The happy couple planned the Perfect Wedding, at beautiful Sellicks Beach located South of Adelaide.
The weather forecaster said, ‘No bloody worries, it’s going to be a belter.’
So with hope in their heart and their wonderful relatives and friends in tow hey made their way down to the beach.
Everyone was just so excited for the beautiful couple and then they looked up and saw this on the horizon.
Oh! My goodness, A storm was gathering. It would be bringing buckets and buckets of rain
There was no alternative venue planned. Bugger that weather forecaster. So what to do?
Were these good people going to let a bit of water spoil the wedding?
No way, and then with classic cleverness those stupid enough to stay out in the rain made themselves some quite stylish and practical water hats using the council’s dog poo collection bags sold to them by Alex Riley at $10 each.
On May 1, 1915, the ship departed New York City bound for Liverpool. Unknown to her passengers but probably no secret to the Germans, almost all her hidden cargo consisted of munitions and contraband destined for the British war effort.
As the fastest ship afloat, the luxurious liner felt secure in the belief she could easily outdistance any submarine. Nonetheless, the menace of submarine attack reduced her passenger list to only half her capacity.
On May 7, the ship neared the coast of Ireland. At 2:10 in the afternoon a torpedo fired by the German submarine U 20 slammed into her side. A mysterious second explosion ripped the liner apart. Chaos reigned.
The ship listed so badly and quickly that lifeboats crashed into passengers crowded on deck, or dumped their loads into the water. Most passengers never had a chance.
Within 18 minutes the giant ship slipped beneath the sea. One thousand one hundred nineteen of the 1,924 aboard died. The dead included 114 Americans.
Walter Schwieger was captain of the U-Boat that sank the Lusitania. He watched through his periscope as the torpedo exploded and noted the result in his log, “The ship stops immediately and heals over to starboard quickly, immersing simultaneously at the bow.
It appears as if the ship were going to capsize very shortly. Great confusion is rife on board; the boats are made ready and some of them lowered into the water. In connection therewith great panic must have reigned; some boats, full to capacity are rushed from above, touch the water with either stem or stern first and founder immediately.”
In the ship’s nursery Alfred Vanderbilt, one of the world’s richest men, and playwright Carl Frohman tied life jackets to wicker “Moses baskets” holding infants in an attempt to save them from going down with the ship.
The rising water carried the baskets off the ship but none survived the turbulence created as the ship sank to the bottom. The sea also claimed Vanderbilt and Frohman.
The sinking enraged American public opinion. The political fallout was immediate. President Wilson protested strongly to the Germans. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, a pacifist, resigned.
In September, the Germans announced that passenger ships would be sunk only with prior warning and appropriate safeguards for passengers.
However, the seeds of American animosity towards Germany were sown.
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.
A permanent exhibition at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory includes before and after photos that capture the devastation wreaked on the flattened town.
Don’t miss the terrifying cyclone room where, in pitch black, you can experience for yourself the screaming, screeching sounds of the wind and the groaning of buildings and trees: on the day maximum gusts of 217 km/h were recorded before equipment failed.
The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory is at 19 Conacher Street, The Gardens, Darwin, (08) 8999 8264.