Monday, March 14, 2011

Interesting, easy day.

Today was going to be the tunnel tour of Fort Scratchley then off to Norah Head lighthouse.
We arrived at Fort Scratchley just after 1015, in time for the tour at 1030.
The 4 star hotel, although, relaxing, was defiantly due for a review. It was old and tired, and no longer 4 star. The breakfast was basic, even with my restrictions. At least the staff were friendly. Could not fault the staff.

Soon To Be Museum Of Fort Scratchley

The Tunnel tour started and we had a trainee tour guide a lovely young girl, Courtney. A small family joined us as well so our party of 7 set off underground

Carl Christie Guide At Fort Scratchley

All went well for the first two rooms. Which were the first two Gun emplacements.
Tunnels Of Fort Scratchley

Disappearing Gun Fort Scratchley

Just as we were watching a short film about the disappearing guns, poor Courtney collapsed. David and the guy in the family, caught her and we sat her on David's camera bag. David held her up whilst we sent Carl to get help with us promising to stay put.
Water arrived and she was helped out of the tunnels. Poor kid she was so very pale and clammy and if she had eaten this morning she would have brought up her breakfast.

(We checked n her later and she had been fed some food and pumped full of water and colour was in her cheeks and she was bright and bubbly again. PLEASE Gen Y Girls eat breakfast if you eat nothing else esp if you work in a walking job)

Carl returned to us but the child in the family had seen Courtney collapse and panicked himself. And so Mum took him out. Dad returned to us and we continued downwards.

To the Casements where Carl showed us some great guns. A 9inch that has not been fired since 2002 (when Dedication of Fort Scratchley to the serving and ex service men and women of Australia by the The Prime Minister, The Honourable John Howard, MP.) and a 6inch that was recovered and under repair. Maybe. The pieces that were recovered from the 6inch are in a display cabinet awaiting someone to remanufacture some replacements.

6inch Gun Fort Scratchley

The number one casement was enclosed fully and turned into a magazine room and so shows all the features of a magazine room, the special flooring, the special uniforms with no buttons, the enclosed lamp behind glass etc. The cases found in the room not are plastic and don't relate to the fort but they add atmosphere.

Magazine room

6inch gun Fort Scratchley

Reproduction of the original lighting in Fort Scratchley

From there we returned the way we came and headed to the left of the fork, downwards to the Magazine level. The museum is licensed to store up to 50kg of powder for special events and if they do have a stock, this is where it is stored. (Hence the guided paid tour only of the tunnels)

Tunnels Fort Scratchley

Carl stopped here behind the main magazine store to tell the story of the guns used against an enemy in WW2. They were bracketing (like in Battleship) and before the third volley could hit its target the sub vanished. Wisely thinking the next shot will be on target. The logs for the sub show that the second volley got the observer in the tower wet with the splash of the shells.
POQ was a good decision. The sub in question did not survive the war but alas Newcastle cannot take the honours.

Carl Christie explains the shooting at a Japanese sub

Tunnels Fort Scratchley

Our guide, Carl, was passionate about his tour. He explained later that he had worked at Fort Scratchley and was actually in command at one time before it closed in 1974. THAT Explained his excellent knowledge and passion. He was thinking of giving it all away in a year or two to travel, but a man like this wont be gone for long. He said he was 74 and ready to hand it all in, but you stay somewhere like this in a volunteer role because you love it. He will be back int he saddle after his tour of Europe I am sure. I was genuinely interested in his history as David was in his fort and so as we surfaced back into the bright light (IT BURNS!!!) He invited us to see the museum which was not open to the public yet. He was showing us the work the society is doing to preserve the local history of this place. I wish Sydney forts had people like this. So many similarities. OF course the fort at Bare island was designed by the same architect as here. (As were many many other places)
Eagerly we accepted his invitation, gathered up the revived Courtney and we set off across the quadrangle to see the works in progress. Very exciting. :-) As we walked, Carl explained that in 2008 the Fort was handed to the City Council and the people of Newcastle from the Federal government which was interesting and the tunnels were re-opened then after being closed for restoration in 2004.
Two rooms are finished, the other rooms only just started.

Rooms In The Process Of Being Renovated

Soon To Be Renovated Museum Rooms

After locking up again, we moved to the Western Barbette. Carl was happy to take us up the Battery Observation post. Another area closed to the public, it afford the best views of the ships entering Newcastle Harbour. IN WW2 this was the command centre for controlling the guns and it used to house a Depression Range finder but it was not there when we entered. As Carl was posted here, he told us of his duties durin his shifts and how many men worked here, what they did and it was MUCH more interesting than reading a board in a preserved room. You can tell this room was not for the public, it was not pretty. LOL

Carl In the Battery Observation Post

Carl In the Battery Observation Post

View from the Battery Observation Post

Climbing down from the Observation post, we headed up to the 6inch guns on display. These guns fire on special occasions. ANZAC Day being the next one. Carl turned the closest gun to the trajectory that the gun was aimed when it shot at the Japanese Sub all those years ago. He pointed out where the sub was between the rocks and Nobbys head. If I had had the money I certainly would have purchased the book so I could relate the stories far more accurately than I remember from Carl, but it is not to be. If you go then BUY THE BOOK. It is $15 and an excellent reference. (Buy me one too??) We all turned to watch the flag change from the left of the flag pole to the right as the wind changed from a light breeze to a southerly Gale. The poor volunteer got all wrapped in the flag as the wind whipped it nearly out of his hands. Hats were being lost and glasses knocked askew, but he got it it up there where it flew proudly in the wind.

The Southerly Gale sprang up

Our next stop was the Barracks. Here Carl told us about the 25 men that lived here for 2 weeks at a time and how he was frustrated at the "historical experts" That told him the barracks were plain walls and the sills were unpainted. "They weren't like that at all" He tells us. And Also points out places where the lack of paint has allowed the sand stone to "revert to its natural state, Sand" as David put it. You can see here a man who lived here, commanded here and being told by the "experts' how it was to be here. I would want to choke them myself.

Fire Place In The Barracks

Walkway Between NCO Quarters & Canteen

Here, at the Barracks, Carl left us, he had other people to talk to and we had turned a 60-90 minute tour to over 3 hours. 3 fascinating hours. I would love to sit with Carl again with a coffee and have him tell me stories of the people who worked there, the guns and one day see a firing. Alas it is difficult to get to a firing and the ultimate would be a casement firing. To get a photo of that 9inch gun going off would be fabulous.

Listen to our elders people. For one day they will be gone and all we will have are posts against a wall with photographs and old cloth.

David and I had lunch at the cafe down the driveway, mostly so I can take the prescription drugs. A rather empty place but the food was awesome. I found I can eat Lasagna as it is minced already and the rest of it is soft. Yes mum, I ate all my salad.. except a few leaves..

Lunch At The Cafe Near Fort Scratchley

Coffee & drug chaser

We realised the time (after 1300) and we had to high tail it to Picton. We had the TV repair man dropping off the repaired TV, as he had stored it for 2 weeks or so. It wasn't missed. Damn! SO the Lighthouse of the day was cancelled. A trip for another weekend.

Driving through Newcastle was horribly stressful and the F3 was as scary as ever. Pennant Hills RD where Bob Potts Died in the early 1996(?) has not improved and it was very stressful for poor David who had to negotiate the insane people. Is it so hard to stay in a lane? Really??

We got to the M7 Toll archway from the M2 and like magic, all the cars vanished. Hmm so the M2's problems are caused by the Hills people. Ater you survive that you are plain sailing.Even the M5 is easier than driving the M2. (With its backwards bus lanes in the centre of the road etc)

Home to the snakes, quietly digesting the rabbits and quails. Ahhh a happy home. :-) Around 5 minutes after opening the door to the house, the TV guy pulled up. YAY A free Tv repair (Warranty) new panel and new circuit board so essentially a new TV. Shame I don't watch it.. Maybe I will go play LBP 1 or 2 as D has to get up at 0115hrs, he has gone to bed.

A busy day and I managed to not rip any stitches and keep up my meds. Doing well. I nee dto keep the next few days quiet to recover. I do need to go back to work ASAP I sorta miss the routine... BUT I do have thousand of photos to work on......

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