Swimming in Sydney during COVID Lockdowns Part 4: Birchgrove

Beautiful Birchgrove

Yes, although it seemed insane at first, when the 5km radius restriction was imposed in mid-August 2021 our best option for a swim proved to be Birchgrove, between the Balmain Sailing Club and Dawn Fraser Baths. The stories about the presence of bull sharks in the harbour had us hunting down research about them online and it seems as though they don’t really enjoy cold water, so with water temperature around 14 degrees Celsius at one stage and rarely getting to 17 C, we felt relatively safe.

We swam on the inside of this marina
Our regular course during the 5km radius phase of Sydney’s 2021 COVID lockdown

It seems to be about 400m from the Sailing Club to Dawn Fraser Baths and we were happy to stay there. The regular distance allowed us to structure the sessions like our pool sets and everyone seemed content with that too. The water temperature proved shocking at first, but you do get used to it and once again, most of us had wetsuits. There was no cafe nearby, but lockdown rules prevented us congregating at cafes, so there was no point in having one anyway.

A long exposure shot of the course because I like doing long exposures. This was six seconds at f/8 on a tripod with a ND filter.
And another long exposure. This was 20 seconds at f/14, with the tripod and ND filter.

We usually swam three to four 800m loops, including some medleys, drills, build-ups, drafting practice in pairs (or threes), distance-per-stroke and some changing pace work.

One of our swimmer’s partner (Helen) loves to bake and she brought us BAKED GOODSTM on a couple of occasions, including the best frosted cinnamon scrolls I’ve ever had.

Apart from some razor sharp oyster shells on ladders and pylons the only hazard we encountered were jelly fish that seemed to stay about an arms length under the water. On a couple of days they were all over our course, but they proved pretty harmless. One swimmer did see a big scary stinger, but I didn’t. Maybe I am blessed with an ability to not notice things?

I missed the last two weeks of swimming due to my wetsuit being sent to Caringbah for repair. I could have driven or even walked down to Caringbah pick it up several days ago, but I wasn’t allowed to and it still has not arrived in the post.

By the last week of September we were led to believe that outdoor pools would reopen on the 27th, so hopefully this will be the last time I need to post about swimming during lockdowns. I live alone and my relations are all outside both my 5km and 10km radius during lockdown, so this was basically the only way I could regularly catch up with friends. Swimming is very important to me in a way that is hard to express, but I don’t much like swimming alone, so I am really grateful to a range of people who kept me company over these lockdown periods: Howard, Henry, Rob, Anita, Justine, Kirk, Axel, Carl, Paul Simon and Richard (hope I’ve not forgotten anyone else who swam with us at any of our locations).

Swimming in Sydney during COVID Lockdowns Part 3b: Clovelly & beyond

Looking South from Clovelly. Sydney has such a beautiful coastline.

We swam at Clovelly for a month from mid-July to mid-August and in the last couple of weeks when conditions and time permitted we ventured out of Clovelly, at first into Gordons Bay and finally to Coogee and back.

Clovelly to Gordons Bay & return map
Clovelly to Gordons Bay variation
Swimming at Gordons Bay when Clovelly was too rough

Once we were comfortable swimming to and within Gordons Bay we did it whenever sea conditions getting out of Clovelly and around the headland were favourable and once when swimming within Clovelly was just about impossible (and dangerous). I was shredded on the rocks when getting out at Gordons, but the swim itself was fantastic.

You can get a bit of a swell within the bay at Clovelly

At Clovelly we really noticed a fair bit of sea life in the clear waters. There are a few different types of fish in Clovelly itself, including quite a few Blue Gropers and in Gordons Bay we saw a few generally harmless Port Jackson Sharks and probably a couple of small Grey Nurse Sharks too. They did not seem that interested in us. Nevertheless, I usually wore a Sharkbanz anklet.

The view from the Clovelly car park looking North. We’d swim out wide to avoid being washed into these rocks.
I can make it look a bit calmer with some slow shutter work on the camera.
At Clovelly, there is always something to see!
There’s always a chance of a freak wave.

It is pretty open going around the headland and heading south towards Gordons Bay, so there was some risk involved. I think the cold waters probably kept one of our big fears away (the nastier Noahs).

Gordons Bay
Looking across Coogee Bay to South Coogee and on the left you can see Wedding Cake Island and Mahon Point above it.

As COVID cases started to rise we started to wonder whether a tighter restriction would be imposed thus limiting our access to Clovelly and other open water swimming areas. So in our fourth week we began squeezing in more swims and we wondered whether we should push a swim to Coogee Beach and back. On what was to be our final Sunday swim at Clovelly conditions looked great and so off we went. It was truly memorable and really enjoyable.

Looking across Gordons Bay towards Coogee Bay (long exposure)
Coogee
Our route to Coogee and return. Not bad open water navigation!

Sadly, this did prove to be our final Clovelly swim and the last swim of the 10km from home period. On the way to Coogee we encountered a couple of surfers and also a couple of other swimmers doing a similar route. As we approached Coogee Beach we almost ran into a small group coming out. We all stopped and as I had a light blue swim cap on I asked them for their identity documents in my best authoritarian voice. They said they were only swimming in pairs, so I said I would let them off this one time and we swam away laughing our heads off.

Next up: where to swim after the 5km from home restrictions kicked in. Any guesses?

Swimming in Sydney during COVID Lockdowns Part 3a: Clovelly 2021

Ah, Clovelly, gorgeous, no?

In mid-July 2021, after the horro of the freezing waters at Murray Rose Pool, we moved our swimming to Clovelly. I had been hesitant to go there as I thought it would be too crowded. Usually, however, it was only croded early morning and around lunchtime. Most people seemed to just come down for a quick dip then warmed up on the concrete and left.

Sometimes it was rough

Conditions varied but we usually completed 50-60 minutes with most of us wearing wetsuits. When we started the water temperature was usually 17-18 degrees Celsius, but it was very cold in the shallows

More slow shutter work at Clovelly
Across the bay

Initially we stayed within the confines of the long bay at Clovelly, doing what was basically a triangular circuit of the swimmable area a number of times (see map below). I had been describing Malabar as “Big Clovelly” because they’re pretty similar in form. They’re both ideal locations for swim training and there’s the added benefit of varying conditions. We all found it very enjoyable.

Map of a typical swim within Clovelly
Swimmers came and went

After a while we started to notice a few swimmers coming into the bay from Tom Caddy Point which is to the far right of the image above. They looked to have swum around the car park on the headland, from Gordons Bay or perhaps even from Coogee to the south. Then we saw some people swimming around in front of the car park so that seeded the thought for us …

Looking across the bay from Tom Caddy Point to Shark Point

On some days it looked a bit rough to get out beyond the rock wall at Clovelly so we stayed put for a few more days. We did, however, eventually venture out towards Gordons Bay one day when conditions looked ideal.

Another show shutter image, but ideal conditions to venture out of the bay

To find out what happened when we did venture out, you’ll have to wait until my next post.

Swimming in Sydney during COVID Lockdowns Part 3: Redleaf Pool 2021

When the 10 km radius limit was imposed we could no longer travel down to Malabar as it was beyond our travel limit. Ugh. This new phase of our COVID lockdown had started badly. Redleaf or more correctly Murray Rose Pool is a harbourside pool run by Woollahra Municipal Council on Seven Shillings Beach. It looked ideal for us with change rooms, showers and a decent cafe for a post-swim coffee.

I was unable to find parking anywhere nearby, so I was not going to make our agreed start time. I did find parking eventually, somewhere in South Melbourne from memory, and then began the long trek with my wetsuit and towel to the pool. I may as well have left the car at home and walked from there. In the end I was only a few hours late, but I still raced to get into my wetsuit and then ran down to the beach to feel the water temperature and join my freezing comrades.

Map of my one crazy swim at Murray Rose Pool in Winter 2021

It seems to be a little-known fact, but the waters in Murray Rose Pool are piped in directly from the Antarctic. This pool is the coldest pool on our planet. Upon entering the water my brain was immediately frozen and I had no idea what I was doing for the next 45 minutes. My Garmin watch told me the water temperature was 15-16 degrees Celsius, but that is rubbish. It was nowhere near that warm.

Unfortunately there are no photos of this swimming location as my fingers were too frozen to be trusted near a camera or even my phone. It took me approximately three weeks to warm up and feel somewhat human again. My brain may never recover. Needles to say, we did not return.

Swimming in Sydney during COVID Lockdowns Part 2: Malabar 2021

Back to Malabar in June 2021

We were plunged into another COVID lockdown in June 2021, so we returned to Malabar and started getting used to colder water once again. It was a bit shocking at first because our regular outdoor pool is pretty well-heated. Weather conditions in June and July were not always great so a couple of swims were cancelled or postponed.

Typical map of our swims

Once again, most of us swam in wetsuits and the shallow waters of the bay had not warmed up at all. According to my Garmin watch the water temperature varied between 18 and 19 degrees Celsius, but it stabilised around 18C as we moved into July. Little did we know at the time, but we would soon be looking back on this as “positively balmy”.

Sometimes there was a bit of a wave
Malabar ocean pool

Once again we would structure our swims so they resembled the variety of our regular pool sessions. This meant including some medleys, drills, build-ups, pyramids, distance-per-stroke work and some change-pace work. Because we were not confined by 50m laps, it was usually based around stroke counts, during our laps between the ocean pool and the northern boat ramp.

In 2021, however, we could only swim at Malabar in June and early July because once the 10 km radius restriction was introduced, most of us could no longer make it to Malabar from our homes.

Malabar from the northern boat ramp
From up near Boora Pt: here you can see our entire swim course

Now we had to farewell Malabar and find somewhere else to swim …

Swimming in Sydney during COVID Lockdowns Part 1: Malabar 2020

Early morning swimmers, Long Bay 2020

When the COVID lockdown closed swimming pools in Sydney in 2020, we moved our regular swimming down to Malabar (or Long Bay). We’d drive down and most of us swam in wetsuits four to five times per week for about an hour. Most of our small group were working from home so we were flexible with the time of day that we swam, but it was usually mornings and not much later than lunchtime.

Typical map of our swims, from a sports watch

We’d usually leave from the beach area, swim out to around the first boat ramp and make sure that nobody had frozen to death, then swim on to the ocean pool on the south side of the bay. We always found the shallows at Malabar freezing, but the deeper water from about the boat ramp onwards and near the ocean pool was always much more welcoming.

As you can see we’d then do a series of crossings between the ocean pool and the northern boat ramp, with the sessions structured similarly to what we used to do in our pool sessions.

View from the beach at Malabar looking out to sea
The southern boat ramp at Malabar

With the boat ramps used by people who are fishing there was a little concern, at least initially about certain other things in the water that also eat fish, but I don’t think we ever saw an “Noahs” there. Some days the water was pretty clear and we’d see some fish and the local stingrays. It was a real pleasure down there once we got used to it.

Malabar Ocean Pool

We saw quite a few groups swimming down there in 2020 and the bay is also used occasionally by surfers, stand-up paddlers and ski paddlers. Everyone seemed to get along pretty well and nobody was just hanging around as there were barriers, warning signs and regular patrols by Council officers.

It certainly kept us going when we could no longer use suburban swimming pools during the lockdown. I think it also made us appreciate how lucky we are to have access to safe open ocean areas for swimming like this in Sydney. It is a beautiful and sometimes spectacular area of Sydney’s vast coastline that I’d not really explored much before despite belonging to Maroubra SLSC, just around the headland to the north.

Thanks Malabar, 2020

Remembrance Day 2020: Tattersall’s Club, Sydney

By observing one minute’s silence on 11 November 2020, we pay tribute to the men and women who have served and are still serving in our defence forces and remember those who have died or suffered in conflicts, wars and peacekeeping operations.

A number of Tattersall’s members and members of their families have served with distinction, some paying the ultimate sacrifice, particularly in the First and Second World Wars. I cannot mention all of them here, but it is worthwhile highlighting the service of some of them.

Several members served in both wars. Lieutenant Colonel Blair Anderson Wark VC DSO MID is perhaps the most famous. Blair won a VC for bravery in operations against the Hindenburg Line at Bellicourt in 1918. He re-enlisted in the militia during the Second World War, but died suddenly on a training exercise whilst commanding the 1st Battalion at Puckapanyal in 1941.

Another well known member who served in both wars was Bob Concannon. A peak at his service record puts protests against COVID restrictions into perspective. He served with the 7th Light Horse Regiment,1915-1919 including service on Gallipoli and at Romani. In 1941 Bob re-enlisted to serve as a Captain with HQ 8 Division in Malaya.  He was captured by the Japanese and then interned as a POW in Thailand from 1941-1945. Two other members, George Kiernan and Ward Booth were interned with Bob.

The family of member John O’Riordan also saw remarkable service over both wars. John’s brother Captain (Dr) Sydney O’Riordan MC served with the Australian Army Medical Corps in both wars, winning his MC for his gallantry and devotion to duty whilst dealing with casualties in an aid post in France in 1918. He served again from 1941-1942, but died in 1944. Another brother, Flying Officer Clifford O’Riordan, was an air gunner with the famous 460 Squadron, RAAF. He was killed in a flying battle over Germany in 1943. One of John’s sons, Sgt John O’Riordan served with the 1st Papuan Infantry Battalion and he too was killed in action in New Guinea in 1943. Another son, James O’Riordan, survived the war, having served with both the Australian Army and the RAAF between 1942-1945.

Perhaps the most tragic family is that of member Henry Stevenson and his three sons: Frank, Joseph and Charles. Flight Sergeant Frank Stevenson served as a pilot with 450 Squadron, RAAF and was killed in a flying battle over Italy in 1944. Joseph the oldest son, was also a Flight Sergeant, serving as an air gunner with 24 Squadron, RAAF. He was killed in a flying battle over the Timor Sea in 1945. Henry’s middle son Charles served as a Gunner with the 2/5th Australian Field Regiment, RAA. His date of death is recorded as November 1947 in DVA’s Nominal Roll for the Second World War, but we could not determine a cause of death.

You can share who you are remembering on social media using the hashtag #WeRememberThem

Tattersall’s Club, Sydney: Olympians

As I’ve mentioned before I’ve been digitising the magazines and newsletters of Tattersall’s Club, Sydney where I’ve been a member for several years now. The collection that I have access to goes back only to 1929 (when the magazines started) and is not 100% completed or comprehensive, but I’m pretty close to finishing.

Tattersall’s is a sports club and beside the swimming pool in the club’s Athletic Department there is an honour board that recognises members who have represented Australia in the Olympic sports of swimming, diving and water polo. Unfortunately there are quite a lot of names missing and currently, Olympic representatives from other sports are not recognised elsewhere in the club. I have been proposing the addition of the missing names to that honour board and some form of central recognition for all Tattersall’s Olympians.

My research to date is represented in the attached image where I have listed 24 names, when they represented and what medals they won. I think I’m pretty close to correct, but I’d love further information if anyone has any. The source for the information in the table below is https://www.olympics.com.auList of Tattersall's Olympians

The Cost of War: Three Sons

After writing my last post about the Remarkable O’Riordans I came across another tragic story of loss during the Second World War.  I saw the photo below in the Tattersall’s Club Magazine of August 1945.Stevensons

The three sons of Tattersall’s Club member Mr Henry Stevenson are noted: Frank, Joseph and Charles. I had to find out what happened to the three brothers.

421094 Flight Sgt. Frank Stevenson was born on 11 January 1923. He had been a labourer and storeman before the war and was married to Hildrey. Frank enlisted in December 1941 and served as a pilot with No. 450 Squadron, RAAF. He was killed in a flying battle over Italy on 29 May 1944. He is commemorated at Minturno War Cemetery, Lazio, Italy and his name is recorded on panel 105 of the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. Frank’s name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory on 31 May 2020 at 7:21pm and on 17 August 2020 at 7:49pm.

425068 Flight Sgt. Joseph Arthur William Stevenson was born on 26 July 1914. He had been a timber cutter and diesel engineer and was married to Valmai. Valmai and Joseph had two sons. Joseph enlisted in December 1941 and, as a noted marksman, served as an air gunner with No. 24 Squadron, RAAF. He was killed in a flying battle over the Timor Sea on 23 January 1945. He is commemorated at the Northern Territory Memorial, Adelaide River, NT and his name is recorded on panel 102 of the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. Joseph’s name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory on 15 May 2020 at 6:50pm and on 4 August 2020 at 9:41pm.

NX38002 Gunner Charles Walter Stevenson was born on 16 May 1919, enlisted in July 1941 and served until November 1945. He was serving with 2/5 Australian Field Regiment, RAA on discharge. His date of death is recorded as 8 November 1947 in the DVA Nominal Roll for World War Two. I was not able to determine the cause of his death.

“not unremembered by those who know and admire them”

The Remarkable O’Riordans

For a couple of months now I’ve been digitising the magazines of Tattersall’s Club, Sydney (I’m a member). They let me take the scanner and a lot of magazines home during the Covid19 lockdown.

Recently, I’ve been working my way through the Second World War issues and on Friday 24 April 2020 I came across the February 1944 magazine that had a short article about the remarkable O’Riordan family from Sydney, two of whom were Tattersall’s Club members. I dug these details of their service mostly out of various online databases and archives from the Australian War Memorial.

Four members of the O’Riordan family served in both the First and Second World Wars. All are related to Tattersall’s Club member John O’Riordan :

John’s brother Dr Sydney Michael O’Riordan, MC served as a Captain and then Major with the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC) in the First World War. He was awarded his MC in 1918 for:

conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During then later stages of an advance, when the infantry were under heavy fire, he established his aid post in an advanced position, and dealt very rapidly with the casualties. His initiative and coolness under heavy fire were an inspiration to all who came in contact with him.

He was serving as a Captain attached to the 13th Infantry Battalion in France. He again served as a Major with the AAMC in the Second World War between July 1941 and February 1942, attached to the 3rd Infantry Battalion. He died at Redfern in 1944.

Another brother of John, 403397 Flying Offr. Clifford Timothy O’Riordan was an Air Gunner with No 460 Squadron*, RAAF was killed in a flying battle over Germany on 30 July 1943. He is commemorated in the Becklingen War Cemetery, Luneburg, Germany and his name can be found on panel 108 of the Roll of Honour at the Australia War Memorial (AWM), Canberra. His name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory on 12 May 2020 at 2:41am and on 3 August 2020 at 2:55am. He was a Tattersall’s Club member and had been admitted to the NSW Bar before enlisting in 1941. His own war diaries are held by the AWM and they’ve now been digitised. You can read a description of those diaries and also view or download them via this link: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C89812

One of John’s sons, NX113095 Sgt. John Michael O’Riordan served with the 1st Papuan Infantry Battalion, Australian Army. He was killed in action in New Guinea on 25 November 1943. John’s name is located on panel 76 of the Roll of Honour at the AWM. His name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory on 2 June 2020 at 12:42am and on 2 August 2020 at 2:34am.

Another son was NX87133 Gunner James Clifford O’Riordan who served in the Army from February 1942 until December 1943, after which he transferred to the RAAF where he served as a 443862 Flight Sgt J.C. O’Riordan until October 1945.

I reckon that is very sad but also truly remarkable for the one family.

* Some hours after initially posting this I realised that 460 Squadron, RAAF was familiar to me. It was first formed as a heavy bomber unit in 1941 and is commemorated at the Australian War Memorial by the famous Avro Lancaster bomber “G for George”. 460 Squadron flew as part of RAF Bomber Command and was a multi-national unit with most of its personnel being Australian. It flew the most sorties of any Australian bomber squadron in the RAF bombing campaign against Germany and Italy, but lost 188 aircraft and suffered 1,018 combat deaths, 588 of whom were Australian. RAF Bomber Command represented only two percent of total Australian enlistments during the Second World War, but accounted for 4,136 fatalities (3,486 killed in action and 650 in training accidents of approximately 10,000 RAAF personnel who served with Bomber Command). RAF Bomber Command sustained Australia’s highest casualty rates in the Second World War.