Marking time

Marking time

Tuesday 24 December 2019

A Christmas postcard from North Reef

To mark the summer solstice, I would like to show you a special light­house postcard with a seasonal greeting.

The postcard shows the North Reef lighthouse that guides ships passing along the Great Barrier Reef, about 120 km from Glad­stone. It is a remote spot.

The lighthouse was built in the 1870s on a little patch of sand on the planar reef. The tower stands on a concrete-filled iron caisson sunk down to a coral foundation. Under the effects of wind and tide the sandy island migrated away from the lighthouse, which was left surrounded by water; over the last 140 years the sand patch has continued to migrate, and the lighthouse now stands in the middle of the sand again. There are few photographs that record the sand’s comings and goings.

Over many years the civil engineer Dr Michael Gourlay of the University of Queensland has studied the reefs and cays of the Great Barrier Reef. He has recently published a paper that includes an account of North Reef.

image of the front of a postcard

My newly-acquired postcard shows a view of the lighthouse from a position in the middle of the sand island, as it was around 1937​—​this is not a view I had seen before.

Like the other North Reef postcard in my collection, this is a real photo postcard printed on Kodak Austral paper. The photo might have been taken by Les Moore, who wrote the Christmas message to some­body else called Peter in 1937.

image of the back of a postcard

The back of the postcard, with Les Moore’s message.

I don’t know much about Les Moore, and even less about the recipient of the postcard. In the list of Queensland lightkeepers in the book The light­house keepers* is the name L Moore, with a commencement date of 1914. The signature on the postcard includes the letters HK, which probably stand for Head Keeper, an indication that Les was, at that time, in charge of the North Reef station, where he would have had two assistant lightkeepers.

Somebody, perhaps Les Moore himself, owned a camera that produced the 3½ × 5½ inch negative that was contact printed onto Kodak Austral postcard stock.

Catalogue illustration

Illustration of a Kodak 3A postcard format camera from a 1925 catalogue. Did Les Moore have a camera like this?

* Stuart Buchanan, The lighthouse keepers (Samford: Coral Coast Publications, 1994). The list of Queensland lightkeepers was compliled by Stuart’s late wife Shirley.

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Sunday 8 December 2019

Remembering Sam Watson

With sadness I mark the passing of Uncle Sam Watson, and remember how much and how often he contributed to the life of my local community. At Musgrave Park, in Boundary Street, at Avid Reader, at the Kurilpa Library, there he was, with fire in his belly, empathy in his heart, and perceptive things to say. I’ll miss him.

Sam Watson speaking

Sam Watson speaking at the Environmental Defenders Office’s first Swim for the reef event at Musgrave Park pool in 2016.

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Monday 22 April 2019

Sadness in Paris

I am sad that it has happened, but I’ll be interested to follow the debate over how the burnt-out roof and spire of Notre-Dame de Paris should be reconstructed.

people looking at a model of the building they are standing in

On my last visit to the cathedral, in September 2010, I joined these people to look at this intricate model of the building, in a mood of quiet contemplation.

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Wednesday 20 June 2018

How to rectify and perpetuate your recollections

Since the 1960s I have carried a camera when I travel, and taken pictures so I can ex­am­ine them afterwards. I know that most trav­el­lers use phone cameras for this now. I carry a phone too, but don’t like using it as a camera. So I keep on schlepping a serious camera (and even a tripod) on my trips. These tools help me to take photographs in a more observant way. Yes, I’m out-of-date, I know.

For something even more out-of-date, I enjoyed reading an article entitled ‘Notes for travelers in Europe’ that appeared in Harper’s new monthly magazine, volume xxxix, June to Novem­ber 1869. Let me quote some of it:

Many persons regret, as they draw near the close of their tour, that they have not preserved more mementoes of the scenes through which they have passed. This is often the case with those who travel rapidly, and find their im­pres­sions becoming confused and inexact. Photographs of the places seen rectify and perpetuate our recollections; and one could not have a more valuable souvenir of a glimpse of Europe than a portfolio of large photographs. The traveler can supply this, in some degree at least, in Paris or New York, on his return; but half the value of the picture is de­pend­ent on the recollection that you bought it on the spot, or picked it out as the best, from among Allessandri’s or Macpherson’s treasures at Rome, or Carlo Ponti’s under the arcades in Venice. Large photographs can be conveniently bought unmounted. They can then be rolled, and a large number can be carried in a small space; and at home any good photographic artist can mount them at a trifling expense.

Collection of nineteenth-century photographs

A few recollection perpetuators from the 1860s: a view of the sea front at Messina, Sicily (8x10 inch photograph by Georgio Sommer of Naples); a view from the campanile of San Marco, Venice, looking across the Grand Canal to Santa Maria della Salute and Palladio’s Redentore in the distance (carte-de-visite by an unknown photographer); a closer view of Santa Maria della Salute (carte-de-visite by Carlo Ponti of Venice).

For young people nothing is better than the little pho­to­graphs of carte de visite size. It you require a young girl to choose these for herself, and to write with her own hand, on the back of each, the name of its subject, and the place and date of purchasing it, she will make a charming itinerary without the trouble of “journalizing.” She will look them over constantly, to while away tedious hours in railway cars and describe them to companions she meets, and will bring home far more vivid recollections than unaided memory could retain. Not only scenery and cities are il­lus­trated in this way, but copies of the finest works of art, pictures of the picturesque local costumes, and portraits of noted men and women, may be obtained in the same form. Nothing could be a more instructive amusement than to collect in this way notable ideals in the art, history, and to­po­graphy of the countries visited.

Santa Maria della Salute​—​front and back of a carte-de-visite by the pho­to­grapher Carlo Ponti, 1860s. The backmark includes the pho­to­grapher’s address Piazza S Marco sotto le procuratie nuove. Was this picture chosen by a young girl on a visit to Venice? And did she write the name of the place​—​Chiesa della Salute​—​with her own hand?

My 2010 photo of Santa Maria della Salute partly obscured by my own reflection in the rear view mirror of the vaporetto, posted on Instagram.

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A Christmas postcard from North Reef
Remembering Sam Watson
Sadness in Paris
How to rectify and perpetuate your recollections

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