An inland Australian town and a submarine

Now there are two things that just don’t seem to have anything in common. Until you visit Holbrook approximately half way between Sydney and Melbourne on the Hume Highway. Here is a basic history, so you can see what they have in common…

The first people to live at Ten Mile Creek, which later became Holbrook was German shepherd name J. Pabst. He arrived in Australia in the mid-1820’s to work for the Australian Agricultural Company. In the late 1830s he moved to Ten Mile Creek with his wife and 2 daughters. He later ran a Grog shop known as the Woolpack Inn on the south bank of the Ten Mile Creek. This led to the settlement that grew up in the area being officially called Germanton in 1858.

During the opening days of the First World War anti-German feelings of the people of the town ran high and as a result there was a move to change the name of the town. In December 1914, Lieutenant Norman Holbrook of the Royal Navy (RN), guided a British ‘B’ class submarine HMS B 11 past a minefield in the Dardanelles to torpedo a Turkish battleship. News of the event and the bravery of Lieutenant Holbrook and his crew stired the hearts of loyal British subjects all around the world. The people of Germanton were also provided with a possible new town name. Germanton was officially gazetted as ‘Holbrook’ in 1915. Following the destruction of the Turkish ship Holbrook was awarded the Victoria Cross (V.C.) and the French Legion of Honour. The town of Holbrook has become Australia’s only town to be named after a VC winner.

In a park on the highway near the centre of town there is a park with a submarine as it’s main feature – the HMAS Otway. And nearby there is a submarine museum. Apparently Holbrook is not the only inland town to host submarines. In North Little Rock, Arkansas, there is an Inland Submarine Museum, and I also read about one in Pittsburgh, Ohio. But I suspect that Holbrook is on a very short list of towns worldwide where there are no navigable water ways and yet still hosts a submarine or a submarine museum.

I have had the opportunity to visit the museum and submarine display twice, once when my Dad was visiting some months ago (June 2012) and also today with Mum. The museum features a replica of the interior of part of a submarine, uniforms, history of submarines not only of Australia but of other countries as well, a holographic display about HMS B 11 which Norman Holbrook commanded in WW1, and a number of parts of submarines and memorabellia such as submarine pendants and plaques. Well worth a visit if you are travelling through the area. Here are a few photos of the muesum…

Torpedo tube

Replica submarine interior

Replica submarine interior

In front of the entrance to the museum is this rear pressure hull of a submarine. Apparently submariners refer to a region of a ducks anatomy when referring to this part of a sub.

So there it is – the connection between an inland Australian town and a submarine is a Royal Navy submariner called Norman Holbrook and his crew’s exploits in WW1.

The Rock, and a hard place

Whenever family visits us, it’s always a good ‘excuse’ to see some places we haven’t seen yet. A month or so ago, we travelled between our home and the town of Wagga Wagga, and we went through the township called The Rock. As Mum has been visiting, we decided to spend Sabbath out in the Aussie bush, or as we have heard it called ‘the church with the blue roof’.

So we packed a lunch and drove out to the The Rock, about 45 minutes from where live. The township called The Rock is a named that because of a big rock face and mountain that overlooks the town and the plains surrounding it. The rockface and mountain is now part of a nature reserve, and has a walking track up to the top of the the rock face.

Called ‘Kengal’ by the local Aboriginal tribes, such an imposing feature would probably have had spiritual significance as well as being an important landmark. It is believed that the area was an important site for initiation ceremonies where boys become men. Apparently this involved the removal of the boy’s front teeth. The name of a nearby creek, Yerong Creek, is believed to be derived from the Aboriginal word ‘yirran’ or ‘irang’ which means teeth. It seems that mountains and high places often have spiritual significance attached to them. For example, Noah’s ark rested in a mountain after the Deluge, Moses was given the 10 Commandments on a mountain, and Elijah challenged people to believe in the God is Israel by a miracle on a mountain.

After lunch, 3 of our group decided to go home and the other 3 (Mum, Jesse and I) went for a walk, our aim being to get to the top of the rockface. The rockface and mountain seems to be very similar to ones we have seen in another mountain range called the Grampians in western Victoria, and elsewhere in our travels around eastern Australia. I wonder about the conventional ‘wisdom’ that says that these things took millions of years to form. The jagged nature of these types of hills, the split and jagged rocks and stark contrast in elevation seems to suggestto me more violent cataclysmic relatively short events rather than long drawn out erosion-type events we are led to believe.

One feature that I found of interest in the Rock Nature Reserve was the lack of undergrowth. And it’s no wonder there isn;t much undergrowth as there seems to be very little soil for vegetation to grown in.

Typical ‘soil’ in the nature reserve. Which isn’t really soil at all, but comprises mostly of small rocks of various sizes.

It seems that the closer to the rockface and mountain one gets the more rocky the ‘soil’ becomes. As can be seen in the photo above, not much grows there except for some hardy and somewhat short gum trees and native pine trees, and some grasess. Right up near the base of the rockface itself is one possible exception to this. Along the base of the rockface, there is a fairly large and thriving colony of Woolly Ragwort. This plant can only be found at the base rock faces, and is apparently a threatened species. Unlike many other Australia species which tend to have small or hard leaves to save water, the Woolly Ragwort’s leaves are ‘woolly’ (hence their name) which is an insulating layer which helps to conserve water.

Woolly Ragwort flowers

Woolly Ragwort colony along the rock face. Further along the walk there were much larger groups, but this photo shows them along the bottom of the rock face

Part way along the walk, before we reached the base of the rock face, Mum and Jesse decide they couldn’t make it any further, so I continued by myself, hoping to reach the top. Not far from the top the landscape was getting a lot more rocky and jagged and I felt that as I was alone it would be wiser to turn back rather than risk an injury while up near the top by myself. But before I turned back I took a few photos of the view.

Along the walk between where Mum and Jesse waited patiently for me to return and where I decided to turn back there are some interesting rock formations…

After I got back to Mum and Jesse, we walked back along the track towards the car park and part way along we saw a goanna / monitor / lizard (I am not sure which it is).

This goanna / monitor / lizard would have been about 1 – 1.5 metres in length from head to tail, and was trying to blend in. He almost succeeded! There was also evidence of other wildlife. Dragon flies were in abundance, especially near the top of the rock face. The seemingly ever present butterflies could also be seen…

And there was plenty of interesting plant life, an example of which can be seen below.

So even though there was not much undergrowth to be seen along most of the walk, there was still an abundance of life – various birds, plants that cling to life in the most unlikely places, insects in abundance, trees that overcome the lack of soil. Somehow the lack of undergrowth seems to be a contradiction to the abundance of other sorts of life, and yet that contradiction is so common in the Aussie bush.