Pigmies and gyants

I find that my walks get into loops that are repeated without variation for days or weeks on end: clockwise around Richardson Park in the morning then up the Chaucer Street drain at night; anticlockwise round the gasworks or the Hamilton Business Centre; upstream to the Westpac Helicopter. Any change feels almost unpleasant the first time I do it (say, changing my rotation within the gasworks) but then the new route settles almost immediately into the established routine. For a few days or weeks, then as above and repeat.

At the moment I’m going down to the Maitland Road bridge while the tides are low. The pillars are crusted with hundreds of wild oysters, though I’m not sure how edible they’d be. I’m not game to risk it.

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The creek bed is covered in a thick coat of silt in some parts, deposited by the recent floods and by the fine soil that gets scoured from behind the concrete banking.

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I’m often surprised at the quality of the bikes (or parts of bikes) that find their way into the creek. This frame from is from a GIANT, which is probably twice as expensive as the bike that I plod around the suburbs on.

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Which leads me neatly into a story sent in by good friend Isaac, who was scouring the National Library of Australia’s Trove archive. Looking for “Styx Creek” he came across this bizarre story, from the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, concerning the death of “Tommy the Pigmy Chief”, who drowned in the Styx back in 1943.

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The rest of the page made gripping reading too: the Allies taking back Tobruk; Ava Gardner filing for divorce from Mickey Roonie; headlines such as ‘On alert for major clash in Solomons’. If only they knew what was coming, poor buggers.

Trove is a world where time moves differently. I found myself scrolling through pages and pages of newspaper reports on Styx Creek going back to the end of the nineteenth century. There were two recurring themes: ongoing problems in creating a bridge substantial enough not to be washed away every few weeks (and preferably not with a schoolchild or two on board); and breath-taking pollution that followed the arrival of the Gas & Coke works and the British Oil storage facility. At one point, the surface of the Styx was actually on fire from Maitland Road to the depot due to leaked fuel!

How will people in 2073 look back on our efforts to clean up the creek and gasworks in 2014?

Will they think of us as giants or pygmies?

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