Heritage Gest

Heritage, Exploits, Stories


July 2016

Old Jindabyne or it’s not just all about shipwrecks

Jindabyne is a year round holiday destination in the Snowy Mountains. Hiking, canoeing or mountain bike riding in summer or as a base for skiing in winter, Jindabyne has a lot going for it. The countryside around it is stunning and the first views of the town across the lake as you approach from East Jindabyne, awesome!

So when I mention shipwrecks talking about a place located at an altitude of 915m and approximately 130 km as the crow flies from the ocean is the obvious starting point.

The mention of maritime archaeology either invokes the names of some of the pioneers in the field (George F. Bass, Robert F. Marx, R.D. Ballard, Alexander McKee) or perhaps the Hollywood portrayals (Matthew McConaughey in Sahara or perhaps Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson in Fools Gold).

UNESCO estimates that there are approximately 3 million shipwrecks undiscovered around the world. In fact if you ask most people what is Maritime Archaeology you will get the answer shipwrecks first. Then you will probably get answers like maritime infrastructure (wharves/lighthouses), maybe crashed planes. Some people might add things like shipwreck survivor camps, Aboriginal sites such as fishtraps. The way these terms are defined is a topic of ongoing discussion in the field of maritime archaeology and you could check out the Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology or Nautical Archaeology Society for some more in-depth discussion.

I am not a trained maritime archaeologist but I have picked up a lot of what I know through working with a good friend of mine Sarah Ward. Sarah has 15 years’ experience in the field, has worked in over 30 countries, runs a successful consultancy and I consider her to be my mentor. If you really want to understand maritime archaeology, what it is and where it can take you, Sarah’s blog Indiana Sarah, is a great place to start.

When you look at the NSW State Heritage Register there are dozens of listings that have maritime links including: lighthouses and associated infrastructure (Green Cape Maritime Precinct, Norah Head Lightstation Precinct); shipwrecks (Green Cape Maritime Precinct, Hive Shipwreck, the M24 Japanese Midget Submarine Wreck Site); shipwreck cemeteries (Green Cape Maritime Precinct); and Aboriginal sites (Brewarrina Aboriginal Fishtraps/Baiame’s Nghunnhu).  These show the wide range of sites that under the term maritime.

But how does the town of Jindabyne fall into this category? The Jindabyne that we see today is actually the second town to hold that name. The original Jindabyne sits beneath the placid waters of Lake Jindabyne, at a depth of up to 40m metres.  The earliest settlement in the Jindabyne area began with the advance of graziers in the 1820s. The goldrush of the 1860s saw an influx of settlers and the development of the town. Over the course of a century it grew into a thriving mountains community. Everything was going fine until the idea arose for the Snowy Mountains Scheme. This was the beginning of the end for Old Jindabyne. In the 1940s plans were developed to build a massive dam at Jindabyne. This would however mean the complete flooding of the township of Jindabyne. A new town was planned on the high ground adjacent to the town.

In 1964 the new township officially opened. An entire new town was constructed, people relocated. New shops, houses, churches, schools all constructed to replace a town to be abandoned and submerged. Over the course of the next three years people continued to live in Old Jindabyne until the last residents finally left in 1967. Have a look at this series of clips from 1965 to get a perspective of the event from the time.

Imagine the scenes. The elderly who had lived in Jindabyne for decades forced to move to a new and unfamiliar town. Perhaps for the children it was a great adventure, but for their mothers and fathers the loss of livelihoods created uncertainty, fear. It is easy to understand their concerns; forced to move because a government hundreds of kilometres away makes a decision for the greater good. Easy to make decision when it is not your town, your home that is to be destroyed. These sorts of decisions are still being made today. Badgerys’s Creek Airport and the West Connex are just two examples. These projects are forcing people from their homes. How history judges them will be interesting.

However, Old Jindabyne has a new life. Today it is one of Australia’s premier inland dive sites. Yes that’s right; you can scuba dive in places other than the ocean. The remains of the old township are there for all to see. Houses, roads, churches, cars, water tanks, all the familiar trappings of country life can still be seen beneath the waters. Now I haven’t dived it myself, it is a goal I am working towards. But what remains are the places where people lived, what they did and how they did it before the town was submerged. Check out some of the videos from others have made the dive (love the soundtrack on this one).

So next time you happen to be going past a dam spare a thought for what may have been lost to create that dam. Hume Dam in Victoria and Happy Valley Reservoir in South Australia have each submerged towns (I’ll leave it to you to find out which ones if you’re interested). In Australia and overseas, each new dam will impact the lives of those unfortunate enough to be in the area to be inundated. Homes lost, people relocated, lives uprooted (1.3 million people were relocated during the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in China).

So I don’t leave you on too much of a bummer this article from the Daily Mail  shows some cool images of submerged churches from around the world; everything I just said notwithstanding.

Coming up next on Heritage Gest….

 Just because I like a Sea Shanty

Talk Soon.


Firehorse Lane or why toponymy is cool

Let’s get through the apologies first. This post will only peripherally be about fires and horses and definitely not about horses that are on fire. So if the last thing is what you are in to then get help.

The title of this post comes from Firehorse Lane in Parramatta. For most people it is the shortest and quickest route from Parramatta Railway Station to what some would argue is the best coffee in Parramatta.

Although most people I know head there for coffee, I think that there is much better coffee at a place on George Street. Actually, it is not the so much coffee, but they do have terrariums. Terrariums are quite cool, kind of like bow-ties, Jammy Dodgers and the word Geronimo; but I digress.

Toponyms are place names and toponymy is the study of these names. Some are easy; Adelaide (Queen Adelaide, consort of King William IV), New South Wales (obvious), Macquarie Street, George Street (you get the idea). Others are less so and are associated with past uses of places. For those of you who know Sydney you may know Fort Street and Bridge Street. These are not just random names they tell us what these places were used for.

Bridge Street, about 200m from the Circular Quay was once a bridge. The link below is to an 1803 painting by G.W. Evans of Sydney Cove from the State Library of NSW catalogue.  Look for the bridge to the right of the image.  Its name reflects its past, but more than this it starts to tell the story of how Sydney has changed. Land reclaimed; a city expanded.

Fort Street, the street that ran to a Fort built at Dawes Point (named after Lieutenant William Dawes), built in 1789, one year after the founding of the colony. For over a century the Fort was upgraded and changed to deal with new and changing threats to the British Empire. The construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge led to the demolition of the Fort and associated buildings. And like that….gone. All we have left is the name Fort Street. There is an Upper and Lower Fort Street. The names of these have to do with the topography of the site; the upper street leading to the fort and the lower street leading to the fort.

So to Firehorse Lane. The 20 storey built in 2006 has cut off the link between Firehorse Lane and the former Fire Station on Church Street. In fact, standing in Firehorse Lane there is nothing to suggest this connection. However the laneway was the service point for the Fire Station, where the horses that were used to provide transport for the fire-fighters were kept.

If you happen to be standing around waiting for your latte or long black in Firehorse Lane, spare a thought for the brave firefighters who, in 1939 tried to extinguish a fire at the Old Victoria Theatre. The building was gutted and collapsed around the firefighters. Fortunately, there were only minor injuries and no-one was killed. These were the men who risked their lives to protect others.

Their legacy lives on today in the efforts of the professional and volunteer fire fighters throughout Australia. The women and men who sacrifice their time and sometimes their lives to help others in time of disasters. Their stories are the continuation of the story of those men, who tried to save the Old Victoria Theatre.

The story, the history of Firehorse Lane is one that has reverberations today and it can be found in the name of this unpretentious laneway.

The naming of places to reflect their function or characteristics is not just a European tradition. The place names given to the landscape by Australia’s first inhabitants can be read in the same way. Burramatta – place where the eels lie down and Girrawee – place of white cockatoos are just two examples of place names that denote a function, a history, a story of people living in the landscape.

Some would argue that the study of toponymy may be boring, staid, nothing more than an academic exercise. But you know what? I think it’s cool. It gives us an insight into the past. These place names tell of a past. Tell stories of the people who have gone before us and the lives they have lived. Geronimo.

So next time you are somewhere think about the place names around you. Where are the lime kilns near Lime Kiln Bay? What is Three Mile Dam three miles from? Who were the unknown fighters at Pugilistic Creek.

Just to up the geek factor I grabbed the 1:25,000 topographic maps for Kingsdale and Braidwood and found fifteen place names that seem to denote a former function or use. Sixteen if you include Sawyer Road and assume that is was named for its relationship with the timber industry rather than just after someone named Sawyer.

Coming up next on Heritage Gest….

Old Jindabyne or it’s not just all about shipwrecks.

Talk Soon.


Gest is a word usually found in romantic literature. It is a tale of romance or history, a notable deed or exploit. So why use it in the title of a blog about heritage. After all, most of us know what heritage is right?

So if you look to your left you will see a two-storey terrace built in 1883 which is a part of a historically significant precinct. Note the fine example of Victorian filigree architecture….the unique Georgian town planning….

Sorry drifted off for a bit there.

Don’t get me wrong, I like a piece of Victorian Filigree Architecture as much as the next person, but you know heritage isn’t just about sandstone buildings; it is also the stories about the people who have lived in and experienced our landscape and its places.

Take for example the Hero of Waterloo pub in The Rocks, Sydney. It is, according to its State Heritage Listing, significant because of its strong vernacular design, the fact it retains substantial evidence of its original form and is an integral part of the Millers Point precinct. Technically correct, and an important part of the building’s heritage.

But what about the secret tunnel that legend says ran to the harbour and was used for smuggling and the occasional Shanghaiing of sailors. Or the ghost of the former innkeeper’s wife, Anne Kirkman who ‘fell’ down the stairs in 1849 and is said to still haunt the hotel, playing beautiful piano music.

Heritage is much more than stones and bones. It is the landscape, the names we see in our cities and towns, the connections that people have with places and each other. The ubiquitous Chinese restaurant found in rural towns, the Greek cafés, archaeology, shipwrecks, songlines and stories. These are all aspects of our heritage that I want to explore. Some tangible, some not. Some big and important, and some just small, personal and interesting. That is why Gest is a perfect name for this blog. I want to share the histories, the romance and the deeds, big and small that make up our heritage.

I have worked in archaeology and heritage management for over a decade. Okay, not as long as some others, but I came to it a bit late. I may tell you about it sometime.

What I have come to realize is there is a whole lot of stuff I see, places I get to visit and stories I hear that make up this giant web that is our heritage that do not seem to get out there. So this is my attempt to share some of what I know and hopefully contribute to a much broader discussion of what heritage is and what it means. No mean feat for 600 words per post; which the more knowledgeable websites on these matters suggest is the ideal length for a blog.

I know that’s it not all about me (insert frowning emoticon face here). Our heritage, what is important to us, is individual. So let me know what you consider to be your heritage, what you consider to be heritage generally or if there is something you want to know, I will see what I can do.

Left to my own devices you will get a series of posts about what is in my mind at the time. It will probably come from things I am reading, places I visit or just stuff that pops into my head. So that’s about it.

That is how this blog is likely to go. If I can make it interesting for you then yay, if I can help expand your idea of what heritage is then double yay. If you can teach me something I don’t know or help me look at something in a brand new way then triple yay.

Don’t get used to this because I am not sure I can sustain it but, coming up next on Heritage Gest….

Firehorse Lane or why toponymy is cool.

Talk Soon.

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Recording history in the Hawkesbury and beyond

Touring the Hawkesbury - history and heritage

Indiana Sarah

Heritage, Exploits, Stories

Heritage Gest

Heritage, Exploits, Stories