Yon­gala his­tory must be kept alive

Townsville Bulletin - - Inside Today - Steve Price steve. price@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

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?

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