Port MacDonnell Light house

A lighthouse always invokes nostalgia in me. Standing all alone, facing the oceans hurling itself at land with ferocity, always warning of dangers at hand. I always wonder at the bravery it took the early ocean-farers to face the unknown. Although lighthouses have been around for ages – at least before the 3rd century BC, most explorers would have run blind at first. MacDonnell Lighthouse pmdmm 1b

MacDonnell Lighthouse – Courtesy of the Port MacDonnell Maritime Museum

Port MacDonnell, South Australia was first visited by the explorer Lieutenant James Grant on 3 December 1800, but it was not until 1860 that is was proclaimed as an official port and named after Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell who was governor of South Australia at the time. In the 1880’s it was one of the busiest ports in Australia. Wheat and wool were the main products shipped from here.

 

South Australia is the site of more than 800 known shipwrecks, so it was a natural progression to put up lighthouses along its notorious limestone coast. Tenders were called for and Birtwistle and Sykes won the contract and they completed the lighthouse and keepers cottages at the end of July 1857 with a cost of $3674 (a lot of money for that time). It was only 28 feet (about 9 meters) high and stood on a small rocky headland, 30 meters above sea level, at the southernmost point of South Australia.

It was found that the site was exceedingly exposed to the rough seas and wild winds of the southern seas and a sea wall was built on three sides to protect the lighthouse keeper. The wall was 1.5m tall and 35 cm wide. The light was officially in operation on the 1st of January 1859 and manned by Benjamin Germein.

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The “catatrophic” light (concentrated into one beam), fueled by whale oil, did one rotation a minute and had 3 colors, red, green and white. The white light could be seen for 28 km, the red light for 24 km and the green light for 12 kilometers. They exhibited in succession. The lighthouse also had a small cannon and Marryats flags to warn ships standing too close to shore.

 

Only 23 years later the ever pounding seas starting claiming back the land on which the lighthouse stood. So in 1881 a new first class light was built further inland. The old lighthouse was demolished in 1882.  The lantern was transferred to the Cape Banks lighthouse.

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Current lighthouse with keepers houses (private)

When standing at the wooden lookout, you can still see remnants of the sea wall, which will soon also be claimed by the very thing it was guarding against – the sea.

 

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Port MacDonnell Lighthouse Ruins – Photo by Ed Kavaliunas c. 1980’s
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Same part of the wall, but much closer to the edge now.
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The road not taken

Serious or occasional travelers worldwide can surely identify with this poem by Robert Frost (1874–1963).

The Road Not Taken (1920)

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

The shades of traveling

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Photo by Alamy

The mix of passengers congregated on an aeroplane could not be more diverse if you were picking them off a list.

Sitting tethered to my cattle class seat I enjoyed looking around at what people do to stay busy or just experiencing this self-inflicted torment for the first time. Wondering who and what is waiting at the end of the flight for them, or even if the flight is the end?

You noticed the elderly couple on their first flight, visiting relatives or maybe a deserved holiday, staring fixedly at the boarding notices in the departure hall, trying to correlate what the ticket states with what is visible on the ever changing board. Double checking gate and flight numbers, making sure the departure time is still as planned.

You think, poor “geriatrics”, maybe they should have asked for assistance during the flight. Next thing you know, they are across from you in their seats, they made it on time to the right flight after all. To your surprise they pull out a handheld electronic device and connect effortlessly with the Wi-fi and on-board entertainment. By the time I stopped kicking myself for traveling without mine – see I am visiting a crime ridden country, so rather safe than sorry – he was already working on his high score!

After lunch with the complimentary wine* sipped slowly, a bottle each I might add, they are settling in for a well-deserved rest, with him trying manly to stray upright, but the neck muscles are just not made for this type of extended suffering, but alas, eventually his head silently affirming his dreams with a nod.

*Why do we tend to think that wine on an aeroplane will taste better than what we buy back home? It is usually sour or if you are lucky, it tastes like nothing, rather go for the double shot of spirits to settle the stomach I say.

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Photo from allviralthings.com

Then you get the couple who would like to give their children everything they did not have when they were toddlers – an overseas holiday. Nothing gets spared, as well as the other passengers. Mom gets into gear and packs for all eventualities, hunger, thirst, runny tummy, sleeplessness, you name it. But wait, this was dad’s idea, so he is forced to spend some one on one time with the little brat(s). Taking turns for the toilet break, walking them when the movie gets boring – every 5 minutes – or keeping the volume down to minimize the discomfort of their fellow passengers. Who by the way have to keep a polite face, pretending that it is the quietest, cutest child they have ever met and understandably they will be fidgety when not in their natural environment…NOT.

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Photo by Getty images

So here is my invention (patent pending, interested parties can contact me directly): Area for parents and children – an air playpen – or Airpen. Kick the obnoxious business class out. Make a customised soundproof area with all the facilities for the traveling child – parents included of course.

Then you get the seasoned traveler, streamlined, all necessities at hand, quiet and efficient. Checked in online, with the boarding pass ready on the mobile. No last minute rush for gifts/booze/trinkets. They are the last to get on the bus – because there is no crush of people on the last bus – luggage stowed and settled by the time newbies like you take to gawk and drool at the first-class passengers, wishing that you did not have to squeeze down to your seat which by the way has been occupied by the ignoramus who does not know anything about personal space or hygiene. And with a lot of gesturing and pointing to the seat number, the volume going up ever so slightly with each exchange, they get up nonchalantly and move one seat (silent scream!). There you are trapped in between hell and a bad B.O.

Getting up, climbing over the ignoramus for your meticulously timed toilet break. You stay seated until after lunch, because there is usually a rush just after take-off and then an hour later you have the ones who realize that you are allowed to take bathroom breaks while flying and have to test this novelty (testing the myth about flushing while seated). But not you, no, you go about half an hour after the meal has been served, perfectly timed to miss the weak of bladder and adventurous.

While you are up, getting some fresher air (away from your B.O buddy) you run into the ladies chatting at the back. They always seem to be in their 50’s or early 60’s, one of them a frequent flyer and the other a newbie. It seems that they always gravitate towards the back of the plane and they just pick up with a conversation as if they have known one another since birth. Catching snippets, listening but not listening, you pick up on health issues, politics, all the planning going into the daughters’ wedding and generally not helping to solve the world’s problems.

Eventually you reach the end of the flight and now you will notice just a slight change in behaviour, caused by what? Reduction in gravity, dehydration? There is a sudden sense of importance which is much worse on short flights than on long hauls by the way. When people board, they are all fluffy and rosy with “please” and “let me help you”, to that all so subtle change when disembarking. Each person tries to get his/her overhead luggage the quickest. Now a little elbow in the face, stepping on toes and no time to wait is at the order of the day. Or is this just the relief to be back on mother earth and they want to get away from the capsule of torture as soon as possible?

After a lot of shoving to get on the bus first, you catch them waiting for their luggage. Energy burned and tempers repressed for the wild notion that being first is what counts. Didn’t the tortoise win the race after all? This is just a slice of fascination you will find on a flight. The shades might be different, but they are there if you look for it.

Back in my country of birth with friends and family to see. I still love my chair in the air and when you fly, you might just see me there.