Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Lumpers and lighters and a codger

Superb weather hereabouts, and an Indian summer warm burst of 30C is forecast for coming days, just when we thought autumn was turning to winter - despite the fact that the calendar announced autumn's official arrival only a week ago. The clocks went  back an hour at the weekend and as a result I am waking "too early" - actually at the same time but the clock says it is 5.30am not 6.30. Tricked by this cunning illusion today, I set off to Port Rickaby, a 35 minute drive, and walked on the beach north of the jetty - until rocks and seaweed blocked the walk in that direction. Back near the action, that is, the caravan park and the shop, I climbed the timber steps to the municipal lookout among the dunes. It is called Codger's Lookout, named for the late Darcy Russell, nicknamed Codger or "the mayor" of Rickaby, said to have been "the last of the lumpers". Lumpers were the manual loaders and unloaders of the wheat bags as cargo for the ketches which plied Peninsula coasts, notably from the 1920s to the '40s, but also through the 'fifties at some jetties, and a very few visits were occurring even into the early 'sixties, for example at Edithburgh.

In their heyday the ketches, 2-masted sailing vessels, either took general cargo from port to port in these waters, or else they "lightered" the grain bags for re-loading to the great windjammers anchored off Port Victoria. Those vessels, some over 4000 tons like the Copenhagen (KĂžbenhavn), sailed at speed to the other side of the planet loaded with grain cargo. The Copenhagen (so Wikipedia tells us) was built in Leith near Edinburgh, Scotland, launched in 1921, and made nine successful global circumnavigations, but was lost with all hands in January 1929 en route from Buenos Aires to Australia. She functioned moreover as a sail training vessel for Denmark. The "hands lost" included 45 young sea cadets. The ship even had radio, but no distress signal was received and the Copenhagen's vanishing remains one of the sea's many mysteries. More is known today about the frequency of "freak waves" which can (and seemingly do) overwhelm even large craft in mid-ocean.

My beach walk was a sunny start to the day, and soon afterwards we rehearsed a concert program at Parson's Beach (thanks Maureen) and in the afternoon performed it to a "full house" at a Minlaton nursing home. OK, so it's not the Sydney Opera House!

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