In 1913 a red 1d (one penny) stamp bearing a kangaroo and a map of Australia superseded the Commonwealth colony stamps being used in individual states.
However, it didn’t enter circulation without controversy.
It was lampooned at the time for being a weak example of Australian culture and created great divides within the relatively newly independent Federation of Australia as to whether the stamp should include the profile of the king, or indeed any British royal symbols.
It was designed as the ultimate result of a stamp design competition held by the Postmaster-General’s Department. The competition was launched in January 1911, and attracted 1051 designs by 533 entrants.
The first prize of £100 was awarded in May to Hermann Altmann, from Victoria, whose design featured a full-face portrait of King George V, complete with six shields bearing the insignia of each state, a kangaroo and an emu.
Second place, with a prize of £50, was tied by Donald Mackay and Edwin Arnold, both of England. Mackay’s stamp bore the Coat-of-Arms and Arnold’s kangaroo.
However, in October, Charles Frazer became the new Postmaster-General.
He took an interest in stamps and was shown the winning entries. Later, describing it to Parliament as “execrable”, he swiftly rejected Altmann’s design, and appointed the Victorian Artist’s Association to find an artist to create a new stamp.
They commissioned a local watercolour artist, Blamire Young, who began working on the design while Frazer publicly hinted to the press: “If a picturesque stamp can be provided in which an outline of Australia is featured, I am certainly favourably inclined towards it.”
After Young submitted several designs to the Post Office, Frazer took a liking to the ones with kangaroos, finding them to be an apt representation of the Commonwealth, and wrote a note:
“1. Get coastline of Aust. 2. Insert Baldy’s Roo (Edwin Arnold, one of those tied for second place in the competition). 3. Produce in colours for different denominats.”
After some more minor changes, the final design was ready by early 1912, though not without some mishaps, including one print that accidentally omitted Tasmania.
Frazer, proud of the finished product, announced the design on 2 April, well before the stamp went on sale on 2 January, 1913.
Back to the original stamp
In June 1913, however, the Labor government which supported Frazer was toppled in a federal election. Agar Wynne, the Liberal government’s new Postmaster-General, announced the kangaroo-and-map stamp was to be replaced by Hermann Altmann’s 1911 competition-winning stamp after all.
But it proved to be too complex, so a simpler design featuring the Royal portrait was produced, and issued in December 1913.
Frazer defended his stamp, saying “A postage stamp is one of the best advertising mediums the country can have,” and arguing that an Australian stamp with a British monarch doesn’t represent Australia.
“It is ironic,” says Richard Breckon, from the Australian Philatelic Federation, “considering the circumstances surrounding the kangaroo and map and George V designs, that stamps of both series co-existed for a quarter of a century. Following the accession of King George VI, a full series of new stamps was issued in 1937-38.
The end had come for the earlier stamps, except that for some reason the 2s Kangaroo-and-map stamp was not replaced at this time.
This last survivor of Charles Frazer’s wish to create ‘an advertisement for Australia’ lingered on until its eventual withdrawal in 1948.”
Little remains of the MV Sygna after the storm in 1974 that left it wrecked on Stockton Beach, but the Sygna is just one in over 200 vessels that have met their end there.
The port of Newcastle used to be described by mariners as a ‘hellhole’ with over 200 vessels having been wrecked in and around the mouth of the Hunter River.
Numerous lives have been lost in our local waters; the wreck of the Cawarra in 1866 is still considered one of Australia’s worst maritime disasters with only one of the 61 passengers and crew on board the vessel surviving the wreck.
Many of the victims of the Cawarra disaster were buried in a mass grave in the grounds of Christ Church Cathedral.
And in spite of huge advances in technology and major changes to the port to improve its safety, Newcastle waters continue to take a toll.
The 1974 storm that claimed the Norwegian vessel MV Sygna caused the closure of both Newcastle and Sydney ports and major damage was caused along a large part of the coast.
While little remains of the vast majority of Newcastle’s shipwrecks, Deb Mastello from the Newcastle Maritime Centre jokes that there is so much of the Sygna held within the museum’s collection that they could rebuild it, “Sometimes it feels like we can refloat her – we certainly have a lot from the Sygna,”
On 15 January 1919, a massive tank containing 2.2m gallons of molasses burst in Boston, causing the death of 21 people.
Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive
An obscure accident led to the first class action lawsuit against a major company, paving the way for modern regulation.
It may sound like the fantastical plot of a children’ story but Boston’s Great Molasses Flood was one of the most destructive and sombre events in the city’s history.
On 15 January 1919, a muffled roar heard by residents was the only indication that an industrial-sized tank of syrup had burst open, unleashing a tsunami of sugary liquid through the North End district near the city’s docks.
As the 15-foot (5-metre) wave swept through at around 35mph (56km/h), buildings were wrecked, wagons toppled, 21 people were left dead and about 150 were injured.
Now scientists have revisited the incident, providing new insights into why the physical properties of molasses proved so deadly.
Presenting the findings last weekend at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston, they said a key factor was that the viscosity of molasses increases dramatically as it cools.
This meant that the roughly 2.3m US gallons of molasses (8.7m litres) became more difficult to escape from as the evening drew in.
The Cyclone Tracy exhibit at Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Darwin. Photograph: Jonny Weeks for the Guardian
Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin on Christmas Eve in 1974, causing mass destruction.
Photographs by Jonny Weeks for the Guardian
Top Enders live with extreme weather in a way few southern Australians can comprehend.
It’s interminably hot and the rains seem to turn on and off like a tap: when it’s not bone dry, you have to contend with raging floods.
But even the hardy locals of Darwin couldn’t prepare for the fury of Cyclone Tracy, the storm that came tearing down from the Arafura Sea on Christmas Eve 1974, taking 66 lives.