Where is it?


Ralph Snowball was extraordinary. His photographs of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century Newcastle are full of interesting historical details, but more than that they’re often beautiful in and of themselves. His thoughtfulness in capturing the mundane and the quotidian – from street hoardings to “ordinary” workers going about their regular business – brings the Newcastle of our grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ generation instantly to life.

This shot is titled “Waratah Coal Coy’s Raspberry gully line bridge and New Lambton coal Coy’s railway bridge crossing a drain at Broadmeadow” (link to the University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections here).


It’s not one of his prettiest, but it does show what I’m sure is the Styx in an earlier incarnation. Here’s where I think it is: by the Westpac rescue helicopter pad, opposite the trotting stadium.


The two features that make me think it’s there are the junction of Lambton Ker-rai Creek, at left, and the ridge line at the back. But against that is the quite obvious dogleg in the top picture, as opposed to the gun-barrel straight creek line in the bottom picture. It could have been realigned but, really, would you dig that entire drainage line out, by hand, then dig it again to make it straight? Most unlikely.

So where is it? Your thoughts, please.

On the waterfront


I thought that the rain we got the other week would result in a banker but it was such a slow, steady fall that the creek just rose, nice and slowly, and then fell, nice and slowly. The kind of rain the farmers love.

I always have mixed feelings about rain after a prolonged dry period. The creek gets so clogged up with gunk and rubbish that it’s kind of cathartic to have it all swept away by one huge, cleansing flood. But then I know that all the crap has just been shunted down to Carrington mangroves, or the harbour, or the beach.


It’s still … THERE … even though I can’t see it.


There was an article in the Herald about the OdysSea group, who are encouraging people to litter-pick along the beaches. They’re great, those young folk, and I must admit I rather  envy them. The beaches are so iconic and so beautiful that it seems like a no brainer to ask help keep them clean and for people to respond. The creeks just don’t have that same emotional kicker. I pick stuff up but, let’s be frank, I ain’t gonna make much of a dent in this lot. And anyway, it’s just the drain.


Sometimes I don’t pick things up, deliberately. Big Ted, here. He’s not going to be accidentally swallowed by a cormorant or a turtle. Where will he go? Who will find him?


Not far, as it turned out. He staggered ashore down by the TAFE, still wet, a few days later. Don’t know where he is now.


Other things are just too elusive to pick up. This sign, from a car yard, teased me for at least two weeks, always bobbing up and down with the tide, always a good couple of metres offshore. Come and get me! Nyaah!


As well as the litter pollution the creek’s been suffering from the subterranean movement of oils, tars and residues from the gasworks and the petrol depot. This always speeds up when the warmer weather arrives; September isn’t just the month of koels and channel-billed cuckoos, it’s the month of gaseous miasmas and heady, bituminous pongs …


… and intriguing canisters of unknown origin that are impossibly tempting to your average cairn terrier.


But if I’m feeling slack and not picking up, the creek will always send me a reminder of why I should do the right thing. Saturday morning and, as the tide turned and pulled the bottles and cans and cigarette ends and lumps of polystyrene foam and nerf bullets and tennis balls and busted thongs out and down and away towards the harbour, this sad sight drifted past me. Another cormorant casualty. A young, healthy-looking bird. What had it swallowed? What had gotten caught and twisted in its gut?


Get my bag. Pick it up. Even you, Big Ted. Even you.