Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Arthur Phillip Memorial at Camp Cove

Let me step back to January 1788 and the safe arrival of the First Fleet. Having realised that Botany Bay was unsuitable as a place of settlement, Arthur Phillip decided to explore the coastline to the northwards. He and his small party rowed around South Head on 21 January 1788, and discovered the finest harbour in the world. A small monument at Camp Cove, just inside the entrance to the harbour, was unveiled on 23 January 1927 to commemorate this event. A Mr and Mrs A. G. Foster provided the tablet, laid by the Royal Australian Historical Society.
Arthur Phillip Tablet at Camp Cove, © Louise Wilson, Jan 2012
While in Sydney during the holiday season I paid a long-overdue visit to this historic site. I grew up in Sydney, yet I never knew that it existed. It was a perfect summer's day and the beach scene was colorful with local residents and tourists. Sunbathing was the focus of the beach-goers, who'd somehow managed to negotiate the narrow network of local roads beyond The Gap at Watsons Bay and find parking. No-one was interested enough in the small obelisk to stop and explore its meaning. It was a typical case of familiarity breeding contempt. Passers-by were more curious that I would be taking photos of the scene.
Arthur Phillip Memorial at Camp Cove,  © Louise Wilson, Jan 2012
As I was about to leave, two women arrived with their cameras and repeated my actions - walking around the site, taking shots from different angles, peering closely at the small plaque. Like me, they had to get out their glasses to read the faint words. Heartened, I spoke to them and discovered they had come from Brisbane especially to visit all the sites in Sydney relevant to the First Fleet. They were not part of any tour group, just private citizens. They agreed with me - why don't we take more pride in, and make more of, our unique convict settlement history as a focus of tourism?

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