Yongala history must be kept alive
THE sea is my cloak, the waves my voice, mother nature my beauty, I am Yongala.
She was supposed to arrive this morning at 6am, 100 years ago, and yesterday we remembered her tragic story. It’s the tale of 122 travellers, simply coming home to this growing tropical city. A magnificent vessel, the Yongala, built by the hands of man, and taken by the breath of nature.
I guess after Cyclone Yasi, we can imagine the winds that tormented their last moments of living memory.
Her story is a passion of mine, but not only the loss of life, the loss of so many artefacts that will be gone forever, artefacts that would keep their memory alive, and the memory of the hardships of our early pioneers.
Once that mighty steamer crumbled beneath the waves, all that was within was gone, which left very little to tell the story to generations to come.
Yesterday a beautiful lamp was found on the sand after being blown out by the force of the waves during Yasi . . . how long will it last? I’m not mentioning pilfering; indeed the ocean will do more damage. But why not a final dive with the Queensland Maritime Museum through historic shipwrecks to recover our history so it can be scientifically preserved?
As I said in a lively discussion with the southern boffins, when was the last time you saw a steamer? And if you were so passionate about what’s left of the Pandora, and if you could have gone there 100 years ago, would you? Five days, all museum staff with perhaps paying guests, and take what can be removed out, before all that’s beautiful becomes rust that vanishes with the next tide.
It’s not as if everyone can see it, as even divers can’t go inside, and most important, why should it be just the domain of divers? I’ve dived it many times, and I would love my 84-yearold Mum to see what life was like aboard the legendary Yongala, not simply look at a few bottles and a porthole.
As I hosted the memorial yesterday, it was of comfort that metres away was the dedication to Doug Tarca who had salvage rights and wanted to save her for all to see. Nearby was the walkway where Mathew Rooney, who was lost on the Yongala, would pace, waiting for the big steamers and sailing ships to arrive.
And exactly where we sat, 100 years ago today, family and friends waited for her with hopes of a happy homecoming, a welcome that would never come . . . they waited for the steamship Yongala.
And I sorta wonder, will there be anyone on this day, on this very spot, to tell the story once more, in 100 years to come?