Pasha Bulker beached in NewcastleAngela | June 26th, 2007 | 9:50 pm
Waves crash against the Pasha Bulker
We spent the day Saturday with Manuel going for a drive up to Newcastle. It was a sunny day, which is a rare thing these days. Our mission – apart from just getting out of the city for a while and seeing something different for a change – was to check out the big ship that was wedged onto the seashore in a recent storm two weeks ago.
Angela and Manuel and a boat
The Pasha Bulker came unmoored in the high winds and got blown onto a sandbar at the beach, dangerously close to rocks. They evacuated the crew, but the boat is still sitting there, with a full tank of 700 tons of fuel. They haven’t been able to move it, as they are afraid of the ship breaking up. The outer shell of the hull is already damaged. They are waiting for a spring tide at the end of the month, when high tide will be at its highest, and then they’ll try to re-float it.
View of the Pasha Bulker from the beach
Nobby’s Beach is at the end of a peninsula formed where the Hunter River dumps out into the sea. The ship is sitting just 30 meters from shore. The ship is 225 meters long, and not quite as large as some of the other tankers coming in and out of port. Nonetheless, it is very impressive, as close as it is to the beach. The waves crashing up against it are quite spectacular.
The crowds gather to see the ship wreck
After ooh-ing and aahh-ing over the dramatic scene, we beat a retreat through the crowds to find a late lunch. Many, many other people had the same idea we did, and the seashore was thronging with people coming to gawk at the beached whale of a ship.
One thing we noticed as we drove into Newcastle is that it appears to be rather economically depressed. Drab, grungy shopfronts, with more vacancies than not, many boarded up altogether. Given the number of people pouring into the town, there was surprisingly little open for business at our end of the beach. We took a walk around to find a cafe or restaurant for lunch and finally chose the first place that looked like it had toilets. We sat down and waited ages for our burgers and schnitzels. And it was hardly worth the wait. The food was awful.
Tyrrell House shows some of the quaint architecture of old Newcastle
Driving back through town, we got a more scenic view on the eastern side, where the real estate was a little more upscale and many new developments were going up. It seems that Newcastle is Australia’s version of Pittsburgh. It started out life as a prison settlement where convicts were sent to work in the coal mines. It got its name after the famous English coal town. After the coal mines moved further inland starting in the 1920’s, steel became the major industry and the largest employer in the region. The BHP steelworks closed in 1999, which explains the boarded-up quality of the city center. Just like the closing of US Steel in Pittsburgh in the 1980’s, a whole city found itself suddenly out of work after spending a lifetime in the mills. And like Pittsburgh, the city seems to bet trying to reinvent itself.