rounded Fingal Head and moored in Rainbow Bay and named the current location as Cook's Point Dangar - an action which was to lead to nearly two hundred years of debate. Mind you, Rous then sailed down and mapped the Tweed, believing it to be the Clarence River, so perhaps that confusion and the highly skilled reputation of John Oxley leads us to the more accurate side of the argument.

1971, the same year that the lighthouse was built with its four tall concrete pillars marking the cardinal points of the compass and a year after the re-enactment of Cook's voyage up the east coast of Australia and great celebration's at Point Dangar, the Geographical names board concluded that Fingal Head was the point Cook named. However, the same board concluded in 1998, possibly with consideration to legal and constitutional ramifications over naming rights and state borders, that the current location and nomenclature are correct. The debate rages on, with books and papers from learned experts standing on one or the other side of the argument.

The light was the first in the world to experiment with a laser emitted warning beam but the experiment failed and it now flashes its double white flashes at an interval of ten seconds from an electric light source. Interestingly, that warning configuration is to warn mariners that there are reefs immediately to the east but there are no reefs there. They lie of Fingal Head!

The NSW Maritime Rescue operate from a prefab building beside the lighthouse, an arrangement bought on by the discovery of concrete cancer in the footings of the lighthouse, under which their permanent observation bunker looks out across the mouth of the Tweed River and to the ocean. They had run a small kiosk in there as well, to raise funds for their volunteer organisation, but OH&S considerations for the public meant it had to be abandoned until repair work was completed. They are still waiting for permission to return.

View over the mouth of the Tweed
A park area on the northern side of the light has been developed with a walk along the top of the cliffs and plaques dedicated to lives lost at sea during wars. A particular memorial marks the 268 civilian and medical staff lost when the hospital ship Centaur was torpedoed and sunk in just three minutes off North Stradbroke Island in May of 1943 by a Japanese submarine. The speed of the sinking prevented the deployment of lifeboats and only 64 survived for the next day and a half they were in the water before being rescued by the USS Mugford. It has been estimated more than 200 escaped the Centaur after the explosion but less than a third survived ... the dead drowning, dying of wounds or being taken by sharks.

Without any trace of racism in the comment, it felt strange watching Japanese tourists taking photos of the memorial, many of them bowing their heads for a moment's silence and I wondered how it felt for them. Perhaps Americans who have stood at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial might tell me.

It was only a short hour's drive from there to Birkdale, in the south east of Brisbane and the hospitality of Sue's sister Judy and her husband Russell.

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