Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Port Victoria Maritime Museum, South Australia

Yesterday, Monday 15 June, I visited the Local History and Maritime Museum at ... no, NOT Port Victoria, but further north on the same stretch of coast, here on Yorke Peninsula, at Wallaroo. Wallaroo's an old copper mining town whose name is said to be from the local Narungga aboriginal language and first meant "wallaby piss". Oh, well.

Back to the maritime museum. I enjoyed the unexpected museum visit, much of it drawing attention to the famous "grain races" of the 1930s and 1940s between the Baltic port of Aaland and this little part of South Australia. (I was in Wallaroo because it has the nearest hospital this side of Adelaide with CT-scan facilities, and today I heard the happy result that my head is not full of alien blobs after all.) So, driving home all the way down the Italy-shaped peninsula I was thinking of Port Victoria, only a few kilometres to my right as variously signposted. Thinks, "Must go soon: they have a dinky little museum there, all about this stuff."

Whaddya know? Today, the 16th, after a concert rehearsal - another story, oh, and I'm just the back row of the chorus sort-of-thing, no big deal - I am walking on the beach, only other sign of life a sooty tern or two, and the mobile phone surprises me 'cos I really thought it was out of signal range. Friend announces, "Tomorrow some of us are going to the Port Vic Museum. Want to go?" Now THAT is ... what's it called? ... synchronicity. Anyway, a coincidence.

Tell you more after tomorrow's visit.

Right now I am blown away by the reminiscencies in the movie The Last Cape Horners: the end of the great sailing ship era. Garry Kerr's film was released as a DVD in 2006. Lots of the material is direct interview with those who in their late years recall voyages under sail from the 1930s and 1940s - voyages under near-impossible conditions, in ships at the end of their working lives, undermaintained and desperately undermanned, for example 34 crew in place of a full complement of around 80! And some of the short-handed crews were young blokes with no knowledge of the sea, signing on in Melbourne in a shipping agent's office to replace equally young Swedes or Finns who had jumped ship once they made it to Australia. Tell you more about that, too.

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