Cyclone Marcia was a category 5 cyclone when it reached the Queensland coast at Shoalwater Bay on the 20th February this year. It had wind speeds of 205km/hr. By the time it reached Yeppoon 50kms to the south, four hours later, it was downgraded to a category 4 with wind speeds up to 156kms/hr.
In 2010, we visited Nob Creek Pottery and it didn’t take long to realise you were looking at not only skilled craftsmanship but also high level creativity. The ceramics created there by Steve Bishopric and Sue McBurnie were stunning and original.
They still are, it’s just that in between, Marcia came for a visit.
Steve met us when we arrived, soot from head to toe but mostly covered with the remnants of the heartbreak the cyclone had wreaked eight weeks earlier when it had invaded the home and business he started 35 years ago. He retold the lowlights of the days which followed: of a giant tree straddling his house and swimming pool; of the kindness of the neighbouring national park sending men with chainsaws; of the damage; of the media spotlight which focused on his place; of the politicians who came and those who stayed away; of the extent of intricacies in making claims to the insurance companies; and of the sense of being overwhelmed every day since with the work that still has to be done.
Yet, he told it all with a sense of humour, not resignation and despite the burden of the last eight weeks, he retains his spirit of fighting back. He doesn’t have his hands in the clay – there is too much other work to do – but he has his showroom trading.
How, I don’t know.
He had been away when the cyclone hit and returned to a massive jumble of trees which looked like the start of a giant game of pick up sticks and under which his studio, kilns and showroom lay. Four of the national parks blokes arrived with chainsaws and offered assistance, so Steve suggested they might like to at least clear the path to the studio. The pile of rubble was such an effective blanket, the studio couldn’t be seen, so as a guide, Steve identified the first pavers of the path in the car park, the only ones visible and just told them to follow the path in. It took them six hours, with four blokes cutting, to reach the studio just 25 metres away.
In the main, the buildings are still standing and prior warning for his son, who was at Nob Creek at the time, allowed much of the stock to be packed away but more than three quarters of million dollars damage has still been done. Many of the many trees he had planted had been knocked down or destroyed, including one he had planted at the birth of his daughter which was a metre in diameter when Marcia removed it.
270 hard days work have been done by many hands in the eight weeks since the cyclone. The showroom is open and trading. Photos cycle on a screen in the showroom and Steve opens his heart if you ask him. His greater concerns, strongly voiced, are for the implications that such signs are for the reality of climate change and the denial of some of our politicians to its reality. Maybe that’s why the Prime Minister didn’t visit.
We purchased two exquisite wine goblets for the van. They are part of his new series, with the unique Byfield fern motif in relief on one side and the wonderful deep blue glaze running down the opposite side. The finest pieces we have owned and among the most beautiful ceramics we have seen. We also ordered a large tea pot for family occasions.
You hear about such stories or sometimes see people like Steve interviewed on news broadcasts in the aftermath of such mammoth disasters but it’s not until you are standing where their shoes tread that you really have a sense of the magnitude of the unwanted change to their lives. Around us, trees were snapped off and whole stands of state forests are now permanently bent in the direction that Marcia dictated. Detritus is everywhere at Nob Creek and yet so much has been done to repair and move forward.
Just like the news broadcasts, the world moves but they still stand there in the rubble, trying to make some sense of it. Some people seem to have more than their share of tenacity and courage.
We drove on in the mid afternoon for a late lunch at Yeppoon and watched a giant white sea eagle swoop and catch fish and then glide on the strong breeze whilst Brahminny Kites followed it complaining.
At Wreck Point, toward Rosslyn Bay and the big marina there, we watched a bloke flying his remote controlled glider, using only the strength of the breeze to keep it aloft. In the midst of taking photos and shooting some video, four Australian Ravens floated in on the breeze doing exactly the same thing. It wasn’t hard to see where the inspiration for the glider came from.
Travelling south along the coast, we stopped in the late afternoon at Emu Park and the amazing Singing Ship, a large sculpture with wind chimes that moan in the wind which was installed to commemorate Captain Cook's voyage past this point in 1770. A fresh breeze had it in good voice. Nearby, workmen were getting toward the finishing touches of a new walkway which extends from the Singing Ship back to one of the best war memorials we’ve seen. The photos will do a better job of explaining it than words. It includes a 3cm thick transparent glass panel recreation of a famous painting of troops landing at Gallipoli. When viewed with the coastline and islands of the Keppel group showing through the glass from behind, it gives the painting a realism which is very moving.
We got back to camp in Rockhampton just after sunset and settled in for a night of reoccurring showers on the roof.