I know it seems a morbid subject, but ever since I found myself sitting on Tasmania’s memorial to the drowned (Tamanian Sefarer’s Memorial in Triabunna on Tasmania’s East Coast) a few years ago, I have thought a lot about the poor souls who have succumbed to the trap of water. Somehow – especially given my home is by a river on the coast of an island off the south coast of the world’s biggest island (I know that from those Bacardi ads on the telly in the 90′s), it seems really dumb that we don’t have gills to save us, and here in Tassie, some seal-like skin.
Anyway, back to Triabunna, I was waiting impatiently for my family to buy sausage rolls at the bakery when I realised the low brick wall I was sitting on carried a heap of plaques and was shaped like a fish. I began to read. Here were the stories of those wrecked, swept away, drowned or missing in Tasmanian waters. I became lost in the frightening, cold world of those lost at sea. When I finished reading and returned to dry land, the sausage rolls were bought, eaten, my family were waiting for me and I felt all warm and grateful, sort of like when you’ve showered and dressed after a winter wet-suited water ski (from which my maturity [okay, age] these days prohibits). I wiped away tears but I remember the stories…of fishermen and sailors, travelers, naval crew dating right back to the early days of sailing when whole ships went down with all on board.
There is the story of the Hobart based yacht the Charleston that was lost in 1979 on her way to Sydney to begin the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. I was too young to remember the tragedy but remember some of those family members left behind. They are still wondering. No trace of the yacht of its crew have ever been found.
In 1959 a cargo ship called the Blythe Star sank off South West Cape. Despite a huge air search the vessel could not be located. 7 of her crew were found on the Tasman Peninsula (not far from where I sit now), 11 days after the vessel’s disappearance. 3 drowned. Here is the amazing story on the news at the time (was telly ever really this dodgy?)…
And in 1845, the Cataraqui, a British Baroque sailing ship sank in Bass Straight in 1845 en route to Victoria carrying 369 emigrants and 41 crew. It crashed into rocks just off King Island. With 400 lives lost it is Australia’s worst civil maritime disaster.
But Tasmanian waters aside, do you know that while our politicians have been friggin’ about over Asylum Seeker Policy for the last 4 years, nearly 1000 boat people have drowned? With today’s bill passed in the House of Reps just an hour or so ago, and the senate looking like it will give it the big nod, I really hope these unnecessary drownings will stop.
And putting political stuff aside now, in a few months it will also be 4 years since the drowning of our close family friend James Bennett. He was lost after being pulled into white water in a Queensland swimming hole. His larrikin, easy-going nature will be long remembered. James was a naval officer, a diver and a longtime water lover. If anyone could survive an incident in water he could; so clearly the forces he was up against were exceptionally strong. I like to think that – given his diving background – he felt no panic or pain, but rather felt at home under the water. I like to believe the rumours that drowning is a peaceful – even euphoric – way to die. Because you deserve that James, you really do. And you deserve one of those beautiful sirens – those ones who call sailors to their deaths with their song – to take you in and keep you loved for evermore. And I hope she has big boobies because I bet you were a boobs man. I know you won’t mind me saying that.
In fact, there is a Tim Buckley song I really love about sirens. Maybe I’ll sing it, for James and for all the people who have drowned or are missing at sea, everywhere, all over the world.
Hmm, maybe I’ll sing it, record it and post it here. Actually it was one of my blog goals when I started Megoracle to do a singing post, and I think I’ve been blogging for about a year. Let me check…yep, my first post was 15th of August last year, which makes TODAY Megoracle’s 1st birthday!! Oh so glad I checked. Right, no time like today for my first ever singing post. Hold on…
Rightio, I’ve done a hasty recording of Tim Buckley’s Song to the Siren – my very flawed version based on the one done by the Cocteau Twins. I would have planned and rehearsed more but I have to pick up the children and it’s not Megoracle’s birthday much longer, not that this is much of a birthday song, just the marking of a milestone – a goal post.
My web cam mic has given me an Ita lisp, plus I’ve only just started playing the guitar so don’t hold the lack of skills against me either, disclaimers over. Importantly it comes from my heart for all those drowned. PRESS HERE TO LISTEN.
Here are the lyrics given that the audio is so shite:
Long afloat on shipless oceans
I did all my best to smile
’til your singing eyes and fingers
Drew me loving to your isle
And you sang
Sail to me
Sail to me
Let me enfold you
Here I am
Here I am
Waiting to hold you
Did I dream you dreamed about me?
Were you hare when I was fox?
Now my foolish boat is leaning
Broken lovelorn on your rocks,
For you sing, ‘touch me not, touch me not, come back tomorrow:
O my heart, o my heart shies from the sorrow’
I am puzzled as the newborn
I am troubled at the tide:
Should I stand amid the breakers?
Should I lie with death my bride?
Hear me sing, ‘swim to me, swim to me, let me enfold you:
Here I am, here I am, waiting to hold you.