Photo Essays

HMAS Sydney II

Every country has heroes lost in wars. She immortalises their valour in songs, stories and memorials. This photo essay is of one such highly symbolic memorial to 645 men who sleep eternally on the floor of the Indian Ocean near Western Australia.

The HMAS Sydney II memorial is situated at Mount Scott, Geraldton, Western Australia. This path, guarded by two old bollards from the Port of Geraldton, which were used to tie up to by the Sydney, on her last visit to Geraldton in 1941 becomes a ceremonial entrance ramp to the dedicated area.

The Dome of Souls

It was directly inspired by a flock of sea gulls that swooped over the assembled crowd at the Dedication of the Memorial Site, 19th November 1998. The evening air was vibrating with the notes of the last post, over the Indian Ocean, on the West Coast of Australia where, some 57 years before, the ship had sunk without a trace.  The filigreed cupola of 645 stainless steel sea gulls, 9 meters in height and 12 meters in diameter is open weaved. The light distilled through it reflects the silver sea, creating a sense of disembodiment and peace. The birds also signify an emblematic link with the souls of the ship’s crew.

Its seven pillars embody the seven states and territories of Australia as also the seven seas. These pillars support the ‘crown of birds’, and traditionally, the bird itself on a pillar, is symbolic of the union of spirit and matter.

The Podium

The podium is made of cut stone from all the Seven States and Territories of Australia, symbolising the National composition of the crew of HMAS Sydney II. Its design is based on the Nautical Compass. An inscription is set into the Black Granite of the enclosing circle reads: “IN MEMORY OF THE MEN LOST ON HMAS SYDNEY II 19TH NOVEMBER 1941. LEST WE FORGET”

The Pool of Remembrance

The Pool of Remembrance  is a simple, recessed pool with its circular terracing metaphorically descending ‘down’ into the depths, suggestive of the watery grave where the ship now  rests,      2,500 meters deep, 120 nautical miles off Steep Point, Shire of Shark Bay, WA. The floor has a map, 5 meters across. It marks the location of HMAS Sydney II, embedded in coloured granite. A 2-meter high Stainless Steel gull is fixed on wingtip to the exact spot where the Sydney lies, with the co-ordinates radiating out from this, both on the exact bearing towards the wreck site. 26 14 45 S – 111 12 55 E. A circular waterfall pours out from under the bottom terrace dramatically reinforcing the concept of ‘going down into the depths’ and provides the final element — water. Inspired by the shadow pattern of the gulls under the Dome of Souls, the lowest terrace circling the Pool is formed in polished black granite, into which are engraved images of 644 Silver Gull shadows, enclosing the pool and the ship. The 645th Sea Gull stands alone on the co-ordinates of the Wreck site in the centre of the Pool

The Waiting Woman

Symbolic of all women who anxiously await the return of their men from war, this one now watches over the men eternally lost at sea. But now it seems that her sense of loss & waiting has been mitigated by the discovery of the ship where her men now lie. By enclosing the Pool of Remembrance, with all its own particular symbolism, the Lost Loved Ones are held in a final embrace of comfort and love of their families and friends in an ultimate gesture of peace.  Symbolically, with the Pool being in the vicinity of the Waiting Woman, the circle of life and death is closed.

The Stele

It is based on the concept of ancient Standing Stones, which were used globally as grave markers or commemorative sites, since time immemorial. Water depth markers based upon the actual Sydney markers are set onto the prow element.

The Dome, Pool of Remembrance and the Stele, with the Waiting Woman in the backdrop

The Wall of Remembrance

A semi-circular wall in West Australian Black Granite, embedded with flecks of natural gold, encompasses the Southwest sides of the Memorial. The interior panels of the walls commemorate the 645 men who lost their lives with their names, rank and home base imprinted on them.

“THE REST IS SILENCE”, is engraved into the stone on the final panel at the end of the Wall.

The HMAS Sydney II and her crew

Panel with the history of the ship


More by :  Shernaz Wadia

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