Discussion / corrections / contributions:  Contact John at john.mail@ozemail.com.au

CONTINUED AT:  http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/5737284/narrabeen-lagoon-cont.htm



( The sand barrier/beach, and lagoon/lake, etc.)

A dynamic area - Tracing its changes over time, and





With sea level rise, Narrabeen embayment has become a barred lagoon.   A marine sand delta is seen at its mouth, extending a little inwards from the bridge over the entrance.  A caravan park is northwest of the bridge.   In heavy storms, waves have reached as far in as there, and the beach is prone to erosion.  Modern opinion is that subdivision and housing was allowed too close to the beach.  Storms caused considerable damage in the 1920s, 1940s, 1960s and 1970s.   Some houses were lost to the sea, other properties significantly damaged.   Council's existing policy is to open the Lagoon entrance at a defined trigger water level (currently 1.3m AHD).   Obviously with expected sealevel rise that figure will need to be adjusted.  Council was enquired to (early 2013) if there was any evidence yet at Narrabeen that sealevel is rising - as yet no response.  The two Councils around the lagoon are understood to be considering information on historical and projected future sea level rise that is widely accepted by scientific opinion, yet nothing on that was available either.  The matter of climate change is much debated but according to some sea level have been rising since the early 1880s (some think due to industrialisation and greenhouse effect) - has there been any evidence of that at Narrabeen?


Lookng over the western end of Narrabeen Lagoon, showing the deltas/spits of the three creeks entering there.

SC = South Creek; MC = Middle Creek; DC = Deep Creek.


Narrabeen Lagoon catchment.  The Narrabeen Lagoon catchment encompasses an area of approximately 55 km2. The Lagoon's water area is 2.2 km2.   The catchment includes a number of major subcatchments including Nareen Creek, Mullet Creek, Narrabeen Creek (incorporating Fern Creek), Deep Creek, Middle Creek (incorporating Snake Creek, Oxford Creek and TreFoil Creek) and South Creek (incorporating Wheeler Creek).   See map below for Narrabeen (and Fern) Creeks.   Some past maps have been confusing because at times people have called both Deep Creek and Middle Creek "Narrabeen Creek".


Narrabeen Lagoon catchment topogrpahy coloured in - note the colour change at + 5m  AHD.  Note the big areas, especially Warriewood where drilling might be expected to intersect some Pleistocene remnants.   There is some (limited) understanding from drilling, as discussed herein.   Until recently the Warriewood area had a lot of open space, sometimes swampy (sand from the lagoon may have been taken there at various times for filling?) but recently it began undergoing rapid residential development under the "Warriewood Valley Urban Land Release" scheme.


About the writer


I am a student of the past (geology, Ph.D. Sydney University) and of sociology with special reference to policy (Master of Policy Studies, University of New South Wales).    I have a blog "Some Interesting Sites" ( http://someinterestingsites.wordpress.com ) and over the years have written about hundreds of places.


Some say the past can be a guide to the future. 


How can knowledge of the past help us re the future?     In "Toward an integrated history to guide the future" (Ecology and Society 16[4]: 2) the paper's authors believe:.


"Many contemporary societal challenges manifest themselves in the domain of human - environment interactions.  There is a growing recognition that responses to these challenges formulated within current disciplinary boundaries, in isolation from their wider contexts, cannot adequately address them.  Here, we outline the need for an integrated, transdisciplinary synthesis that allows for a holistic approach, and, above all, a much longer time perspective.  We outline both the need for and the fundamental characteristics of what we call “integrated history.”  This approach promises to yield new understandings of the relationship between the past, present, and possible futures of our integrated human–environment system.  We recommend a unique new focus of our historical efforts on the future, rather than the past, concentrated on learning about future possibilities from history.   A growing worldwide community of transdisciplinary scholars is forming around building this Integrated History and Future of People on Earth (IHOPE).  Building integrated models of past human societies and their interactions with their environments yields new insights into those interactions and can help to create a more sustainable and desirable future.  The activity has become a major focus within the global change community."


( http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol16/iss4/art2/#ms_abstract ).


History of IHOPE - "At the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme’s  (IGBP) 2003 conference in Banff, Robert Costanza and colleagues addressed the meeting’s challenge: how can the Earth System and human societies be viewed as a single system?  IHOPE thus began as an initiative of IGBP’s core project The Analysis, Integration and Modeling of the Earth System (AIMES), and is now a part of both IGBP and the International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP).  Soon IGBP, IHDP and other global programs will be further amalgamated within the new Future Earth framework.  IHOPE" ( http://ihopenet.org/about ).


The Narrabeen lagoon and sand barrier area (rated by some as the nation's third most "at risk" area under the orthodox model followed for predicting climate and sea level change) is an area this might be applicable to think about.    As best I can learn, the local Council (Warringah) has not begun this thinking for itself in any way - and as essentially an arm of the State political structure if follows handed-down imperatives and guidelines on what to do re "nature".    Also, the Council asked (a number of times during the current compilation) if it is aware of any individuals in its LGA who have any interests in the matters on the this webpage has thus far known of none.   That certainly doesn't mean there is nobody - just that they are hard to find.     Outside of the Warringah LGA, however, there is no shortage of individuals who have expressed opinions on, and who have researched to varying degrees, some of the things discussed herein.    With climate change, for example, although earth science academic bodies (.e.g the Geological Society of Australia) support the orthodox view that Earth's climate is now changing due to the actions of man, there are individual Australian geologists who consider what they call the 'climate change alarmism' to be the greatest hoax/fraud in human history.   Perhaps the most prominent of these are Dr Ian Plimer ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Plimer ).   Also well known for his similar views is Dr Bob Carter ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_M._Carter ).


Bob Carter is critical of the IPCC (as is Ian Plimer and many others).   Carter believes that statements about dangerous human-caused global warming are unjustified and based on invalid 'science' (as do many other 'skeptics').  In 2005, Carter argued against climate change being "man-made" and asserted that the global average temperature did not increase between 1998 and 2005, whereas the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been continuing to increase.  In 2007, Carter participated in an 'expert panel' discussion after the airing of The Great Global Warming Swindle documentary on the ABC.   Ian Plimer has been even more influential, and widely viewed as an 'expert' because he has written a widely read book on the whole topic.   In 2009, Plimer published a book "Heaven and Earth" that has proved very influential on the thinking of the Liberal Party and its leadership.   In late 2009, at the United Nations climate summit in New York, Barack Obama told his fellow leaders that ''the threat from climate change is serious, it is urgent and it is growing''.  The Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, called the threat ''catastrophic'', the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, stated that addressing it is ''crucial for the future of mankind''.   Australia's Tony Abbott that year described the same threat as ''absolute crap''.   In dismissing the International Panel on Climate Change and its findings, Abbot commented:  "Now not everyone agrees with Ian Plimer's position, but he is a highly credible scientist and he has written what seems like a very well-argued book refuting most of the claims of the climate catastrophists" (Source:  SMH article by Marian Wilkinson , Sydney Morning Herald environment editor - 

 http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/climate-sceptics-have-made-their-triumphant-return-20091201-k3xm.html ).


Later on, Tony Abbott became the Prime Minister of Australia (2013).   The new Abbott government announced that Austraila would not be represented at the upcoming international climate change negotiations about to start.   Mr Abbott also abolished the Climate Change Commission, and took the highly unusual step of not appointing a Science minister in the government.   On 8 November 2013 it was announced (Sydney Morning Herald, front page) that under new Commonwealth (Federal) government cuts "Almost a quarter of scientists, researchers and workers at Australia's premier science institution [CSIRO] will lose their jobs ...".


Showing Narrageen Lagoon and two creeks feeding into it - Middle Creek and Narrabeen Creek.  The lower length of Narrabeen Creek became known as Deep Creek.  ( Source: per Shelagh Champion, http://www.pittwateronlinenews.com/anillicitstillatmccarrscreekby-shelaghchampionoam.php )

By the 1970s it was being said by some that of all the Northern Beaches lagoons only Narrabeen Lagoon remained which was not close to being biologically dead from pollution.  In August 1977 the then Minister for Environment Minister, Mr Landa, issued a public statement accusing Warringah Shire Council of  "doing too little too late", and of  "truculence" in its response to State Government directives, and of  "making no serious, attempt" to control pollution from leaching and other sources within the 55 square kilometre catchment.  From that time one State and Local Government have greatly increased their cooperation to protect this important area.

Narrabeen Lagoon, like most large water bodies,  is owned by the State (unalientated Crown Land)  is administered by a Trust as a reserve under the Crown Lands Act 1989 (CL Act).  Warringah Council is the appointed Reserve Trust Manager and so is responsible for the care, control and management of the lagoon.  Council has been one of the major sources of information compiled herein.


Early European history - Lagoonal confusion

There has been, in early recorded European history of the "Northern Beaches" area, much confusion about lagoon identities.  Later on at Narrabeen Lagoon there has also been some minor confusion of creek names by some.  There has also been confusion, or a number of different versions about the first European family at the lagoon - wiped out by escaped convicts +/- natives, or attempted to be saved (unsuccessfully) by the natives (Aborigines) in other versions - in which the heroine was a 'daughter of the chief' after whom Narrabeen takes its name.   There has also been 'confusion' or at least alternation between whether the Narrabeen water body is called a Lake or Lagoon (and some even call such the "Narrabeen Lakes" but why that would be so is not apparent).

The Aboriginal history of the area is poorly described and only one site has been must sturied.  The lagoon was first  sighted by Europeans on Captain Cook voyage in 1770.   Early exploration and very minor inhabitation happened in the late 1700s.  The first land grants to settlers were made in 1818.  In the 1880s, the Narrabeen Lake Bridge was constructed and a causeway and narrow bridge were built at Pittwater Road by the early 1900s.  By that time residential development was expanding.

The commonplace modern duplicity about Narrabeen Lagoon is that some people say "Lake" is the better or more correct name, others "Lagoon".  However, the identity confusion at various times goes far deeper or older than that - as there was considerable confusion at first between the lagoons of the northern beaches area.

Swancott (undated, p. 89),  in his book Dee Why to Barrenjoey and Pittwater, wrote that Narrabeen Lagoon had been discovered by the Governor, Arthur Phillip, in April 1788.   There, Swancott thought, Phillip saw a black swan for the first time and thought it a noble bird.  

Swancott and others have thought that Narrabeen is a native word for black swan but the source for this belief has not yet been located.   More recent writings by descendants of the Aborigines (Guringai) have stated that the Black Swan was their totem and inspired their culture along "‘Coastal Dreaming Track" (Refer to pp. 62-70 in:  Lee, Emma, 2002. "The Tale of a Whale – significantcant Aboriginal landscapes of the northern beaches", Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council)( Dennis Foley gave a talk "Secrets of our Aboriginal Past to the Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment on 27 May 2013.   

However, the early business of the 'swan lagoon' is very murky indeed.  There are four very similar lagoons northwards along the coast (all with mouths at the northern end of there embayment), Manly Lagoon, Curl Curl Lagoon, Dee Why Lagoon and Narrabeen Lagoon and each at some time has been interpreted as Phillip's 'swan lagoon'.    For a longer discussion of which one was really Phillip's lagoon of the first swan sighting see:  http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/5737284/curl-curl.htm

According to Swancott, Surveyor Meehan in 1815 surveyed at Narrabeen and called the lagoon "Narrabang", which he stated was an Aboriginal word meaning "swan".  It was written as Narrabine in a survey map of 1827.  Again according to Swancott: "The name Narrabang was replaced by Narrabin after a celebrated daughter of the Yowal tribe who befriended Captain Reynolds and his family" (Swancott goes on to relate that Narrabin was sent to Sydney town to call for help because of rogues in the area but by the time she returned with a party of soldiers, the whole family and all their servants were murdered and the Reynolds' rubble stone farmhouse had been burned - the crumbling remains of this early settler's house, on the north side of the lagoon were later pulled down and the cottage of Obadiah West built there.  The Reynolds and their 13 year old son all killed, 1810?).   Even if there was an Aboriginal girl who was despatched to Sydney to get help in this manner, her name, if then recorded, might have meant 'the girl from Narrabang/Narrabin" rather than that the lagoon got named after her, as Swancott thought?    The name "Narrabin Lagoon" occurs as later as 1834 in Government usage; and the spelling "Narrabeen" is noted as early as 1829.

As to why those at the early farm were massacred, it is said that the gang of desperadoes who did it was lead by a man named "Big Mick", who recognised the owner of this farm as being a man who had once ordered him to be flogged, related by Bill Beatty:  "And so the district of Narrabeen to-day named after that brave young aboriginal girl" ( http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/17994295 ; "How Narrabeen Was Named" by BILL BEATTY, The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 September 1946, page 2S).  Bill's sources are not stated in that article.

By now the story of the girl Narrabin who helped soldiers capture the escaped convicts involved in the massacre has been repeated 22,000 times on the Internet (as at 2013).   A random perusal of some of those showed that none gave any source and just termed it all "a popular belief" or "a tale" or similar.

Another claim, which takes the name back as far as 1801, is that on 26 January 1801, Lieutenant James Grant and a party of three were walking to Pittwater and that according to Grant's journal, they crossed the mouth of a lagoon which the Aborigines told him was called "Narrowbine"  (not checked - but this comes from an article in the Manly Daily of 18, March 1998 by John Morcombe - and it is noted that Grant's journal was published).  The name "Narrobine Creek" is also said to appear in records relating to two escaped convicts in the district at this time (1801)(this may have come via Nan Bosler, a local historian - but has not yet been checked with her as to source). 

The first land grants were made to John Lees (40 acres), Philip Schaffer (50 acres), and James Wheeler (80 acres or 86 acres from another source) all along the south bank of Mullet Creek.  Wheeler later acquired land on the southern side of the Lagoon and built his home on the banks of South Creek. Wheeler cultivated potatoes and cabbages and these were sent to Sydney markets via boat from North Harbour, Manly.

Apparently nobody has found any record of tenure to confirm Bill Beatty's story of the Reynolds dwelling and massacre.  Swancott's source for the story was likely Beatty, and Beatty's source is still unknown.  Swancott's source for identifying the Reynolds farmhouse site with the later cottage of Obadiah West is not known.

And even more elaborate version of the Reynolds massacre story is told at pages 89-90 in the 1983 book "Pictorial Memories - Manly to Palm Beach" by Alan Shape, who states the source was an article published in the Town and Country Journal in January 1886.  According to that, Narrabeen Lagoon was also referred to as "the long water" by Aboriginals whom Reynolds conversed with at Sydney Town.  It was said to be full of game and Reynolds asked to be taken there.  He found it to be "a vast lake dotted with islands", and he resolved to one day return there and set up a home on it for himself and his family, for he had observed the soil was fertile.  This version states that he was given a grant there and set out "with four assigned servants for the long trek to this new home".   Before long he had several acres under crop.   This version, however, states it was 1818 when "Big Mick" escaped.  It also says Reynold's son was 15 years old, not 13 years old, and that it was not Narrabin who was sent to Sydney but rather "a trusted convict servant, accompanied by two Aboriginals, on an overnight journey to Sydney, to bring help".  It also says that the ruffians "even killed the Reynolds' baby who was still crawling in the dust".   It is stated that three of the perpetrators were shot dead after the redcoats arrived, following Narrabin; and that three others were taken back to Sydney and hanged there.   The victims were buried at the farm and it also states that this is where Obadiah West later built his home.  Another version has stated "Reynolds and his family were killed during an attack by bushrangers and hostile Aboriginals and his homestead burned".

Contradicting "a trusted convict servant, accompanied by two Aboriginals, on an overnight journey to Sydney, to bring help", and restoring the girl Narrabin to a more central position in the tale, is this 1961 version:  "A girl, Narrabeen, in the early days of Sydney, was working for a settler named Reynolds and his family near the area north of Sydney now called (after her) Narrabeen.  At this time escaped convicts were at large in the bush.  Narrabeen overheard one such named Big Mick plotting against the Reynolds family.   She warned them but they disregarded her warnings.  Big Mick and his party killed them and some of their aborignal friends.  Narrabeen spread the alarm, carrying news of the tragedy to an Army Camp at Manly and, as a result, all of the murderers were either killed or captured".  That has Narrabin setting off after the massacre (all other versions have her going for soldiers before the massacre).  It also has her going to Manly rather than Sydney (which is not illogical).   It adds that friendly aboriginals were also killed by the escaped convicts (whereas other versions have had aboriginals joining with the convict as attackers/killers of the Reynolds).   This version appeared in Dawn ("A Magazine for the Aboriginal People of N.S.W.") of July 1961.  It is in an article entitled "One People" which was "prepared under the authority of the Minister for Territories, with the co-operation of the Ministers responsible for aboriginal welfare in the Australian States, for use by the National Aborigines’ Dav Observance Committee and its associates in connection with the celebration of National Aborigines’ Day in Australia, 14th July, 1961".

There is no record found for any Obadiah West born, married or died in New South Wales.  However for "Obed West" there are two finds.  The first died in 1891 and the second, who was Obed the son of Obed, died in 1912.   In 1885 Obed (snr.) wrote to the Herald about how he deplored the rapid extirpation of our beautiful wild flowers, ferns, and indigenous plants in the districts adjacent to Sydney.  He stated that he had purchased a property at "Lake Narrabeen" purposely to preserve the beautiful cabbage trees, ferns and lilly pilly trees upon it.  

There are few other mentions found to Swancott's "Yowal tribe" of which Narrabin was said to be a daugther.  However in the 17th Annual Report and Balance Sheet of the Long Reef Surf Life Saving Club (1967) it was mentioned that they had sold their old boat "Marie Rosseta" to a New Zealand club and had christened their new boat after "Nambaree" who was another child of Yowal's tribe.  Here they also mention Narrabin but the story gets changed considerably in that annual report.  The surf living saving club knew that Narrabin (whose name they stated meant "Black Swan") had been heroic.  But they say she made a "marathon run from Collaroy to Sydney on behalf of an early survey party about to be ambushed by bushrangers".  Thus they morphed the Reynolds who were murdered at Narrabeen from settlers to surveyors.

The surf living savings club also subscribed to Swancott's theory that the area was first explored in April 1788 by Phillip - only about ten weeks after the British first invaded/claimed Australia and set up their Sydney Cove camp which later grew to a town then a city.

When the ?foreign disease, often suspected as smallpox, wiped out local natives, James Scott a Sergeant of Marines, found the child Nambaree next to a corpse and took him to the Sydney hospital under the charge of Surgeon-General John White.  

Nambaree was important as an interpeter and was with His Excellency the Governor, Arthur Phillip, when the Governor was speared at Manly Cove on 7 September 1790.

The Club stated that they'd gotten the history from the Manly Warringah and Pittwater Historical Society.

According to Swancott (undated), Narrabeen continued to have but small population for quite some time.  According to him, Narrabeen (possibly meaning for three miles around the beach) had only eight residents in 1884, and 115 by 1912.   Records about the coal/gas exploration in the late 1800s show concern on the part of the explorers that the Department of Lands was planning a significant subdivision and land release in the area.  The Lands Department people apparently thought that the thought/prospect of a coal mine could lessen the amount of money they'd be able to get from selling land(?). 




Lagoon or Lake?   I certainly prefer "Lagoon" but both names "Narrabeen Lake" and "Narrabeen Lagoon" are found to be commonly used.


Narrabeen Lake is the more commonly used.   For example, Google finds for each were 37,600 for 'Narrabeen Lake', and 29,100 for 'Narrabeen Lagoon' some time ago.   By May 2013 these numbers had changed 29,600 for 'Narrabeen Lake', and 25,200 for 'Narrabeen Lagoon'.


Another common misconception exaggerates the extent of Narrabeen Lagoon and cases of this are found going back to the 1880s.   The modern example below, in the Dictionary of Sydney could imply to some there is whole 'system' of lagoons/lakes that extends behind more than one beach barrier along the coast.    That is not so - each embayment sand barrier entraps but one lagoon (or none at all).



http://www.dictionaryofsydney.org/natural_feature/narrabeen_lagoon (viewed 18 June 2013)


Googe finds for "Narrabeen lakes" at 18 June 2013 number about 37,000, which is actually more than one finds for "Narrabeen lake" (about 29,400).  This supports the general impression that those who use "lake" for this water are less aware of its nature/extent than those who use "lagoon" (nobody has been noted who calls it 'Narrabeen lagoons')


Narrabeen "Lakes" aggrandisation has been suggested as relatively recent, and related to real estate promotion in the 1950s ( http://jota.uniq.com.au/narrabeen/trivia.html ).  The name Narrabeen Lakes certainly was very evident in the 1950s but it also occurs sporadically back as far as 1882 if not earlier.  The earliest noted use is also in connection with land sales.


The name Narrabeen Lagoon was assigned by the Geographic Names Board on 16 October 2009 to "A lagoon fed by waters of Mullet Ck, Deep Ck, Middle Ck and South Ck with an entrance to the Tasman Sea on the south side of Narrabeen Head Within the suburb of Narrabeen, it is about 4.5km north west of Long Reef Point".  


For "Narrabeen Lake" it states "No features were found matching your search criteria".


Thus Narrabeen Lagoon is certainly the official name for this body of water.     Some very early mentions of it (and of the use of the word 'lagoon' in general are these ones collected by Peter Macinnis (pers. comm.):




Arthur Phillip, 'Voyage', chapter IX:

On the 2d of March Governor Phillip went with a long boat and cutter to examine the broken land, mentioned by Captain Cook, about eight miles to the northward of Port Jackson, and by him named Broken Bay. This bay proved to be very extensive. The first night they slept in the boats, within a rocky point in the north-west part of the bay, as the natives, though friendly, appeared to be numerous; and the next day, after passing a bar that had only water for small vessels, they entered a very extensive branch, from which the ebb tide came out so strong that the boats could not row against it in the stream; and here was deep water.  This opening appeared to end in several small branches, and in a large lagoon which could not then be examined, as there was not time to seek a channel for the boats among the banks of sand and mud.


Hunter, 'Journal', chapter III:

When speaking of birds, I should have mentioned, that some of our gentlemen have seen in the lagoons and swamps which they have fallen in with, in their shooting excursions, the black swan...

Collins, 'Account of the English Colony' V1, ch. XV:

Three of these miserable people were some time after met by some officers who were on an excursion to the lagoon between this harbour and Broken Bay... [escaped convicts, this may also have been Dee Why, which like Curl Curl and Manly (Queenscliff), remains a lagoon].

Surgeon White, Journal, 15/4/1788

15th April. His excellency, attended by Lieutenant Ball of the navy, Lieutenant George Johnston of the marines, the judge advocate, myself, three soldiers, and two seamen, landed in Manly Cove (so called from the manly conduct of the natives when the governor first visited it), on the north side of the entrance into Port Jackson harbour, in order to trace to its source a river which had been discovered a few days before. We, however, found this impracticable, owing to a thicket and swamp which ran along the side of it.

The governor, anxious to acquire all the knowledge of the country in his power, forded the river in two places, and more than up to our waists in water, in hopes of being able to avoid the thicket and swamp; but, notwithstanding all his perseverance, we were at length obliged to return and to proceed along the sea-shore, a mile or two to the northward.

At the end of this we fell in with a small salt-water lagoon, on which we found nine birds that, whilst swimming, most perfectly resembled the rara avis of the ancients - a black swan.

[From the distance involved this was likely Curl Curl, not Narrabeen.  Manly would be about one mile north, Curl Curl two miles, Dee Why a bit over three, Narrabeen six. I think the thicket and swamp would be today's Warringah golf course.]

White (again--and this one sounds like Narrabeen):

22nd August. His Excellency Governor Phillip, Lieutenant George Johnston, his Adjutant of Orders, Lieutenant Cresswell of the Marines, myself, and six soldiers, landed in Manly Cove, in order to examine the coast to Broken Bay.
We sent back our boats, and proceeded northward along the coast about six miles, where we were forced to halt for near two hours, until the tide had run out of a lagoon, or piece of water, so as to admit of its being forded.  While we were detained here an old native came to us, and, in the most friendly manner, pointed out the shallowest part of the
water we had to cross; but the tide ran with too much rapidity at that time for us to attempt it.



The Narrabeen Lagoon is the largest of the lagoons on Sydney's "Northern Beaches" coastline.


The area has voluminous development now upon sand barrier of the embayment.   When sealevel rises, as it is predicted to, the problems of marine erosion and innundation can only increase.    Hence it is an area which the local Council is presumably much interested in, and may become increasingly so.



Information seeking


Please send any thoughts, corrections for errors herein or new information re Narrabeen Lagoon to John Byrnes at john.mail@ozemail.com.au    Initial information seeking was to government groups.   After this webpage had been uploaded, my thanks to Ross Johnson and many others for sending me references to additional bits and pieces and to articles appearing in newspapers or elsewhere.


Interesting examples of the statistics on the effort involved in seeking information (or even comment) can be got from reading Council planning documents.  For example, on one relatively recent (2012) planning exercise (for the North Narrabeen dunes around Birdwood Park)  some comments from 19 persons were eventually obtained.  These were the product from this amount of recorded effort:



Numerous emails sent:


1 February - 1800 emails promoting project launch

2 February - 1200 emails promoting project launch

23 February - 1800 emails promoting the online forum and project

24 February - 1200 emails promoting the online forum and project

14 March - 1800 emails promoting the drop in session and online forum

15 March - 1200 emails promoting the drop in session and online forum

23 March - 3000 emails promoting the online forum and the project distributed


A setup website (web forum) received 1,883 and gained comments from 19 person.



Thus many thousands of emails and setting up of a website gained comments from 19 persons.   


And in those comments, how many (of any) rew facts might have emerged?    (This is not known, although an opinion/impression on that might be sought from the organisers?).


Information seeking for the Narrageen Lagoon area has been long-ongoing and is still continuing (at end of 2013).  Narrabeen Lagoon and its catchment straddle two Local Government areas – Warringah Council and Pittwater Council. The boundary between the two is the northern foreshore of the Lagoon, with the waterbody itself wholly within the Warringah Local Government Area.  I have much more often contacted Wahringah Council for information to date than Pittwater Council.   


Most enquiries have been to Warringah Council.  Initially it had little or nothing, e.g. on archaeological/historical sites.  However that is illusionary as eventually a lot did turn up as held by Council.  A lot of good information may be in files but there is no indexing of them (e.g. old correspondence records) and hence no way of knowing what's where.   Quite a lot does exist on some topics, e.g. Mr Stone and his 'cement factory' area, but on some topics (e.g. the described Aboriginal camp of recent times at the western end of the lagoon) absolutely nothing had been locatable in Council records as late as 2013.


A considerable amount of general information has been obtained (and is herein) on dredging, and it is thought that even more information about dredging almost certainly exists.  Also there's a lot of information obtainable on the area of Deep Creek mouth, especially the lime and cement works established there.  Other aspects on the past of the area, however, have been very difficult to find anything specific on.  That includes the area's Aboriginal past (esp. re the nature and history of the Aboriginal camp near the mouth of Middle Creek) - and where exactly was John Coghan's drilling for coal (and which struck gas) carried out, which is generally recorded as "Deep Creek, Narrabeen".   One source (Swancott, undated, page 93) has stated this was "at a point about half a mile up Deep Creek" but for various reasons that does not seem likely to me.  Also very interesting is the statement (again Swancott page 93) that gas from this was "lead through pipes to a nearby cottage and used for cooking and lighting" (in 1888).   Given the small population (Swancott on page 97 states "The official list of residents at Narrabeen in 1884 was as follows: - H. Hill, J. Lawson, J.H. Legg, Gustav Lix, F. Ward - all farmers - Carl Von Bieren, Gunpowder Manufacturer, J. Wheeler and J. Wheeler, Jnr."), the likelihood of a "cottage" anywhere near wherever this drilling was done seems rather remote. 


Most information gathered herein comes via quite ready sources like the Internet and no public libraries have yet been visited to further research any of the matters herein.  In addition, other persons of similar interests were sought by widely asking around, including to societies, Councils and persons who might know other persons like politicans.  The latter included the Member for Pittwater whose electorate covers the northern end of Sydney’s Northern Beaches area, from Narrabeen northwards.  The usual run of enquiry was if they knew of anybody (individuals not groups, seeing I can find groups myself on the Internet) with any interests the same as mine, namely the past (history/heritage) or environment.   I conveyed that I was also interested in all early primary industry, such as quarrying or brickworks or forestry.  A wide net was cast as I also intended later to probably be writing similar scope webpages for other areas on the Northern Beaches (Long Reef, Dee Why, Curl Curl and Manly areas).   Re primary industry, I especially began enquiring in greater depth to Warringah Council about the ruins of Stone's Deep Creek factory (supposed to be a cement works) and about dredging, as I was previously aware that Council itself had engaged in the past in the dredging of Narrabeen Lagoon (and I recalled seeing longstanding dredging myself at Narrabeen Lagoon as a child - when I had a very small backyard 'museum' and was interested in such things as what shells the dredgers might be bringing up - usually only the commonest estuarine species for the most part but 'one never knows').


The first interested person I knew of for the Narrabeen Lagoon area, and for quite some time the only person, was Mr John Gibson.   Later on I found a small number of others, including Mr Matt Hunt of Collaroy, who have interest in the area.   Mr John Gibson has extensively researched the works of that innovative cement/concrete man, Mr Stone who has left substantial ruins around Deep Creek.  Mr Gibson has researched Mr Stone's life generally and has introduced many others to an appreciation of Mr Stone's work with concrete and design (wide-ranging, to as far afield as Tasmania).   Nonetheless, only a very few locals of the district have yet been found who have interests in the past around Narrabeen Lagoon.  Various groups (including Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon others) were early enquired to in order to ask if anyone could supply photos of natural processes at the Lagoon, and also if anyone knew of any occurrences of beachrock, peat or acid sulphate soil, Aboriginal or 'industrial' remains, whatever.  Some thought there might be some peat on the southern side of the lagoon but nothing really specific emerged.   Earliest enquiries soon focussed on the ruins of Edward Giles Stone's works west of Deep Creek, and also the whereabouts of the Deep Creek drilling site in the late 1800s (one hole of which program struck gas which was for a time apparently used domestically to some extent - according to some accounts).   Various people knew of Stone's works but nobody knew where the drill holes at Deep Creek had been put down.   Council when first asked could locate no records whatsoever of Stone's presence or works (cement works, a dam, bridge over Deep Creek, etc.).  However it eventually turned out that there probably is quite a bit on this scattered in Council records [perhaps mainly within correspondence records and perhaps not yet compiled/indexed?].  One newspaper article has been found which expresses what the contemporary concern was at the time (1930s) over Mr Stone's ideas for industrial activity at the Lagoon (dredging and cement-making).   Warringah Council was able to supply some dredging records but what could be found likely covers but a portion of the total dredging that actually has been done in the lagoon over time.   None of the local Aboriginal connections contacted initially had or knew of any documentary information of any sort on the Middle Creek Aboriginal camp - of relatively recent years.  Nor could the present State Government management of the sporting facilities which are now there (the land was taken up for "National Fitness" development) say where early development or land records might be for that place [they did saw however that's they'd be potentially interested as it was their own history too].   In the end, Dennis Foley remained the only source of information available thus far on that part of the lagoon's history (which is based on what he saw or was told as a child).



Dennis Foley - known to surrounding Councils as keeper/teller of long-held wisdom:  "Narrabeen Lake is our placenta of all things and knowledge".  Dennis spent quite some time hereabouts as a child, learning things from Aboriginal uncles and aunties.  

Despite Dennis Foley bringing the Middle Creek Aboriginal camp to strong notice, and also a major chance find near the ocean beach in recent years (the "Narrabeen Man" skeleton), and some general interest in things Aboriginal generally (an Australian-wide interest + there are about 15 Aboriginal support groups between Sydney and the Hawkesbury River), repeated enquiries did not locate any persons in Warringah LGA with any local research interests around Narrabeen Lagoon (nor anywhere else in the LGA) on Aboriginal sites.  Council does, however, support any modern Aboriginal cultural events as may be held (e.g. Warringah Council in 2000 began supporting Guringai (Kuringai) people with festivals first organised by Susan Moylan-Coombs).  According to the result of enquiry to Council the very important "Narrabeen Man" find was never notified to the Council in any way and the Council did not make any independent note of it either (albeit that it surely would have been from local newspapers reports that Council could have been quite aware of it nevertheless).  The quite large scientific paper which was eventually published on Narrabeen Man is good in many ways but was poorly edited in as much as that it is not as comprehensive as general scientific requirements require, and failed to record some quite essential basic data.  . Even with history as recent as this discovery was (2005), errors about where the find was soon manifested (shown/discussed herein).   And according to the current main general research program on "A history of Aboriginal Sydney", at Sydney University, skeletal remains of fourteen people "dated at 4000 bp" were "discovered during excavations for a bus shelter at Narrabeen" and the remains were later "put to rest at North Head" ( http://www.historyofaboriginalsydney.edu.au/north-coastal/2000s ).  The remains were not found during excavations 'for' a bus shelter and more importantly this should perhaps have been "West Head", not "North Head"?.  Nonetheless, in case it was really North Head, Manly Council was also enquired to (some media note also being recalled by myself on some skeletal remains found at a construction site in a Manly street some time ago).  Manly Council knew nothing on any of that and a reply from Manly stated in summary "There has been comparatively little research into Aboriginal traces in the Manly area".   Thus although considerable advance has been made in information gathering on the Narrabeen Lagoon area in recent years (e.g. knowledge of the Stone's "lime and cement" endeavour has been much improved - and the Council has erected some informative signage at the site) fundamental research on Aboriginal prehistory remains a local black hole - despite the purely accidental discovery of such a very important find as the remains of 'Narrabeen Man'.   Narrabeen man appears to certainly have been speared (and clubbed?) to death and researchers were of the opinion he likely was not a local.   Early Europeans recorded lengthy travel of Aborigines along the coast zone, e.g. from Broken Bay 'down' to Sydney and from the Illawarra 'up' to Sydney, and Narrabeen Man might have been on some long journey or wandering too?


Although one organisation, the "Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment" have it as part of their aims to "gather scientific and other information" relating to the past and present of the area, and "to support the identification of all aboriginal, cultural, ecological, historical and recreational artefacts, places, rock carvings" etc., no references of specific knowledge of anyone else interested in the area's natural history was obtainable initially from them or from any community organisation; nor any references obtained from the two Councils up till 2012.   In 2012 a further attempt was made in asking Pittwater Council for any references - or guide to photographs - and some trickle of further information finds did begin that year.  All those enquired to, who said they had no information on the area, were also asked if they'd come across anyone else interested in seeking information.  This finally did reveal the pleasing fact that there was one person who had actually been building a bibliography for some time on the Narrabeen Lagoon (not known if this is yet finished or available - 2013).  This should be very helpful when it becomes available.


Other things of note, information-wise, include that in 2010 Warringah Council produced and uploaded a WMV file ( NarrabeenLagoonStandardDef.wmv , 103 Mb) about "Caring for our Catchment: the Story of Narrabeen Lagoon".   This can also be viewed at YouTube as http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cha91f4Ano0  (Uploaded 21 June 2010, 363 views by May 2013).   [ Also related is:  "The Story of Narrabeen Lagoon - part 2" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gijYbkto8Q ].


Always popular for recreation and picnics, various knowledge-focussed excursions also have been conducted around the Lagoon, e.g. Dennis Foley taking people around Middle Creek, John Gibson taking people to the ruins of Mr Stone's would-be industrial activities, and Dr Peter Mitchell consducting geological excursions here and elsewhere on the coast.   Probably there has been zoological excursions and research conducted as well (details unknown here - but check with the "Coastal Environment Centre" that is on the northern shore of the Lagoon near the entrance).  Known-about research has been on geology, Aboriginal archaeology (mainly "Narrabeen man"), and shoreline processes.  Interest in shoreline processes include that surfers have become involved (as noted herein).   There is likely to be a particular ongoing emphasis on the last-mentioned on account of the prediction that sealevel will rise, and re the dangers that brings to certain coastal buildings (some coastal erosion already having happened in recent times along the beach at Narrabeen).


Re others who might be interested in natural history, there have been some interesting "Forums" held by the Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment, which may give additional leads if followed up further.  These may be found via:




Although for a long time nobody could be directly found within, or known to, any of the local organisations who was interested in natural history research or the past, the forums (viz. at above link) do provide some leads to who interested persons might be.   For example, from the various forums conducted by the 'Friends' it is seen that:


* Angus Gordon "organised a discussion about dredging of Narrabeen Lagoon" on 22 February, 2010.   Angus in 2010 also "reviewed the latest science" re how the catchment is "likely to be impacted by climate change".


* Mia Dalby-Ball, formerly Natural Environment Manager at Pittwater Council, has discussed what we can learn about climate change from history.


Mia Dalby-Ball was the former Natural Environment Manager at Pittwater Council and was said there to be an expert on estuarine plants.   After leaving the Council ca. 2009 she formed a business named "Dragonfly Environmental" that is stated to be "Specialising in wetland and waterway projects" at Studio 1/33 Avalon Parade, Avalon.  ( http://au.linkedin.com/in/miadalbyball - University of Sydney BSc, Ecology, Botany, Fine Arts, 1990 - 1995).  She is also interested in geomophology.  However, at July 2012 the business website was returning "Dragonfly Environmental site is currently undergoing an upgrade. We apologise for any inconvenience".  As at June 2013 the website ( http://www.dfe.net.au  ) was still saying "The Dragonfly Environmental site is currently undergoing an upgrade. We applogise for any inconvenience" but it does give some basic information and states "we have planted over 3 million plants and regenerated over 100 ha. of natural area".



The first major 'paydirt' struck in this search was Ken Higgs, who contacted me on 21 July 2012 after having been informed by the "Friends" that I was seeking references.   Ken, it turned out, already has numerous for Narrabeen Lagoon.  Here is sample of his mode of collecting such:



11/07/1890 SMH 3 A Natural gas and coal at Narrabeen - http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/13796868

19/07/1890 ATCJ 24 A Natural gas and coal at Narrabeen - http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/71179594

28/10/1903 NS 6 A Is our coast moving? - http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/72069096

03/10/1904 MB 3 A Geological discovery at Narrabeen - http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/53024004

12/10/1904 ATCJ 16 A A bit of old Australia - http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/71515376  

07/04/1909 SMH 8 A Nature and Law [Dee Why] - http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/15049087 [mentions a midden to 4 ft thickness]

05/11/1910 SMH 12 A The mysteries of marine strata - http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/15164585

30/09/1914 SMH 7 A Near and far - http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/15556498

17/06/1933 SMH 13 A Sea level. Evidence of alteration - http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/28029254

01/07/1933 MB 11 A Sea level. Evidence of alteration - http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/55505817

18/10/1941 SMH 11 A Sydney Harbour before the dawn of history - http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/17769451

(Ken has also made some corrections to the OCR of these articles.)

In May 2013 the Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon organised more talks, including on "Aboriginal secrets" of Narrabeen Lagoon (such as the Middle Creek camp).  I checked if anything further had come up, and/or were there any members researching any aspects of the past - but it was thought not.   It was confirmed that Dennis Foley had said that he thought the Aboriginal persons in the past (around time of his childhood) had reversed the names of Middle and Deep Creeks in their usage of the names (Dennis had earlier told me that same thing). 


Checking with the Dee Why Library (725 Pittwater Road, Dee Why, cnr. Pittwater Road and St Davids Avenue) the Local Studies Library informed me that they had more information than I had regarding the German ("Nazi") presence at Deep Creek, including pertinent material from Commonweatlh archives.  Also a friend (Matt) said that he would go there at night and try to photograph such by torch light as it is becoming diffilcult to photographically capture these faint engravings.


In 2003, Council sent a few more dredging details (mainly for later years, and details of dredging in the early years remain mostly not relocated yet).




Various early accounts give a good picture of the tide running out vigorously from the entrance to Narrabeen Lagoon but at times the lagoon must of course have been blocked for considerable periods - with at least one writer (one of the above set) at one time thinking there was not tidal influence in the lagoon.


Various themes that might be pursued more around Narrabeen Lake/Lagoon include:  Sea-level change effects(?), beachrock at the Lake entrance, dredging and seagrass beds, and the strange or curious works of a rather famous man in concrete-making history, Edward Giles Stone  (17 February 1873/1876? - 16 October 1947).   Mr Stone has been variously considered as either crazy, or a "con-man", or else an innovative genius.  Generally, his efforts are admired or found astounding/curious.   Mr Stone in later life withdrew to land located at the western side of Deep Creek where he apparently planned to make cement [viz. the "Never Been Beaten Lime and Cement Works"].   It is doubtful, however, if any cement ever got manufactured there.  Mr Stone apparently envisaged a business mixture of dredging (to sell the sand and/or use some such for concrete, and to combine the dredged shells content with estuarine mud content in order to form cement clinker.   It is all 'theoretically' possible but also very unlikely to work economically.  Mr Stone also considered the construction of a fleet of concrete ships.   Stone is not merely important because of his application of a concrete reinforcing system in Australia, from also because some of of his daringly innovative design ideas suggest genius (or advancing eccentricity maybe? - opinion varies amongst those interested in engineering heritage).  The interesting story of E.G. Stone (a.k.a. "Stoney") may be found  here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Giles_Stone ) .  Clues to what Mr Stone was "up too" at his Deep Creek area have been sought from the local Council and others; and it is understood that Council has begun some signage on the industrial relics there.   That is in connection with Warringah and Pittwater Councils (which meet around this point) in 2011 beginning a trail over a new pedestian + bikes bridge over Deep Creek and along the lake shore west from there - so enabling walkers and bike-riders to traverse along the western foreshore of Narrabeen Lagoon a bit away away from the busy Wakehurst Parkway.   The trail goes via "possible buried Aboriginal archaeological material" (likely a 'PAD' or Potential Archaeological Deposit), and some of the ruins of Stoney's handiwork. 



Narrabeen area bore locations (GS 1982/343).   Drilling was carried out in 1980 in Narrabeen Lagoon by the Geological Survey.  A report on it was sent to Warringah Council (Roy and Lean 1981).   Drilling site N4 was nearest to Deep Creek.   The area of W1-W3 is also sometimes called the Warriewood Wetland.

Hole N4 - just offshore from "Stoney's" cement works ruins.  Of interest is some leaching below 5m (?origin) and the 2m thick mud layer which might have been potentially of interest to E.G. Stone as a mud source (shale substitute in cement making).  The mud thickness is about 2m in N9 and increases to 6m further offshore (in N1).  [ "-" = muddy sand,  "+" = wood, "c" = shell, "##" = peaty).

Some 18,000 years ago the sea level was 120 m below its present level, and  the coast 20 km east of where it is today. And the end of the last Glacial the water rose quite rapidly, a metre every 100 years.  Sea level stopped rising ca. 6500 years ago and the presently seen beaches and barrier systems have been evident since then.  The coastal embayment at Narrabeen is at two pre-existing bedrock valleys which are thought to probably coalese offshore from Narrabeen Beach.   The smalley berock valley trends inland to the NW and is called the "Warriewood" palaeovalley (along the trend of bores W1-W3 shown above).   Drillhole W3 has 12m of estuarine sediment and the site would have been a valley mouth during the last sealevel rise.  The larger branch of the original valley system at Narrabeen probably passed E to ESE in much the same trend as the present day Narrabeen Creek (Deep Creek) which flows into the northwestern end of Narrabeen Lagoon.  The original course of this main valley may pass under the present Narrabeen Beach just south of the position of bore N18 above.  The old "Warriewood valley" is now completely infilled with thick Holocene sediments whereas the Narrabeen valley is not entirely filled up and instead hosts a "large" (by Sydney standards) lagoon.  Eroded Pleistocene surface would continue east of the present coastline.  Likely Pleistocene clay is cut (eroded in last Glacial time) to a depth of -18m where the Narrabeen palaeovalley likely passed to sea prior to the development of the current sand barrier.   Under the lagoon there is some 20+ m thickness of Holocene sediments known from bores.  The leached and oxidised sand at 5-8m down is similar to effects known elsewhere (e.g. possible leaching around 7m in N1, oxidised and mottled in N5, oxidised at around 11m near a date of 8Ka in N8, oxidised around 11m in N9.  These things have not been investigated but could perhaps be the result of the pauses or slight retreats in the overall marine transgression.   Under the beach/barrier of the lagoon beachrock has been found in drillholes, down about 2m below sealevel.  At Palm Beach there is also beachrock at 2-2.5m below sealevel and shell from 1.5m below that has been dated at 6,800 +/- 337 years (GS 1982/343).   This suggests the beachrock formed under stillstand conditions.


Records of sand extraction from Narrabeen Lagoon have as yet been little compiled here.  Production was ongoing since the 1960s?  Was their earlier production?  The ruins of something that has been called a cement works at Deep Creek on the shore of the lagoon, likely dating from well before the 1960s, suggests this is a possibility, and facts will continue to be sought on the area.



Narrabeen Lagoon



1. Lakeside Caravan park; 2. Mullet Creek; 3. Pittwater Road weed beds; 4. Woolworths Bridge; 5. The Alley; 6. Robertson Road; 7. Deep Hole; 8. Wakehurst Parkway Billarong Reserve; 9. Deep Creek; 10. Middle Creek;

11. Golf Course; 12. South Creek; 13. Pipeclay Point; 14. Jamieson Park; 15. Wheeler Park.



Looking north over the lagoon.


Narrabeen Lagoon, also known as Narrabeen Lakes, is an area of shallow water with three main creeks that drain into it - Deep Creek, Middle Creek and South Creek.  Narrabeen Lagoon has a surface area of 2 square kilometres and is the largest of several coastal lagoons between Sydney and Broken Bay.   It shows the typical pattern of a presumably "diverted" northern entrance/exit connection to the sea, as is usually attributed to sand spit development under the influence of northerly inshore coastal drift of sediment.   It is usually open to the sea but has been intermittently blocks.






Narrabeen Lakes outlet, looking south from atop of Narrabeen Head.   The outlet has 

been 'forced' to be over an area of shallow rock presence.  There is no old

erosion channel at this point.



Water may move into the lagoon at high tide or in storms.


Narrabeen Lagoon mouth, 1943.   The rock baths at the headland were already there, plus a small ?club house.In this view the lagoon mouth is closed by beach sand.  According to some "Historical records show that prior to 1970 the Lagoon was predominantly closed", whereas the lagoon is now predominantly open (e.g. the company BMT WBM in the 2013 Narrabeen Lagoon Flood Study).  In March 1942, with the lagoon mouth closed, rain runoff from the catchment caused the lagoon to rise 2.7m, with major flooding.



Narrabeen 1927 flood.



Old photo of a manual opening of the lagoon mouth.


West of the previous photo, 1943, presently Lakeside Park.  This shows the mouth of Mullet Creek and the  

prograded sand depositional sequence there which presumably marks the filling up of that valley

mouth as sea level reached its present height.



Deep Creek (a lateral stream to the drowned main stream of Narrabeen Lagoon valley) has a lobate sand delta whereas Middle Creek which is aligned to upstream continuation of the main value capture/deposits much of its sand before its present mouth and hence wants to form a mudy long spit or potential birds-foot delta.     The oblong is where one record places John Coghlan's Deep Creek coal drilling but this is obviously mistaken.


The coal drilling and gas discovery by John Coghlan


Narrabeen, had the project gained more capital, could have become the first near-Sydney coal mine, and the gas encountered was hailed as perhaps the first (potentially) useable natural gas found - spurring dreams of forming a company to pipe it to Sydney.   Nothing came of that, nor did the drilling reach the coal measures - but it likely came pretty close to doing so.


There are many references to this drilling having been at "Deep Creek", but exactly where still remained undetermined despite effort to discover where.   Swancott (n.d., page 93) wrote that it was "at a point about half a mile up Deep Creek".   That seems unlikely.  On flat land near the mouth of the creek would be feasible, but why take difficult machinery up the creek for no apparent reason?   The only possible reason might have been land tenure if Mr John Coghlan who did this could not get permission of the landowner to drill at the easiest point.  


Most interestingly, Swancott (n.d., page 93) wrote that an inflow of natural gas appeared at 1,200 ft and that "This was lead through pipes to a nearby cottage and used for cooking and lighting".   If that were true it would make it one of the first times natural gas was used domestically.   Other information is that gas was first noted at  1556ft.


Coghlan's plans for a coal mine at Narrabeen certainly did become very advanced.  Bit by bit he ended up leasing for coal mining all of Narrabeen Lagoon, plus considerable land along Middle and Deep Creeks.  Why the plan failed was presumably for want of continuing finance.


The drilling probably got close enough to the coal to begin leaking coal seam gas and this has been remembered down to the present day, as per the mention in Swancott's book and elsewhere.   For example, from Pittwater Council's Monavale Library website is a statement:  "In 1888 coal mining was attempted near Deep Creek. Natural gas was found and piped to adjacent cottages".   That seems as though it might have come from Swancott's book in history, except that the "cottage" where the gas was reputedly used became "cottages".


If that were true, it would be some of the first coal seam gas to be domestically used in the State.  


The amount of gas encountered may have been somewhat exaggerated (or at least the hopes/dreams for it were grandiose) by an unknown writer in the Daily Telegraph (presumably in 1889, but seen per The Brisbane Courier, of 5 December 1889, page 5).  This was as follows (in part) and suggests that Mr Coghlan actually began boring at Narrabeen ca. 1884:





It falls to our lot, says the Sydney Daily Telegraph, to make public announcement of the discovery of another of those resources with which nature has so abundantly endowed our country.  The latest addition to our national assets belongs to a class of remarkable products that nobody, as far as we are aware, has ever made it a business to search for in Australia.  A very large percentage of the population, indeed, probably do not know of its existence at all; and to everyone the news that it has been found in our midst will come as a surprise.  The frenzy of the digging days will not return with its appearance.  There will be no sudden bounds from damper and tents to champagne and villa  residences.  Fortunes may be lost in searching for it, and fortunes made in finding it, but the very nature of the product in its house of storage, deep down in the bowels of the earth, will place temptation far out of the reach of individual adventurers, and shelve the onus on to the shoulders of capital.   But if only in this instance the discovery is of the importance that such developments have been in other parts of the world it should prove an ever-flowing source of wealth of immense wealth - to the community at large.  And wherever it has been found it has come as a revolutionary force.   It is distinctly "phenomenal!" ; hitherto only very few communities have gained the treasure, and to those that have it has come as a piece of accidental fortune.  In this respect New South Wales is no exception to the rule.  Whilst boring for coal in the neighbourhood of Narrabeen, about seven miles from Manly Beach, a party of miners have tapped a reservoir of natural gas.

....... Nearly five years ago Mr. John Coghlan commenced to bore for coal in the neighbourhood of Narrabeen.  There is little doubt that the vast coal bed through which we tunnel at Bulli and Wollongong and sink shafts at Newcastle spreads out beneath the whole of the intervening country. It is being worked within twenty miles of Sydney to the south, and probably underlies the metropolis itself, but at too great a depth to bring to the surface. Mr. Coghlan was endeavouring to strike the seam within a few miles to the north of Sydney.  He put down his diamond drill amongst the picturesque scenery in the midst of which Mr.Von Bieren bad previously tried in vain to procure wood suitable for the charcoal used in the manufacture of gunpowder.  It is not far from the lagoon, about halfway between Manly and Newport, and at the foot of a range of hills. It is "poor" country, covered with out-cropping rock, and barely clothed with impoverished gum-trees.  Beneath the surface to unproved depths the strata is composed of sandstone and conglomerate.   After boring for two or three years, probing 1556ft. down and finding no trace of coal, the miners observed an inflammable vapour exhaling from the side of the bore.  Mistaking it for what is known as marsh gas, a product which by itself has no commercial value and is frequently encountered in wells and mines all the world over, and never dreaming of the existence in Australia of natural gas that might take the place of light or fuel, they paid no attention to it, and proceeded to go deeper and deeper into the rock.  At length, with nearly 2000ft. of tubing down, the vapour increased in volume and intensity.  Then Mr. Coghlan began seriously to consider its nature, and having no knowledge of the valuable gases engendered in Nature's own laboratory in other parts of tho world he invited Dr. Storer, a scientific chemist, and Mr. Key, a mining engineer, to inspect the bore. These gentlemen visited the scene of operations several months ago, offered the opinion that the gas was similar to that discovered at Pittsburg, and subsequently analysing some which they carried away in a bottle, stated definitely that the product was in all respects identical with the American natural gas.  Thus, after nearly five years work, the patient energy of the prospectors for coal on the shores of Narrabeen was rewarded by the discovery of something they had never dreamed of looking for, something which they did not even know when they saw it.  The bore they put down measured 3in. in diameter, and the gas issued through it in spite of a pressure of water equal to 8001b. to the square inch.  Until now nothing has been said publicly about the circumstance.  Now it is proposed to float the well into a company, but whether the shares will be issued immediately is doubtful.  Probably the concern will be put on the market at the beginning of the year.  If the well proves rich in gas, pipes will be laid from Narrabeen to the city, and the natural product reticulated when mixed with coal gas to the dwellings for light, and unadulterated to the factories and workshops for fuel.  Meanwhile the few workmen employed at the well are boiling their billies and grilling their steaks on the gas that flows up over the surface from hundreds of feet beneath them, and at night they are illuminating their huts and tents with the same arcadian product.




This would have it that this was Australia's first gas discovery!    The strong hopes of it proving commercial were apparently short lived.


The best  known early production of gas for use was from the abandonned Sydney Harbour Colliery in the 1940s, tragically terminated by a gas explosion.


The Sydney Harbour Colliery opened in 1897.   Had the first Sydney area coal mine instread been at Narrabeen just where the promoter, John Coghlan, was thinking of shipping the coal from has not been discovered, but a full forward plan for coal mining must have existed in order to attract the investors.




The gas available at the abandonned Balmain Colliery had a ready market in WWII when petrol was scarce.


If, in 1888 near Deep Creek, "natural gas was found and piped to adjacent cottages" and used then this would be very historic.  But the idea of adjacent cottages at Deep Creek at that time seems unusual.   Later on, in the time of Stone's lime and cement works, men who worked for Stone were locals and some lived on huts they built for themselves along Deep Creek.   Thus it is possible there might have been habitation there in even earlier times (late 1800s), yet this  seems unlikely to me as there probably would have been better more open sites available for lake-side dwelling.  Another version of the creek's  history there in the 1930s states it was a colony of "gypsies" who lives up that little valley, but that is not necessarily incompatible as such might have been who Stone employed.   He is not known to have ever been making a profit there so presumbly would have been attracted to employing the cheapest possible labour.   Some of it was very hard labour, such as lugging cement up the hill for the sizeable dam he had built, all done by hand labour apparently..


And where, exactly, was the drilling done?


That same source as the above ( http://www.pittwater.nsw.gov.au/library/local_history/Pittwaters_past/elanora_heights?SQ_DESIGN_NAME=printer_friendly ) also states "Coal was discovered at 1900 feet (625 metres) but the drilling was abandoned.".   That is unlikely too.  If it really had clearly reached the coal measures and demonstrated the physical existence of the coal geologically predicted to be under Sydney then finance would have been obtainable and he would not have had to give up.   A mention of coal at 1,900 ft is also in Swancott (n.d., p. 93).


In another modern account of the matter ( http://www.sydneyarchitecture.com/SUB/SUB-06.htm ) Mr Coghlan becomes "a Mr Coglan" and it mentions gas being collected, but not that it was domestically used. 


So far the exact location of the drilling has not been found and only one of the leases (ML 1134 shown below ) has been located.




Notice the obvious error that it would not have been completed the same year as it was started.  Where was the 1880s Deep Creek deep drilling for coal done?   I have not been able to locate any original records yet.  If the elevation of 5 ft is correct then it was likely on the the flat forming the immediate sides of Deep Creek.  Some data on it, and according to Mines Department "Well Completion Report No. 2", has a lat/long which might put it just offshore from the creek mouth but that is likely a misplot or misestimation since it was not likely offshore (i.e. elevation 5 ft - and likely very heavy equipment ,and people did not operate big offshore drilling platforms then ).   The portion 77 (or 7) mention if true, would place it well up Deep Creek and that's a mystery as that too would seem most unlikely.  Why go that far up the creek to drill.

Despite not having reached the coal in his 1885 drilling the Government received his application in 1886 in regard to 200 acres at Narrabeen to mine there for coal  (Government Gazette, Friday the 15th, January 1886).    Mr Coghlan was doubtless someone then into coal or coal exploration in a big way - as he is also known to have applied for government permissions to mine at Parish of Holsworthy (800 acres), Parish of Terramungamine (four areas amounting to 220 acres), and the Parish of Dubbo (247 acres, in association with E.E. Brett).   He did not get considerable leasehold land granted to mine for coal at Narrabeen but not all of his applications were granted.   In 1888 it is learned of that the Government refused Mr Coglan on of his application for a mining lease there because the Lands Department was about to subdivide Crown land there and offer a good deal of the land for sale and public take-up.   A mining lease was seen as inimical to that.  Thus in October 1888 a deputation consisting of Messrs. A. E. Jacques, J. Coghlan, J. T. Hinwood, and E. C. Batt waited on the Minister for Mines with regard to this lease at Narrabeen.  The mining lease had been applied for by John Coghlan, and the others are presumably associates/investors who he had since gathered as interested in seeing a coal mine formed there.   Narrabeen might have seemed an even better place for a coal mine than Sydney Harbour (where one later eventuated) as it was near the base of the Hawesbury Sandstone and could have been slightly less sinking to get to coal - albeit that the difference is not great (Narrabeen Group is also exposed on the ocean side of North Head at Sydney Harbour but that might not have been realised in the 1880s).  Coghlan is also believed to have looked unsuccessfully for a drilling site close to Sydney Harbour.   It was represented by the deputation to the Minister in 1888 that for some time past a lease of 437 acres had been held by Mr. Coghlan in conjunction with other gentlemen [which lease was this? - it has not yet been traced], and that the search for minerals had so far proved so successful that the holders of the lease considered that they would be justified in continuing their work.  They accordingly desired to extend the area of the land included within the lease, and an application with that object in view had been made, but it had not yet been granted.  A sale of the Government land in that locality was shortly to be held, and the deputation therefore asked that the lease, as requested, should be issued without delay.  Mr. Abigail, in replying, pointed out that a question of policy was involved in the application.  The land in respect of which the application had been made was situated, he revealed in the midst of a large area of Government property, which had been surveyed and laid out for sale.  It had been represented by the Lands Department that if the lease, as applied for, were issued the forthcoming sale would be seriously affected, and having regard to the strong representations which had been made by that Department on the subject he had decided not to grant the application.  In reply to a question from a member of the deputation, the Minister said that if the Lands Department recommended that the request should be complied with he should offer no objection (Sydney Morning Herald, 20 October 1888, page 10).  Thus it was then up to these coal mining promoters to trot on down the hall or to wherever the Minister for Lands had his office, to try and get that Minister to change his mind.  It is not known if they did this or not, but they presumably would likely have tried it.  However, not long afterwards, in 1890, Geological Surveyor T.W.E. David, recommended Narrabeen as a good place for warranting continued expenditure of capital towards coal mining (Australian Town and Country Journal, 19 July 1890, page 24).  This must have considerably encouraged Coglan and his associates in their commercial endeavours.   Nevertherless, no coal mine shaft sinking was ever commenced at or near Narrabeen.   


Mr Coghlan's interest in the Narrabeen area for coal can be tracked back at least as far as 1885 (Australian Town and Country Journal, 28 November 1885, page 24), when with Mr. T. M. Dalveen and Mr. W. T. Coonan, he applied for permission to mine in regard to coal for an amazing 1,730 acres, under Narrabeen Lagoon and part of the Pacific Ocean.   The application was dated 14 November 1885 and was received in the Department of Mines on 14 November 1885, hence must have been hand-delivered (Evening News, 16 December 1885, page 8).  


Mr John Coghlan had formed the Australasian Diamond Drill Company in 1882, as revealed by his following advertisement ( Sydney Morning Herald, 16 December 182, page 4):




CONTRACTS will be undertaken by the above Company to bore any sized holes up to 3 INCHES OR LARGER if required, to any depth, at a reduction of 25 PER  CENT. BELOW ANY PREVIOUS CHARGE.

The Company in all.case will find their own fuel and water for drilling purposes, and will make no charge for loss of diamonds or wear and tear on plant, and will also provide workmen, engineers, &c. 

The new duplex barrel introduced into the colony by Mr. J. Coghlan will be used free of charge to persons searching for minerals.

Mr. Coghlan has every confidence, from his practical knowledge of the Diamond Drill, that he will bo able to give general satisfaction, as well as quick despatch to all orders addressed to the ....

Temporary Offices, 283, George-strect 


General Manager.    pro tem.



No. 283 was a temporary address, as stated.  The office address later on was 311 George Street, as in 1886 (Sydney Morning Herald, 21 April 1886, page 20), Mr Coghlan ran this very short ad: "WANTED, competent ENGINEER - one used to diamond drill preferred.  Apply J. Coghlan, 311, Geo.-st.".


Messrs Dalveen and Coonan no longer seemed in association with Mr Coghlan when all waited on the Minister for Mines in 1888, wishing him to speed up lease grant before Lands Department action might alienate coal mining by closer settlement, as detailed above.  In the 1800s numerous parties were engaging in the seeking of applying for permission to mine for coal over large areas.  As just one example, at the same time as Mr Coglan was exploring and promoting the Narrabeen area, T. F. Jackson, J. W. Manson, and others had applied for coal over 4,480 acres at Lake Macquarie.


The drilling in the first hole went to 1985 ft total depth [or 1,998 ft according to Mines Department Annual Report. 1887, p. 137; and the Evening News of 22 July 1890, page 8, stated 1,980 ft.], and did not reach the coal measures.  It might have terminated only about 100ft short of its goal of striking coal(?).  One Mines Department map, which has probably followed the same  lat/long record as shown on a data card illustrated above, had the drill hole site at the mouth of the creek (the Lat/Long goven actually plots in the lake).  Edgeworth David depicted it as having been up Deep Creek, on the right bank looking upstream.  


This first drill hole was in 1885 and the natural gas encountered was apparently in sufficient quantity for domestic use according to various mentions  (and was analysed as N2 and CH4).


The drilling recorded the following the depths stated to formational bases:  sand (20'), black mud ('loam') and peat (38'), clay in alternate red and yellow bands (68'), sand full of shells and cockles (70'), sand on Hawkesbury Sandstone (100') [fide T.W.E. Edgeworth David 1890], etc.  A second hole was sunk to 1,200 ft (or slightly over 1,200 ft according to Ann. Rep. 1889, Appendix L; and the Evening News of 22 July 1890, page 8, stated it as 1,200 ft.).


Swancott (n.d., 93) mentioned that "At 90' down, the drill penetrated a 10' deep bed of oyster shells, indicating a subsidence at some time" - not apparent in the above description (the ?first hole), so this may have been in the second hole.  A 1933 letter on the matter (shown below) also has it that a bed of shells was penetrated "at a depth of 90 ft", but that states the bed was only 2'6" thick, not ten feet thick as in Swancott.


Swancott's account states "Non bituminous coal was found at 1900'.   At 1200' an inflow of natural gas occurred".   The latter figure is also the depth of the second hole. 


More of John Coghlan's coal holdings at Narrabeen Lagoon, this 532 acre lease being along Middle Creek.  ML 1134 was Lease 515 under the Mining Act of the time and was applied for in February 1888 and cancelled in 1892.  

John Coghlan died possibly about 1900.  As founder of the Australian Diamond Rock Drill Company, which drilling method he was the first to introduce to Australia, and did a great deal towards the discovery of coal at various places.  The early bores at Stockton, Teralba, Camp Creek, Port Hacking, Holt-Sutherland, Hoorebank, Heathcote, Moore Park and Rose Bay, were all put flown by him, as well as the bores at Narrabeen Lagoon.  It was also him who suggested the eventually successful drilling site at Sydney Harbour.  


According to later desciption the gas encountered in the first drillhole was initially noticed when drawing the rods from 1,650 ft.  (Upper Narrabeen Group).   But note that the 1888 newspaper long article about natural gas discovery states "After boring for two or three years, probing 1556ft. down and finding no trace of coal, the miners observed an inflammable vapour exhaling from the side of the bore" (1,560 possibly got confused as 1,650 over time - and some other mentions/rewrites also suggest this). .


The gas was apparently collected and used on a small scale for domestic purposes.  Rather strangely, the then Chief Government Geologist, Mr. C. S. Wilkinson (Mines Department Annual Report, 1889, page 198) suggested that the gas derived from the Quaternary lake sediments.   Equally surprisingly, Edgeworth David in 1890 (Annual Report for 1890, p. 236) also thought likewise.   The gas was mainly methane (46%) and nitrogen (43%).   Gas from the No.2 bore was rather similar, a little richer in methane (54% methane and 45% nitrogen).


The Commonwealth asked the State about the matter in 1933 (Letter of 26 September 1933.  WCR 02) and as noted, the Department at that time seems to have had "considerable" data in regard to this Narrabeen drilling.   In searching for the original data there was suspicion that some may have been in books related to lease records that were discarded due to water damage sustained when records were stored at the Department's Chemical Laboratory in Lidcombe(?).


A little later (same report, WCR 02) the "90 ft" becomes "190 feet" - a mistake.



A rather amateurish or routh diagram by Edgeworth David in Mines Department Annual Report about these Narrabeen bores.


The strangely amateurish looking diagram by David above, plus that he thought gas was from shells bed is a bit surprising, and may suggest that he had not closely thought about the matter(?).  However, it might have been what got David interested in later investigating Narrabeen Lagoon's Quaternary himself.   Using a borrowed hand bore coupled to student labour, David managed to penetrate down to a very respectable depth (with such primitive methods) of 24m.  This was done near Pittwater Road Bridge at the sand barrier there, and they "bottomed" on apparently stilff sediment (difficult to drill further in?) which had tree roots and a Casuarina cone - early obtained evidence of our "coastal submergence".   Yet the The European Ice Age cycles were well known by 1904 so why did not David recognise that option?   Later on this was re-interpreted as evidence not of submergence of the land, but that the sea had withdrawn due the last great ice age.


The gas perhaps wasn't entirely forgotten about locally.  In 1939 the Minister for Mines and others witnessed a divination for oil at Narrabeen by a Mr. McAndrews.  Mr McAndrews used willow tree forks.  It's not recorded what the Minister thought but one of the mines department men whio was present seemed decidedly unimpressed, even though he could offer no explanation for the behaviour of the rod which Mr McAndrews claimed was bending to indicate oil presence there.


The main water area of the lagoon, ca. 2 sq km, is also known as the "central basin".   On the eastern flank the elongate barrier/back-barrier sand expanse occupies 1.5 sq km.   The area at the mouth, of about 0.5 sq km acts as probably as a fluvial-bayhead tidal delta.    In the above photo a tongue of apparent seawards sand influx  forces the course of the outgoing stream somewhat to the west.


For clearance purposes, and for commencial production in the past, considerable sand has likely been dredged from the lagoon (quantities not ascertained at present).  In recent years the sand from clearance operations near the entrance has been placed as replenishment supply onto the Collaroy/Narrabeen Beach which has a long history of coastal erosion fears.


The lagoon is mostly less than 2m depth.   Deeper holes, up to 8m deep, may be where there was past commercial dredging for sand.



Everything must be divided in three - even the Narrabeen Lagoon.  Hence we have from east to west:  1)  Eastern Channel (clean sand), 2) Central Basin (muddy sand) and 3) Western Basin (sandy mud except for Deep Creek Delta which is clean sand).   Five creeks enter the lagoon, counterclockwise:  Mullet, Nareen, Deep, Deep, Middle and South Creeks.  The name Narrabeen Creek has also been used - mostly for Deep Creek, occasionally for Middle Creek.

The western basin is large and shallow, with average depth of about 1 metre.  It is the primary receiving water of three major tributaries of Narrabeen Lagoon, namely Deep Creek, Middle Creek and South Creek, which combined, drain approximately 70% of the total Narrabeen Lagoon catchment.   The central basin was dredged extensively from the 1920s through to the mid 1980s.  While some of the central basin escaped the dredging, most is now between 2 and 6 metres deeper than the original depths. The eastern channel has also undergone extensive dredging since the 1920s, with typical depths now about 2 to 4 metres below mean water level.


Narrabeen Lagoon depth.


In the bathymetry of the lake there are three distinct deep holes.   These possibly relate to three distinct commercial sand extraction operations in the past(?).  Supposedly millions of tons of sand have been extracted, and search for the records is continuing. 

unway-like dredging configuration desired by the sailing club.   The "dog-leg channel" is a narrow channel (approximately 1–1.5m deep and 10m wide) extending approximately 40 metres westward, and then approximately 90 southwards that has been made by some previous unknown operator.


Showing cuspate lesions around the edge of the sandy shallows that the seagrass patches grow on.  These are presumably caused by dredging.


DredgingNarrabeen Lagoon has had commercial sand extraction from the 1911 to 1985 (Patterson Britton and Partners 1998), although 1960s details are the earliest found.  By 1985, the bed level of the whole eastern channel had been lowered by about 2-3 metres and much of the central basin lowered, with a noteworthy deep hole area of 200 m radius off Wimbledon Island had been dredged to a depth of about 6 m.  Presumably there might have been a dredging base as Wimbledon Island but who dredged that deep hole is not yet known.


 E.G. Stone held a 20 years dredging licence for the lake, from 1933, but what he actually did remains uncertain.  There is  mention of dredging four acres near the lagoon entrance and of wishing to recover shell there (but that particular application was withdrawn)Garl.  I was informed that Stone definitely did do some dredging - but when, where and how is not yet known.


In 1934 (The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 December 1934, p. 11) an article stated "Referring to the recent discussion on the effects of certain dredging to be carried out by a company in Narrabeen Lake, Mr. E. G. Stone, consulting engineer, states in a letter to the Editor that the dredging lease was granted after an inquiry held by the warden, that the granting of the lease was supported by the Warringah Shire, and that no objections were raised by any of the Government departments that were consulted. Dredging of sand from the lake's bottom for reclamation purposes has already been carried out by private individuals to the extent of many millions of tons. The effect of the dredging, says Mr. Stone, has been to improve the lake: in fact, the part where it has been carried out is the only place where boats can move with- out danger and where fishing success is a certainty. The dredging proposed to be car- ried out by his company would be through areas which at low tide are filthy morasses of decaying seaweed, especially the part between the two bridges. At present it is only by following certain channels that boats can reach their destinations. The channel which the company proposes to create will alter this condition of things, and will add to the pleasure of the public. Besides giving em- ployment to local and other unemployed, the work will create a beauty spot of greater interest than at present".


I came upon mentions of dredging in the Lagoon in 1967-1968, not for sand production but for putting directly ashore via a 4" suction dredge for purposes of reclamation.   This was done at both especially at the southern side of the Lagoon and the owner of the dredge was stated to be Warringah Shire Council.  Some dredging was carried out in 1950-1970 by Council to reclaim foreshore reserves (including Jamieson Park and Billarong Reserve).  In 1967 it was also intended to do similar on the northern side of the lagoon, and fill in low patches within the 'North Narrabeen' recreation area.  However, it is not certain to what extent (if at all) the intended filling along the north side with sand from the lagoon was ever carried out, for in 1967 the Shire Councillors were dismissed and an Administrator appointed (one of three times up till then that councils had been replaced by an Administrator in the northern beaches area).   In October 1967 the Administrator, Mr. C.J. Barnett, apparently put the plans for the northern side of the lagoon on indefinite hold.   Strangely though, there is also from 1968 record of a company Warringah Earth Moving and Plant Hire Pty. Ltd. also working with a "4" suction dredge", operating off Robertson Street.   It was getting sand to sell for concrete making.  Perhaps this was the same plant that the Council had been operating and the 'strange' coincidence might mean that the Administrator sold off the Council's dredge.  The same company as was dredging then also has been noted as doing minor quarrying at Belrose.   This company may have later changed names to Warringah Sand and Gravel Supplies Pty Ltd. which later dredged at Narrabeen Lagoon for years, under manager K. Fear.  It generally engaged just two men in doing this, and was mostly selling the sand to concrete makers like Readymix.  The lower grade sand was sold or disposed of for filling purposes.


 Later on, in 1971-1975 sand was extracted from the Lagoon by another two man dredging operation, with Council back in control, and with the sand being produced for its own use only.  This was apparently done under a permissive occupancy permission from the State Government(?).   At the same time, in 1972, the Council formed the Narrabeen Lagoon Investigation Committee, which would advise about future dredging.  When the Council resumed dredging in 1977 and 1980 it had been advised about the ill-effects of damaging marginal reed beds etc, and a resolution had been made in 1977 to cease any more of the former reclamation work done with sand dredged from the lagoon  was advised.  The Council was dredging to the west of Warringah Sand and Gravel Supplies' dredge operations.


Part of the lagoon seen to have been silted up in 1977, at which time some estimated the lagoon might be fully silted up by end of the century.  The Council resolved to keep on with the necessity of dredging.

The extensive and prolonged dredging has resulted in the creation of some distinct holes, 2 to 6m deeper than the original lagoon bed in the central basin and between 2 and 4 m deeper in the eastern channel.


Warringah Sand and Gravel Supplies - One of the main sand miners at Narrabeen Lagoon.  Operated 1970-1985 via a dredge and floating pipe line to shore.   This is possibly the same company as commenced operations there as early as the 1960s under the name of Warringah Earthmoving and Plant Hire Pty Ltd and had a variety of interests including quarrying at Belrose and elsewhere.   The main sand stockpiling and despatch yard on shore was at the western end of Robertson Street.  The sand was bought mainly for concrete use.  The one or two operations ongoing in the 1970s was of relatively small scale, each employing 2-3 men.  Dredge capacity was about 1000 cubic yards per week.  The Manager in 1973-1979 was Mr K. Fear.   Production had increased to 2000t per week in 1974.   The  commercial sandmining may have ended in the latest 1970s or early 1980s.  It was still operating in 1981.   The similarly named "Warringah Gravel and Stone Company Pty Ltd was in 1978-1980 ripping and crushing sandstone at Crozier Road, Belrose, in part for supply to the DMR for widening of Warringah Road and Mona Vale Road, and also supplying Warringah Council.   After the government contracts ceased in 1981 it reported there was little demand for the quarry's crushed sandstone.  That seems to be the same time that it stopped dredging at Narrabeen Lagoon(?).  The Warringah Sand and Gravel plant and processing area were likely removed in 1985.


Warringah Council's role in dredging - The commercial dredging of the lagoon in the 1970s might have been encouraged by Council in order to help alleviate flooding of properties near the mouth of the lagoon (suggested by RTA File 479).   After cessation of commercial sand dredging operations, Warringah Council has been the main party concerned with the production and use of dredging or excavation sand in the area.  According to the Narrabeen Lagoon Plan of Managerment (p. 33) Warringah Shire Council carried out dredging in the central basin in the 1950s and 1960s to create Jamieson Park and Bilarong Reserve.   Where the records may be of who exactly dredged where, and when, has not yet been ascertained.  There are contradictory statements found.  For example, the Narrabeen Lagoon Plan of Management states "Dredging ceased in the 1970s due to the restrictions imposed by the Clean Waters Act 1970" but eslewhere dredging record through to the 1980s are found.   In 1982 Warringah Shire Council proposed increased dredging, to produce 4.8 Mt of sand from Narrabeen Lagoon.  An EIS for the proposal was prepared by J.H. and E.S. Laxton.    The proposal was to dredge to a depth of 6m.  The sand has 5-8% shell fragment content, rendering it of limited suitability apart from filling and general purpose concrete.  


Such an amount of sand extraction has not yet happened but since 1975, Warringah Council has carried out maintenance dredging near the entrance of the lagoon at approximately three year intervals.  Each such operation usually removes about 20,000 cubic metres of sand.


Most of the sand Council obtains it has placed on Narrabeen Beach, and sometimes other locations, for beach renourishment.  In the latest such entrance maintenance dredging, during 2006, more than usual sand was removed, approximately 45,000 cubic metres.


Warringah Council ( Dr Alicia Loveless, Senior Environmental Officer) has supplied the following list of dates pertinent to the sand barrier and dredging in the lagoon:


1975 Birdwood Park dunes built

1977 Community push for regional park and recreational use

1979 Power boat and water ski ban enacted

1979 & 1983  Dredging of entrance shoal for flushing.  Rock and concrete retaining walls built

1985 Warringah Sand and Gravel decommissioned and Wimbledon Island revegetated and renamed

1978-2013  Continuous community pressure to dredge and address siltation

1985-2013  Periodic mechanical opening of entrance for water level management

2005 Narrabeen Lagoon Summit suggests there is a need for “carefully planned and carefully implemented dredging”

2006 Narrabeen Lagoon Restoration Project is proposed by key users and seeks to dredge 120,000 m3 of material from central and western basins

2008 Scientific studies reveal no environmental benefit and high risk of environmental impact in the scope of works proposed Restoration Project.

2009 Council investigates benefits and impacts of a refined dredging scope of works targeting 30,000 m3 in designated areas to enhance kayaking and sailing

2011 Draft Plan of Management provide legislative framework to dredge Narrabeen Lagoon to enhance recreation use

2012 Broader community supports selective dredging provided there is no significant environmental impact

2012 Council Environmental Sustainability Strategic Reference Group (SRG) recommends smallest possible disturbance and no net loss of potential seagrass habitat in the selective dredging project.

2013 Council undertakes feasibility assessment of community preferred dredging options


Dredging is covered in:


* Warringah Council 2013. Interim Report on Narrabeen Lagoon Recreational Dredging (see item 9.5 of the Council report):


* Warringah Council 2013. Interim Report on Narrabeen Lagoon Recreational Dredging Attachment (see item 9.5 of the Council report): http://www.warringah.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/meetings/create-meeting/attachment-booklet-2-ordinary-council-20130423-web.pdf

* Warringah Council 2011 Draft Narrabeen Lagoon Plan of Management http://yoursaywarringah.com.au/narrabeenlagoonpom

* Narrabeen Lagoon Estuary Management Plan http://yoursaywarringah.com.au/document/show/111

* Narrabeen Lagoon Recreational Dredging information page and FAQs http://yoursaywarringah.com.au/nlrecdredging

Comparison of the first hydrographic survey in 1911 and the most recent hydrographic survey in 2005 indicates that bed levels have not changed greatly except for becoming deeper in those areas that have been dredged in the past. Many in the community are surprised to learn that the change in depth that people have experienced is due to the entrance to the lagoon being kept open, rather than a significant "silting up" of the lagoon.

The 2005 "Narrabeen Lagoon Summit" was held wth Local and State Government representatives, the community and environmental organisations.  It discussed the need to formally examine the merits of selective dredging. The Narrabeen Lagoon Restoration Project was established to (among other objectives) formally investigate dredging of the 'Central Basin' of the lagoon. Subsequent scientific investigations found that there would be no environmental benefits to the proposed dredging and that, alarmingly, large areas of seagrass would likely be impacted or killed.   This was concluded in a 2008 report by BMT, WBM and Cardno Ecology Lab.


It was clear that the dredging proposals being considered were unlikely to have environmental benefits and would not be supported. It therefore became necessary to find alternative pathways to progress dredging specifically for "recreational benefit".  In 2009, Council investigated (in partnership with key stakeholders) a much reduced dredging proposal for recreational purposes.  This approval pathway required a Plan of Management to be prepared under the Crown Lands Act 1989. This approach was confirmed by the then Minister for Lands in July 2010. Council prepared, adopted and submitted the Draft Narrabeen Lagoon Plan of Management (PoM) to the Minister for Primary Industries in October 2011.  In mid 2013 Council was still now awaiting approval by the Minister of the PoM to make dredging of the Lagoon permissible.  At least it is thought that the Minister has not approved it (another reference, by the consultation consultant, stated that it was pending "Ministerial Gazettal).   In the meantime, Council has continued to progress the project, e.g. doing feasibilty and costing, and undertaking community consultationas described below:

1.   Stage 1 Community Consultation - investigation of the wider community’s preference for selective dredging. 

A majority (51%) of the community and stakeholders supported dredging selected areas of the lagoon. A high proportion of the community (81%) believe it is important that there are no environmental impacts from dredging. In essence, it was evident that the community are supportive of dredging but that dredging must proceed in an environmentally responsible way.  In July 2012, Council resolved to proceed with Stage 2 and investigate the environmental feasibility and cost/benefit of selective recreational dredging.

2.   Stage 2 Feasibility Assessment - investigation of the environmental and financial feasibility, recreational benefit, risks and impacts of recreational dredging.

Stage 2 commenced in September 2012. A short-list of potentially environmentally feasible dredging options was developed and presented to Council on 23 April 2013.  A cost/benefit, risk and impact assessment is now underway. A final list of recommendations on recreational dredging will be presented to Council by December 2013.

Following the completion of Stage 2, Council may decide to proceed to Stage 3 Environmental Approvals and Works.  Council will need to seek approval and financial contributions from Local, State and Federal Government for Stage 3 to be realised.

The following reports exist relevant to the recretational dredging planning:

* Narrabeen Lagoon Community Consultation Outcomes Report (pdf) (6 MB)

* Minutes Council 24 June 2012 Item 8.1 Lagoon Dredging (pdf) (39 KB)

* Narrabeen Lagoon Recreational Dredging Brochure (pdf) (300 KB)

* Potential Dredging Scenarios (DOC) (9 MB)

* Previous Dredging Proposal (DOC) (2 MB)

* Narrabeen Lagoon Plan of Management (PDF) (6 MB)

* Narrabeen Lagoon Bed Levels (jpg) (919 KB)

* Mayoral Minute 20 2011 Narrabeen Lagoon Dredging 20110823 (pdf) (82 KB)

* Narrabeen Lagoon Estuary Management Plan (pdf) (8 MB)

* Narrabeen Lagoon Restoration Project - Potential Ecological Impacts of Re-Profiling Work (pdf) (4 MB)

* Narrabeen Lagoon Central Basin Recreation Channel Feasibility Assessment (pdf) (8 MB)


Although there has been a very large amount of planning documentation on all this, the actual sampling work on biota, and especially on sediments, has been small.  For example potential acid sulphate sediment problems have often been mention but zero sampling undertaken.  Planning for central basin dredging states "Narrabeen Lagoon is surrounded by areas considered to be at high risk for acid sulphate soil. There is consequently a substantial risk of acid contamination  if the underlying sediments disturbed or exposed by dredging are potential acid sulphate soils. SMEC noted that monosulphides and monosulphitic black oozes that commonly form in coastal estuarine areas and tend to accumulate at the bottom of waterways can give rise to severe acidification and severe deoxygenation of the water when mobilised".  That may all be so but why there would be consequently a substantial risk of acid contamination  if the underlying sediments disturbed or exposed by dredging is not explained (why would acid sulphate soils be expected to go below sealevel here) and nowhere was it tested to see if they were really there or not.   A series of reports stated similar, one copying from the other - but with nobody actually testing sediments.  Thus it seems unknown if anything like "monosulphides and monosulphitic black oozes that commonly form in coastal estuarine areas" are present at Narrabeen or not.

The extensive community consultation in all this showed there was widespread community misconception about planning approval processes, and that Council could "approve dredging as it has done in the past" (nor was it clear that the consultant explaining things to the public had things perfectly clear either?  It was stated that "Dredging of natural waterways without consent is only permissible if it is for environmental protection works, not recreational purposes).  Some of the public were frustrated over funding for previous dredging projects having seemingly been re-allocated.   Community perceptions vary according to how questions are asked.  For example, 81% thought it important that there be "no environmenal effects" from dredging, yet there must be some effects and by slight majority (51%) the community approved that dredging proceed.   About a quarter of the community contacted had no idea - neither supported nor opposed "selective dredging".   Some who did not support dredging thought that dredging would only allow/encourage more users of the lagoon and hence bring more adverse human impact on it.   The extent of dredging which Council consulted upon was estimated to cost $1.3M.

Collected comments included opposites.  E.g. one said dredging should not fill in the existing deep holes but another said "to fill in the deep anaerobic holes would be a bonus".   A misconception was widespread that dredging the lagoon would "restore its depth to what it once was".   This idea that if not dredged the lagoon might silt up in a few decades and not be there is very common but apparently not supported by available old survey data.  However, comparisons of historical hydrosurveys indicate that siltation rates were high during the 1960s and 1970s.  The rates have reduced considerably since that time.

One remarked that there was "considerable silting especially where Middle and Deep Creek enter", however those are deltas and have 'always' existed.   One suggested that instead of dredging being done at any ratepayer expense by Council it should be arranged for a private operator to do it, who could sell the sand (that commentator likely did not know the larger picture, or what the sand was wanted for?).

If the greater sediment transport (generally undoubted) resultant from suburban development in the catchment has not silted the lagoon then were is it?   Some may be in the creek channels?   The Academy of Sports and Recreation reported that Middle Creek has become too shallow for regular use any more, whereas prior to 1998 it was being used regularly.   The top of the Deep Creek delta sand body may also have risen as boats now have to be dragged over that so generally only very light boats will get into Deep Creek itself - in contrast with old photos showing more sizeable boats up the creek.

The National Parks Association submitted that shallow areas have always been there since prehistory, that the sand will not move fast, and that it is a misconception that the lagoon was filling up.   This was most in contrast to the views of the Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment.   NPAA was specifically against dredging the creek deltas.

Regarding the effectiveness of entrance mainenance dredging, in 1993, John Murtagh (NSW Public Works, Manly Hydraulics Laboratory) and Heather Nelson (Waningah Shire Council) addressed the 11th Australasian Conference on Coastal and Ocean Engineering ("Coastal Engineering a Partnership with Nature") with a paper on "Sand Fluidisation Scheme Pilot Study".  This described a a pilot sand fluidisation scheme for maintaining a perennially open entrance at Narrabeen Lagoon.   The trial results were not greatly encouraging compared with other options considered.  These were to excavate down to a rock shelf entrance and install walls to allow more "formalised" mechanical breakout and entrance clearance operations.  According to Council, the lagoon entrance is over "a rock shelf", which has  presumably been examined by drilling.


Contemporary views on desirable sand relocation - Contemporary views of what is desirable for the area focus both on perceived marine erosion dangers along Narrabeen Beach as well as claimed silting up of the lagoon.  A complementary solution to both problems would be large scale sand movement from lagoon to beach.   Phil Colman, a former Warringah councillor and marine expert, has been interested in Narrabeen Lagoon for years.  He believes it is threatened most by sediment buildup and diminishing water level.  This he largely attributes to increased runoff from building development in the higher parts of the surrounding catchment area.   There has been a "massive increase in sediment being transferred to the lagoon'' Mr Colman thinks.  This may well be so, although no data have been sighted.

Along the beach storm erosion has many times been seen.  In 2001 storm seas, estimated to have waves up to 14 m high. eroded for about 100 m into North Narrabeen Beach, leaving a 2m high  scarp at their limit of reach.  According to Dr Ian Turner, deputy director of the University of NSW Water Research Laboratory, this beach is the "No. 1 erosion spot in metropolitan Sydney."  Professor Andrew Short, Director of the Coastal Studies Unit at the University of Sydney, is another who has been in favour of the plan for putting a large amount of sand (a million cubic metres or more) onto Narrabeen Beach.  Such an amount of "nourishment" could widen it by as much as 50 m.   The usefulness and desirability of beach renourishment has been widely accepted although not by all.  In 2002, following some dredging of lagoon sand and its transfer to the beach, at its southern end, one local remarked on what "a futile waste of time and money the recent sand dredging has been".  On checking the beach shortly afterwards there seemed to be no remant of the sand dumped there and some thought it just washes out to sea rather than staying on the beach.

To gain greater certainty of what was happening with the beach, in 2005 a number of cameras were installed for contant monitoring.  A bank of nine cameras watch the  3.5 km long stretch of beach and every hour take pictures.

One curious discovery that emerged from the beach monitoring is that the Collaroy to North Narrabeen beach line "rotates" on a regular cycle.  Every two to seven years North Narrabeen gets wider as Collaroy narrows. Then, two to seven years later, the pattern reverses. Each cycle the beaches grow by or lose up to 80 m width of sand.  Turner suspects the cycle is climatic.  As the climate shifts, so does the direction of offshore winds, which in turn change the direction of waves that pound the beaches. A change in wave direction of only "a couple of degrees" is thought to be enough to trigger the next swing.  However, the data collected from Turner's cameras, combined with 30 years of beach mapping records collected by Professor Andrew Short, director of the University of Sydney's coastal studies unit, find that there is an "unusually large amount of sand compared with the last 30 years".  Overall there has been fall off in severe erosive events.  Fierce coastal storms were once regular events, striking at least once a decade, but there have been less since the 1970s.


About Deep Creek

The Parish map, shown above, shows two large blocks, each of 640 acres, extending from Deep Creek to Mona Vale Road.   These must have later come under common ownership for the Sydney Morning Herald of 21 December 1912 (page 12) states:  "For £1280 (subject to approval) 1280 acres of land at Narrabeen were sold by Messrs. Raine and Horne this week.  The north-western portions of this land is served by a road leading off the Lane Cove-road, immediately at the bottom of Tumble-down Dick Hill; and the south-eastern portion of the land has an extensive frontage to a navigable creek, known locally as Deep Creek, running into Narrabeen Lagoon".

Prior to the commencement of Stone's works at Deep Creek there is scant indication of anyone living there.  However in December 1934 there was a surf rescue at Narrabeen Beach on a person recorded as "Ronald Bowyer, 25, of Deep Creek, Narrabeen".   This however is likely misreporting, since the following year there appeared (SMH, 24 September 1935, p. 9): "BOWYER.-The Relatives and Friends of Mr. R. BOWYER, of Deep Creek-road, Narrabeen, are kindly invited to attend the Funeral of his dearly heloved WIFE. Beatrice Bowyer, which will leave the Prince Henry Auxiliary Hospital. Randwick. THIS TUESDAY, at l p.m, for the Church of England Cemetery, Botany.".

Camping / picnicing (fishing)

There's a date of 26-11-87 carved on a rock at Deep Creek which suggests that excursionists were going there as early as 1887 (and the 1880s coal-seeking drillers may well have been there.  However, the earliest documented record so far found of people visiting the place in a recreational manner is 1898.

Aboriginal men in boat on Narrabeen lagoon, c 1905.  (Photo:  a116488, State Library of NSW)    Several native fish species  live in Narrabeen Lagoon and up the creeks, including freshwater, estuarine and marine species.  For photos of such see   http://www.warringah.nsw.gov.au/environment/fish-n-macro.aspx

Some of the earliest found proponents of Deep Creek as a good recreational place were bicycle clubs.

In November 1898 the North Sydney Bicycle Club announced a ride to visit to Deep Creek, Narrabeen, departing after 9:30 a.m. at the Power House

The Club must have liked Deep Creek since In November 1899 it announced that it would hold an all-day picnic to Deep Creek, Narrabeen Lakes the following week (on the Prince of Wales Birthday).   They stated that boats had boen engaged at Narrabeen to convey them to the creek, and that "As this is a most ideal and popular spot, a very large muster is expected".   The following year the Redfern cycling club also went there.

The above shows that Deep Creek was already popular by 1899.   Perhaps no road at all went to it at that time along the shore from Narrabeen as the cyclists could otherwise have riden there - yet they organised for boats to convey them to the creek.

For some years most mentions of Deep Creek are about persons going there by boat, to fish.  Picnicing is evident too, by 1914.

Bob Evans family picnicing at Deep Creek, ca. 1914.  They rowed there.   ( Photo:  Warringah Library )

In December 1915 it was reported that William Davidson, 64 years of age, a blacksmith of Narrabeen, was found hanging by a rope around the neck from the Deep Creek Bridge, Narrabeen.    This was clearly suicide.  Mr Davidson about four months ago had thrown himself into the sea.  He had not died as he was washed ashore by the sea.  

This reported suicide shows that by 1915 a road had been constructed to, and across Deep Creek.   Following that we find reports commencing of camping at Deep Creek.

By 1920 (or before) families were likely picnicing at Deep Creek.   In 1920 a man (F.C. Cooke of Mortlake) advertised that a child's bracelet was found there - no doubt hoping to return it.

The first known-of camp held at Deep Creek was in 1920.  It was an anniverary week-end camp in connection with tho boys' division of tho Sydney Y.M.C.A.   At that time the Y.M.C.A. was also looking for a site on the coast, near Sydney, to equip with "all facilities for camping exercise and entertainment".

The next camp at Deep Creek was in 1925, by 130 boys of the Methodist Order of Knights, "a secret society founded on the traditions of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table".

In 1926 the Boy Scouts camped at Deep Creek.   Whilst there they saved a man, Tom Moffatt, from drowning.  "I congratulate you on your very gallant act," said Sir Dudley de Chair, at Government House, as he presented the gilt medal of merit for bravery to Patrol-Leader Cecil Thompson, of the Second Dulwich Hill troop of Boy Scouts, in connection with the rescue of Tom  from drowning, while the Boy Scouts were camped there.

In 1927 a camp of about 100 Boy Scouts was again held at Deep Creek.

In  November 1927 there was discovery of the remains of a man judged to have been about 60 years of age in a cave above Deep Creek.  The discovery was made by a member of a picnic party.   Death was probably from natural causes.  The body was dressed in a blue serge coat and vest, dark grey tweed trousers, a white shirt with dark stripes, and a plain woollen undershirt, black lace-up boots, and brown woollen socks, and a dark green felt hat.  A note in the clothing read "Taff Jones, 45 years, coalminer's sickness, Cardiff, South Wales." 

In 1929 at a picnic party a ten year old boy, Ralph Cobley Stephen, drowned in about 5ft of water at Deep Creek.  Apparently he had stepped from a sand bank into deep water.   This was the first of what would be several recorded drownings in Deep Creek.

In 1936 Mrs. Mary Elizabeth May McWhinney (60), was drowned when a rowing boat capsized in Deep Creek.  Mr. Arthur Ernest Higgs was given a medal for endeavouring to save her.

In September 1950, a three year old boy, Ronald Stanley Roach, drowned in about six feet of water in Deep Creek. 

In August 1994 Stephen Dempsey was shot with a bow and arrow down at Deep Creek.  He was killed by a psychopath who then cut up his body and took it home and kept it in the freezer for four months.  It took him two trips on his motorcycle to transport the parts.  This killer, Richard Leonard, also murdered a taxi driver, Ezzedine Bahmad., at Collaroy Plateau three months after he killed Stephen.  At Dempsey's trial, Justice Badgery-Parker who said Mr Dempsey was killed "for no motive that any rational mind can discern".  He also said there was strong evidence that some months earlier Leonard had pointed his bow and arrow in a similar fashion at two men who turned and fled into the undergrowth ( http://www.pew.com.au/pew-articles/1997/11/11/smiling-killer-winks-at-victims-mum ).  Justice Badgery-Parker accepted psychiatrist Dr Bruce Westmore's description of Leonard as a psychopath.  When Stephen's remains were found, dumped into water at Pittwater, an arrowhead was discovered in the heart.  When police released that information, five people rang up and nominated a particular person as being someone who had spent time down at Deep Creek carrying a bow and arrow.  The police searched on that name - Richard Leonard - and found he had been admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital with stab wounds two hours after the taxi driver was knifed to death at Collaroy Plateau.  Leonard used to spend time at Deep Creek looking for snakes.  He had a history of sadistic cruelty to animals, and had worked at an abattoirs.  He once talked about killing his parents.  Leonard was obsessed with militaria, knives, bows and arrows, and sadistic practices.  Before the taxi-driver killing he was living with Denise Shipley, a devil-worshipper, and they were into the occult and books on horror killings.  


West of Deep Creek - and land E.G. Stone established himself on

This land around Deep Creek now apprears to be all in Reserves for a good way up the creek.  Formerly it was private property since the 1840s or earlier.  How it got to be Reserves, and when, is still not known despite many enquiries to what seemed like relevant government sources.  The following compiled history, as so far known of, comes mostly from TROVE.

80 acres west of Deep Creek - The Sydney Morning Herald of Saturday 27 April 1912 (page 6) records:  APPLICATIONS having been made to bring the lands hereunder described under the provisions of the Real Property Act, Certificates of Indefeasible Title will issue, unless Caveats be lodged in accordance with the Third Schedule  of the said Act on or before the 29th May, 1912 .......No. 17,637. APPLICANTS:-George Scales and David  Lindsay Aitken, both Sydney.  LAND - County Cumberland, Parish Manly Cove, shire Warringah, 96 acres 2 roods 7 1/4 acres (sic / perches), on Narrabeen Creek, near Narrabeen Lagoon, land granted as 30 acres (portion 51 of parish), to James Wheeler, and 50 acres (portion 48 of parish), to John William Alexander White, adjoining property of estate late T.H. Kelly  and Crown Land" - Land Titles Office.   Stone's activities were in eastern part of Por. 48.

Wheeler's block might be the 30 acres offered for sale at the upset price by the Colonial Treasury in 1844 (Sydney Morning Herald, 29 April 1844, p. 4).  It was not bought and was offered again a number of times up till September 1844.   It was advertised for sale in the Sydney Morning Herald on 26 August (p. 11) as lot 7 of 18 lots of land, some around Narrabeen,   This was the disposal of the estate of "James Wheeler of Narrabeen".  The adjoining 50 acre block was offered for auction on 9 April 1842 (p.4), and seems to have been land previously selected to purchase but never completed on(?).  It was acquired by John William Alexander White who also had land elsewhere (e.g. Lime Kiln Bay, Georges River).  


The total 80 acres (Pors. 48 and 51) shown above (actually estimated later as 96 acres), is found to have later belonged jto co-owners George Scales and David  Lindsay Aitken, both of Sydney - as revealed when they applied to have it converted to Torrens Title.   PA (Primary Application) 17637 by George Scales & David Lindsay Aitken - 96 acres on Narrabeen Creek near Narrabeen Lagoon, Shire Warringah, Parish Manly Cove, is at State Records in primary application packets series (series  ) 



On 1 January 1863 the Torrens Title system was introduced to NSW with the commencement of the Real Property Act of 1862 (26 Vic No.9). The system was designed by Robert Richard Torrens for the South Australian Land Title Registry following his appointment as Registrar, and was based on a system for insuring shipping used by Lloyds of London. The Torrens Title system used a single register for each land holding which recorded all details and interests affecting the land including easements, covenants, mortgages, resumptions, caveats, and subsequent changes in ownership. (1)

To convert land from Old System to Torrens Title required lodgement of an Application with all supporting documentation evidencing title listed on an attached Schedule and then lodged in packets with the Registrar General. The form of the application was specified in Schedule A of the Real Property Act of 1862 and in the Second Schedule of the Real Property Act, 1900. (2) Section 14 of the 1862 Act and Section 16 of the 1900 Act required the applicant to surrender instruments of title and to furnish an abstract of title if required. It also required a schedule of such instruments to be submitted. (3)

NRS 17513, Primary Application Packets was originally one series which has since been split into three parts. The Packets once contained the Primary Application form which has since been extracted and is now NRS 13012, Primary Applications. Various documents required to be submitted with the primary application were also extracted and now form the series NRS 13011, Documents relating to Primary Applications.

Primary Application Packets contain a variety of records including registered deeds, grants, and original purchase records, examiner’s and surveyor’s reports, lists of investigations and searches made by the Registrar General to validify title, copies of plans, conveyances, mortgage papers, copies of wills and associated papers regarding title to property, solicitor’s correspondence, memoranda of agreements, papers associated with the lodgement of caveats, valuation of the land, submissions from parties claiming an interest in the land, lists of notifications to adjoining property owners, and details of certificates of title issued.

The later records are more ordered listing searches and reports made, details of registered deeds evidencing ownership, conveyances, Plan Lodgement Forms listing details of lodging parties, surveyors, and plans of the property, plus solicitor’s correspondence and copies of maps. Resumption Applications are also included.

A Torrens Title Purchaser’s Index also commenced on 1 January 1863, in book form until 1970 and available on microfiche from 1971, then merging with the Integrated Titling System (ITS) from 4 June 2001. (4) This is held by Land and Property Information New South Wales (formerly the Land Titles Office).

(1) Department of Lands website http://www.lands.nsw.gov.au/land_titles/public_registers/torrens_title_register (accessed 12 March 2007).
(2) Real Property Act of 1862 (26 Vic. No.9) Schedule A; Real Property Act, 1900 (Act No.25, 1900) Second Schedule.
(3) Real Property Act of 1862 (26 Vic. No.9) s.14; Real Property Act, 1900 (Act No.25, 1900) s.16.
(4) Loc. cit. note 1.


The records (not yet viewed) indicate that this land was land titles: Volume 2269 Folios 45 & 46 (which may make further details easily findable at Land Titles Office.   


Nothing about Mr Stone's acquisition of it has yet been located.   


However the presumed partnership of George Scales & David Lindsay Aitken must have been finished, with the death of Mr Scales, by 1922.  We find a law case by his widow (vs. Aitken), presumably seeking George Scales' part of that wealth.    As the case was reported in the Brisbane Courier (13 December 1922, p. 8), Mrs Scales lost, and costs were awarded against her:




SYDNEY, December 12.

The hearing was closed today in the Equity Court of the suit instituted by Mary Scales, a clairvoyant, against David Lindsay Aitken and Joseph Reuben Wolstenholme Battye, as executors and trustees of the estate of her deceased husband, George Scales, in which the plaintiff asked, among other things, for a declaration that the defendants had acquired, as trustee for her, all property, legal or equitable title to which stood in the name of, or was otherwise vested in, her husband's name at the date of his death.  Plaintiff claimed that property of a gross value of £50,000, consisting mostly of real estate, was held by her husband on her behalf.

Mr. Justice Owen said that he did not believe plaintiff's story that she dug up 12,000 sovereigns from her garden and gave them to her husband, nor did he accept her story that large sums of money were put through her hands by mysterious persons.  In his opinion those stories probably were due to plaintiff's imaginations.  He accepted her story that when she was arrested for fortune telling she took out of a pocket in her petticoat £4000 and handed it to her husband.  After carefully considering the whole of the evidence, he came to the conclusion that the suit must be dismissed, with costs against the plaintiff.



In the early part of the Scales case his Honor stated that Mrs Scales was doing herself a grave injustice in attempting to conduct her own case (Sydney Morning Herald, 10 August 1922, p. 5).   This followed when she reportedly went into a trance at Court.  The Western Argus of 8 August 1922 (p. 20) reported "REMARKABLE COURT SCENE - WOMAN IN A TRANCE.  Sydney, Aug. 2. To the amazement of the judge, barristers, and everyone else in the court. Mrs. Mary Scales, clairvoyant, who is contesting the will of her late husband, .went into a trance in the Equity Court today.  She suddenly rose from the solicitors' table, and with a fixed and vacant stare in her eyes, her arms extended before her, and her whole body rigid, she walked slowly and solemnly out of the court. Before the apparently  entranced medium reached the door of the court her women friends rushed to her assistance, and quietly led her outside, where a glass of water revived her. She returned to the court in her normal condition, and the case proceeded. ...... William Giles, an estate agent at Narrabeen  said that the testator, Mr. G. Scales, had told him in 1920 that his wife had dug up £12;000 in gold out of the garden, and that on another occasion she had drawn from a pocket in her skirt £4000 in a bag. "What do you think of a woman like that?" Mr. Scales had asked witness.  Scales said that he did not know where his wife  obtained the £12,000 she had dug up in the garden, nor did he know that she had such a sum. Scales remarked to witness, "I have the best woman in the world."   George Darby, a plumber, told the Court a near identical story, that the deceased. Scales frequented two-up schools and pony racecourses.  Scales related that ho was gambling with bis .wife's money.  The witness remembered Scales telling him that his wife was a great source of wealth to him, and that she had produced 12,000 sovereigns .which, to his amazement, she had buried, in a garden some years before ( The Daily News, 3 August 1922, page 7).  Similarly, Robert Maxwell Daisley, a former police officer, stated that the plaintiff's husband had told him that Mrs. Scales was a wonderful woman, and that once, when he wanted money, she dug up an amount that nearly paralysed him. because he did not know she had a shilling (Chronicle, 5 August 1922, p. 34).    Mary's son, Alfred Daniel Scales, also testified how his mother told him about her having dug up the  £12,000 in the yard near the lily tree at Ashfield (Recorder, 14 August 1922, p. 2) (Alfred Daniel Sales was born in 1886, registered at Glebe, and died in 1966).


This shows George Scales being sometime at Narrabeen, as would be expected - and that, if the tales are true, some money to buy the land came via Mary Scales from unknown sources.  Mary Scales was a very perplexing/unreliable witness it appears.  She spoke in Court about her (out of body?) visits to six different worlds.  She also said that he did not really live with her husband in the last 20 years, and that he had  another wife; in fact he had two others.   Mary apparently had some history of arrest.  If the testimony from Giles, Darby and Mary herself, and her son, was correct about her having amassed 12,000 sovereigns then the source was possibly prostitution but is essentially unknown (she told her son that she made it over the washtub - from washing? - but that would be impossible).  Mary told the court that the box with the 12,000 sovereigns, dug up in 1902, was too heavy for both her and her husband to carry it when they tried to.  The son's testimony showed he doubted if his mother really had dug up such money and given it to his father, because his father had never mentioned it to him.  However, Giles and Darby and  Daisley all testified about her husband having told them the same unlikely-sounding tale -- thereby supporting that he did get money from Mary.  Thus It may be that some rather 'suss' money was investigated in the Deep Creek land before Mr Stone came to be associated with it.   What Scales and Aitken did with the land, if anything, during their ownership of it is not known.


Mary Scales did not give up on this matter, even though defeated at court in Sydney.  After she had died in 1928 the Sydney Morning Herald (5 September 1930, p. 8) published a story on her "£59,000 FORTUNE. - Left by Clairvoyant - LATE MRS. MARY SCALES".   Though unable to read or write (except sign her own name), she not only amassed a considerable fortune, but she made a special trip to England and conducted an appeal before the Privy Council, with some success, after an Equity suit, arising out of her husband's will, brought by her against the executors, had failed, and an appeal from that decision had been dismissed by the Full Court.  Mary Scales married George Scales, a stonemason, who came out from England In 1883.  He had three children by a former  wife. For a time they lived at Ashfield and Canterbury, first in a rough shed built by the husband, and then for 10 years in a house built by him. In their early struggles Mrs. Scales conducted a laundry business, in which her husband assisted, but from 1897 to 1913 she carried on business in Sydney Arcade as a beauty specialist and clairvoyant She saved considerable sums, and from time to time handed money to her husband to invest for her.   After her husband died she claimed that certain property standing in his name had been held by him on her behalf.   During the hearing of that Equity suit, Mrs Scales dramatically told the Court how she had directed her husband to dig up from the garden several thousands of sovereigns, which she said she had planted in a tin beneath the ground.  The judge had declared he did not believe this and decided against her. She then appealed to the Full Court, which also decided against her.  Sill undaunted, she appealed to the Privy Council, which allowed the appeal in respect of £ 4000 and the investment thereof, but said that, in all other respects, the judgment of the Full Court should stand   The Full Court appeal had been in 1923 ( Sydney Morning Herald, 22 May 1923, p. 6).


Two years after Mrs Scale, David Lindsay Aitken also died, in 1930.  He had been a principal of the legal firm of Messrs. David L. Aitken and Barron, and died on 25 July 1930, at the age of 67 years.  He left an estate valued at £13,780 to his widow during her lifetime, and after her death to their children.  Probate of the was granted to his executors and trustees, Duncan Barron, solicitor, and his son, Lindsay S. Aitken ( Sydney Morning Herald, 4 September 1930, p. 6).


It was likely after this, and in early 1930s that the land was put up for sale and Stone purchased it.   Stone presumably paid rates on it, but enquiry to the Council about Mr. Stone and this land initially found no records or any sort.


In 1929 the land on the opposite side of Deep Creek near the mouth, the land on the map above to Robert Pearce (Portion 55 of 50 acres) was applied for on 30th October 1929 (Application No 27,488 by Tertius Horatio Macpherson, claiming a title by possession claimed against John Scanlon or Michael Sullivan, devisee of Robert Pearce who died In 1840 (Sydney Morning Herald, 6 September 1929, p. 20) (Tertius had died by 1937, and in 1930 dedicated to Council the land on the northern shore of Narrabeen Lagoon that is now known as Bilarong Reserve.


All this land now, on both sides of the Creek is Reserve land.   In Gregory's street directory the reserve on the western side has no name, and that on the eastern side is "Deep Creek Reserve" (Pittwater Council area).   




The concrete relics of Deep Creek - The "Never Been Beaten Lime and Cement Works" ?


The concrete remains include a dam up a nearby mountain side valley for Mr Stone's intended works,  remains around the old factory site, and remains of a bridge he built over Deep Creek.  In this 1943 photo the works site is clear (at right) and the dam is the NNE aligned structure seen in the top left corner.

Known colloquially as the “Never Been Beaten Lime and Cement Works” or “Stoney’s”, this works site was active 1934 to 1945.  It was the creation of Edward Giles Stone, a pioneer in concrete work (particularly in the use of reinforced concrete).   Earlier, in partnership with Ernest Joshua Siddeley, Stone had built some remarkable structures in NSW and Victoria, including a floating pontoon at Circular Quay and a sewerage aqueduct at Geelong.  The company floundered in not being able to complete the breakwater at Glenelg in South Australia, due to extremely stormy conditions.  Stone then turned his attention to the manufacture of cement.  Processes and projects he was involved with in Tasmania and Port Kembla were unsuccessful.   In 1934 Stone moved to Narrabeen to persist with the already once-failed plan to produce cement (and lime) using shell grit, which he intended to dredge from Narrabeen Lagoon.  His plant at Deep Creek never entered production.  The relics reflect Stone’s inventiveness (and include a 70m long dam of novel design, a midget submarine (since destroyed) and an enigmatic structure thought to be prototype for a submersible anti-aircraft gun platform he had during WWII.  Partial land resumption for the Wakehurst Parkway in 1941, impeded access to the Lagoon, and difficulties with the Council had stymied Stone by the time the above photo was taken.  Stone continued on spending some (or much?) or his time at the site, until he died six years later.

The coming of Mr Stone's interests to the area had happened by 1934, as this article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 12 November 1934 (page 10) reveals:





Mining Lease Applied For.


It was stated at a conference between Warrlngah Shire councillors, local residents, and representatives of public bodies, at Narrabeen on Saturday, that in addition to a dredging lease having been granted for Narrabeen Lake, an application had been lodged for a mining lease on the sand spit at the entrance to the lake

Mr. F W. Heaton, an ex-Mayor of Manly who stated that the proposal in the first instance was to dredge a channel 200ft wide from the entrance to the head ot the lake, said he lodged a caveat against it as he knew it would destroy the lake, the bed of which was a couple of feet above the ocean. He had no objection if the dredging was confined to the part above the bridges, and an agreement to that effect had been signed. He read a letter from the department, which intimated that Industries and Cements. Ltd. (the company concerned) had been Informed that no mining or dredging operations could be carried on between the two bridges until tide gates had been erected at the entrance to the lake.

"I have lodged an objection to the application of Edward Garland Stone for a mining lease of four acres of land on the sand spit at the entrance to the lake," Mr H S Harvey, a local resldent, stated.  He said there was a bar of rock at the entrance, which should only be interfered with by a Government department.

"If the lease Is granted" Mr Harvey stated "the Act allows the lessee to erect any building or machlnery. and he could take or divert any stream flowing through it. and use the water for mining or domestic purposes."

Mr. A. J. Small (acting president of the Parks and Playgrounds Movement) said that to interfere with the lake would be a crime against the public. It was one of the beauty spots of the State. The proposal was now to industrialise it, and make it a second Botany Bay.  A request had been made to the Government for £14,000, to purchase the land around Deewhv Lagoon and at Narrabeen they had a lake infinitely more beautiful.  The safety of it for children would be destroyed just to get a very limited supply of sea shell for cement.

Mr. Edward Giles Stone, speaking for the company concerned, said there was a misconception about the whole matter. The original lease was for the area between the bridge and the side of the cement works at Deep Creek. This had received the unanimous approval of the shire council.  Later they found that the bulk of the shell was between the two bridges, and when objection was raised to dredging there, they agreed to erect tide gates. They did not intend to mine on the spit, or to move a bit of sand from there. They were prepared to abandon the application for the mining lease if they were allowed to build the tide gates

Mr, Small: I am astounded that the council should agree to commercialise this area. If the council compromises, we will fight to get the departmental decision reversed.

Councillor Austin (president of the Warringah Shire) stated that the matter of the mining lease would be brought before the council.  



Why would both a dredging lease and mining lease have been applied for?   It seems likely that the SMH misreported this and that it had actually been a Mining Purposes Lease that had been applied for, not a Mining Lease as reported !?


The following article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 15 October 1936 (p. 5) so shows that Stone began some sort of work at Deep Creek in 1936.





Sir, - I was greatly interested in the article by C. E. W. Bean published in the issue of 8th instant.  The Parks and Playgrounds Movement is certainly doing great work, but I wonder if they are aware that some of the recreation reserves are being blocked to the public.  I refer specially to an area at the junction of Deep Creek and Narrabeen Lagoon, which on maps issued by the Lands Department is shown as a recreation reserve.  This site was largely availed of by camping parties of boy scouts and others until a couple of years ago, when Warringah Shire Council posted notices that camping was prohibited unless permission was obtained and a fee paid.

This splendid area is now enclosed with wire netting surmounted with barbs, and notices are displayed saying trespassers will be prosecuted.  Has the council the right to lease this site to an industrial company and so stop ingress to one of the best camping and walking districts convenient to the northern suburbs?

I am, etc.,


Mosman, Oct. 10.



Another similar letter followed soon afterwards ( Sydney Morning Herald of 22 October 1936, p. 5):





Sir, - You have lately published various references to the Narrabeen Lagoon reserves, particularly to that of Deep Creek.  This matter is of great public interest, as many thousands visit this delightful locality during each year.  It is probable that the importance of the preservation of these beauty spots is not fully appreciated by the local authorities. The Narrabeen Lagoon should be regarded as a valuable public asset, situated as it is within easy distance of the city, and combining as it does the placid waters of the lake with the three pretty natural water courses, viz., Deep, Middle, and South Creeks, together with the delights of the primeval bush.  There is a Government reserve on the northern bank of Middle Creek, but an additional area should be secured there for public purposes. Unless some provision is exercised there is a danger of these fine picnicking spots being built upon or enclosed.  It is of vital importance to the public that the Warringah Shire Council should move in the matter, so that the public may have the benefit of these natural assets for all time.

I am, etc,  

REX CHATEAU. Dulwich Hill, Oct. 19.



It may be recalled that a bravery medal was given to Patrol-Leader Cecil Thompson, of the Second Dulwich Hill troop of Boy Scouts, and perhaps Mr Rex Chateaux, also of Dulwhich Hill, knew of the area via the scouts somehow?


Yet another letter on the matter came to the paper that same month (SMH, 28 October 1936, p. 10):





Sir, - Recently a letter appeared in your columns concerning the fencing off of the Deep Creek at Narrabeen Lakes. Unfortunately this land is now private property, and the owner can plead that as his justification for closing the banks of the creek to the public.  However, in the same shire is the magnificent headland of Long Reef - one of our best view points, and a beautiful, handy picnic ground - taken up by a comparative few as a golf links.  It is getting larger and taking up more ground.  What right, legal or moral, is there for handing over such a beautiful spot and depriving citizens of their birthright in this way?   If it can be justified, I, as one of many, would like to hear the reasons.

I am, etc.,

STEPHANUS. Queenscliff, Oct. 26 .



Thus we see different accounts re the land of  Stone's 1930s enterprise - was it lease of Government (?Reserve) land, or was it private land?





Study done for the Council by John Gibson, in 2008.  

Never Been Beaten Lime and Cement Works



Another view of Stone's bridge over Deep Creek.  (State Library of NSW, No. 1-23304).


In former times, picnickers etc. had rowed up Deep Creek.  Such a bridge as this, which Mr. Stone built, would have considerably closed the creek off to boat access from the  lake.  One would wonder that Council, or anyone, would permit that.   They probably didn't, and 1947 correspondence from the Lands Dept. noted that the bridge constructed by Mr. Stone over Deep Creek "was not authorised under any title” (Lands Dept., 19 September 1947).



Up Deep Creek in a boat in early times.   Would Stoney's bridge have inhibited such excursions? 




Other supposed activity near Deep Creek - supposed German ('Gestapo') presence.  [ Rudolf Durkop an alleged Nazi leader who worked for the Sydney Port Service may have organized picnics there in the years just before WWII].  Barrier Miner 29/8/1945.

At least six publications of the above "Gestapo" story on Deep Creek appeared in 1945.  


A manuscript by Willlam A. Scholes of Port Macquarie about Nazi spies in Australia includes:  "Rudolf Durkop, a leading Nazi, was the section leader in charge of the Harbor Port Service, which would arrange excursions for the crews of German vessels to the Deep Creek cottage and picnic grounds.  These excursions always included raising the Nazi flag, singing of the Horst Vessel song (which was the official Germnan national anthem at the time) and a pep talk from local Nazi chiefs."    Near the engravings there are also sparse remains of stone base of a wall and pieces of concrete slab, as if there was a small building there once.


There are some German engravings at Deep Creek (?1937-1938).  The carvings show a swastika and eagle (the eagle seen here seems to be surmounted on the cirlce and swastiki indicative of the Nazi era), together with the names of German Ships.  Some think a camp was established in 1934 by the German Labour Front (DAF).  It is uncertain who first noted German engravings at Deep Creek and when, or if anyone early on attempted to transcribe the now-fading markings there.  Strangley, there is also on the same rock as the 1930s German markings another clear and old-looking engraving of 26-11-87.  This looks too old to be 1987 and shows someone was there in 1887.



Another swastika, carved 1938 - 6.3.38


German group at Deep Creek in 1938.  ( Source:  Fairfax Magazines )

The site was owned or rented by the German Embassy apparently.

A German eagle carving:  "I'd been looking at Google maps and had come across a spot called Deep Creek Reserve just around the corner from where we are - about 5 minutes by car towards Narrabeen. We decided to go explore a little.....  We came across two rocks like this. One had the German eagle with Dortmund 1937 carved below it - there was other writing but I couldn't make it out. The other rock had the swastika and 1938 carved into it. I haven't been able to find anything on the 'net about this - it'd be interesting to know what the Germans were doing hiding out in Deep Creek Reserve...."  Scott & Mandy Mupersan's Australian Adventure

The German camp at Deep Creek apparently ran from 1933 till 1938.   At the outbreak of WWII members of the Nazi party were interned and no doubt questionned closely.   The Mercury (14 June 1940, page 2) reported on this:




Operations In Australia

Papers Seized

SYDNEY, June 13.

The Federal Government was made fully aware of the activities of the Nazi "fifth column" in Australia from information contained in official documents seized on the internment of German nationals.

This statement was made in an address to the Legacy Club today by Mr. A. M. Pooley, who said that there were also in Australia members of the Ger- man Gestapo.

Mr. Tooley said that like other countries, Australia had a Nazi organisation under the control of an official for the whole of the Commonwealth, with head officials for each State and also for the principal cities. Under this scheme information regarding the life history and activities of all Germans in Australia was sent to Berlin, where it was filed. This applied also to Germans who were naturalised Australian subjects. The German Government did not recognise this naturalisation, so that there were many persons in Australia with a dual nationality.  The duties of the members of the Gestapo were to watch the Australian Nazi leaders as well as the rank-and-file of the Nazi party.  

The object of the "fifth column" in Australia, Mr.'Pooley added, was to make friends with Australian persons of influence and importance by propaganda and false friendships,  to work through musical and cultural societies and to send valuable information to Germany by radio and other media.

CANBERRA, June 13.

As a step towardsd dealing with "fifth column" and other anti-Britlsh agencies in Australia, the staft of the Commonwealth Investigation Branch will be increased. It was announced today that the Ministry had decided to strengthen the administration of the branch by appointing a deputy-director to help the director (Col. H. E. Jones). A salary of about £700 a year is being offered for the new post, and it is open to State police officers as well as members of the Federal Service



And article in The Mail of 16 September 1939, page 2, about those who had just been interned mentioned that it was believed that one man in Sydney was in charge of Nazi activities throughout Australia.  It is also mentioned thate that Associated with them was a "beautiful young woman, who was interned after her activities had been watched for some time. This woman, who had many acquaintances in the social world, is believed to ae a Hungarian baroness, and attracted attention wherever she went".   The anti-Nazi investigators were known as the "Alien Squad".


Who was she?  records of investigation of known or suspected enemy sympathisers by the NSW Branch of the Commonwealth Security Service, are located in the following series:  INVESTIGATION FILES (PERSONS AND ORGANISATIONS), ALPHA-NUMERIC SERIES, 1942–46 C320
Recorded by: 1942–1945 Commonwealth Security Service, NSW (CA 946)
1945–1946 Commonwealth Investigation Branch, NSW (CA 904)
Quantity: 4.5 metres (Sydney)
NSW Security Service file – Enemy aliens released from internment [2 pages, box 9], 1940–44 C320, 134

( http://www.naa.gov.au/naaresources/publications/research_guides/guides/haven/pages/chapter5.htm )


Somewhat reminescent of the latter is the following story about an Australian woman who after the war told her children she had been a German spy.  In October 2010 a New Zelander wrote to WWII online discussion group:  "When my mother was an 18-19 year old, she was held for 3 weeks at an American base in North Queensland on suspicions of being a German Spy.  It would have been 1942 or 1943.  She was kept in a tent under armed guard while they tried to find out information on her.  Finally after 3 weeks they let her go as she would not give any details.   I now have documents, codes and maps which imply that she really was a German agent.  She would tell us the story that she had just parachuted into the top of Australia and was making her way down to Sydney, but never confirmed some details.  She was an Australian and was uniquely beautiful and so would make a lasting memory for any soldiers at the camp.  I am hoping that someone would either have memories of those days or be able to refer me to some other site.  I am writing a book about her life and how and why she became a German agent.  I have tried NARA but they say I need the unit who held her.  I am looking for evidence that could prove her story.  My mother had German friends in Sydney before the war. She married one of them overseas in 1940.  He was in the Panzers in North Africa and killed in 1941. She said because of that and her love of languages she got involved in something that got out of control. She worked as an "agent" in Singapore, Hong Kong and was a lot in Cairo and North Africa.  She spoke French, German and Italian fluently and worked as an interpreter in later years in Melbourne.  Landing in North Queensland was her way of getting back into Australia. She lived in Sydney. I do not think she would have spied in Australia.  I do not have all the answers.  I have only accessed a locked case of hers and there is enough in there to show her story was not imagination but not enough to tell all answers.  One of this spy group of hers Ulrich blackmailed her in Sydney in 1953, with threat of exposure to the authorities.  He had kept some evidence on her.  This caused her to abandon her Australian husband and us three children.  She was blackmailed until he died in 1957.   I know this story sounds fictitious but I remember some of this as a child.  She was 16 when she got married.   I have tracked down where the abwehr files are in Germany and will have to pay a researcher to find my information.  I am holding off on that expense until I try all avenues. I am slowly trying to find my way around the American files, with difficulty and have found some pre war German info from Australian Archives. It is a slow process ......  The Americans were about to let my mother go after a few days, when the person in charge spoke in German as my mother was leaving the tent. S he reacted and he realized that she could speak German and said "I knew you were German."  Her reply was I speak French too, but that does not make me a Frenchwoman".  He kept her for a few weeks but could not get her to talk or find out anything on her. She told us that she never carried any identification on her but always posted it ahead of her to the next town.  My mother travelled on false passports so could not have come back into the country legally. She didn't apply for Australian passport until 1956. She didn't have identification on her when travelling down to Sydney as she didn't want any of her activities to be linked to her father, who was a well known and respected police sergeant in Sydney."   Apparently this story will appear eventually as a book(?).


WWII historian William A. Scholes of Port Macquarie has written on Nazi spies in Australia.   He noted that via the Auslands Organisation, which had been in the habit of contacting all Reich Germans overseas, pressure began to be exerted on all Reich Germans to support the Nazis by working for the party, paying contributions ...... or suffer the consequences.    He wrote "As the dangers of war loomed closer, the activities of the Nazis in Sydney often aroused considerable press comment.   Meetings were held at Narrabeen, a northern beach suburb of Sydney, and one newspaper report described a  lonely cottage, near Deep Creek, as Gestapo headquarters"  (However I only know of articles which did that as being published AFTER the war - not as the dangers of war loomed).   Scholes also wrote:  "Gestapo officials from the German Consulate in Sydney made a point of entertaining officers and sailors from German merchant ships at the cottage at Narrabeen, where they drank German beer and sang Nazi songs. If any crew members were reported for anti Nazi activities, they were dragged to a secluded spot on Deep Creek and flogged. So great was their terror of the Gestapo, that not one of the seamen could be persuaded to complain to the Australian authorities".   


According to Scholes, it was Rudolf Durkop, a leading Nazi, was the section leader in charge of the Harbor Port Service, which would arrange excursions for the crews of German vessels to the Deep Creek cottage and picnic grounds.  These excursions always included raising the Nazi flag, singing of the Horst Vessel song (which was the official Gennan national anthem at the time) and a pep talk from local Nazi chiefs.

( http://www.defence.gov.au/sydneyii/Parliamentary%20Submissions/PINQ/SUBS/014/PINQ.SUBS.014.0074.pdf )


Following WWII there was consideration to deport Mrs Durkop (and maybe him too) as shown by The Argus (1 December 1945, p. 4):




Woman's Outburst at Tatura

From Our Special Reporter  

Holding her hands to her eyes and declaring excitedly that she could not stand any more and wanted to go back to Germany, Helena Franz Durkop, 45, rushed out of the Tatura internment inquiry yesterday. Mrs. Durkop, de facto wife of Rudolf Karl Otto Durkop, former leader of the Sydney Nazi Harbour Port Service, was a prominent member of the women's section of the Australian Nazi party.

She became agitated under cross examination by Mr J. G. Norris, counsel assisting Mr Justice W. B. Simpson, who is conducting the inquiry to decide whether internees should be deported. Mrs Durkop came to Australia in 1927 and helped to distribute Nazi propaganda and to organise German picnics.  She said that although there were now no more Nazi ideas she still believed in Nazism.  Asked why, before her internment, she secreted lists of internees' names in a cushion, she placed her clenched hands on the table and exclaimed to Mr Norris: "I want to go home after all this."  Rudolf Durkop, who had sat impassively near Mrs Durkop during her outburst, stood up as she ran from the room.  Holding his hands out toward Mr Justice Simpson, he said, "I apologise for her. She. is highly strung. She told me she wanted to stay in Australia."


Rudolf Durkop was also being considered for deportation in late 1945 and the Advocate (28 November 1945, pages 4-5) noted that Rudolf Karl Otto  Durkop (then aged 55) came to Australia as a stow-away in 1911, escaped from internment during the 1914-18 war, and was never captured.  The enquiry was told that  Durkop was a leading member of the Nazi Parly in Australia, and had entertained the crews of German ships and brought Nazi literature ashore.  Durkop told the enquiry that he joined the Party in 1934 and for four years organised parties for German seamen to Narrabeen.  German and Australian girls joined the picnic parties.  

During WWI Durkop has been sent to Penridge, for ninety days and apparently sent for internment but escaped.   The St Arnaud Mercury of 23 December 1916 (p. 2) recorded that Rudolf Durkop had been fined 25 pounds, with costs, for failing to register (as a German) or report himself to the Police.   He had been living as a Frenchman.  This was also reported in the The Ararat Advertiser (23 December 1916, p. 2) which said he was aged 26, and had been living with his French brother-in-law, and representing himself as a Frenchman. He also had assumed his brother-in-law's name.  When first stopped by Detective Howard in the street, Durkop had stated that he was Swiss.   He later stated that he was born in Hamburg and had left Germany at age 18 to escape military service.  He was married to an Australian girl and had a daughter three months old when arrested.  Durkop was living at St. Arnaud and earlier that month had written he was "sure I will be imprisioned for six months and sent to a Concentration Camp for not reporting since the war broke out, because I am a German as everybody knows".    He further wrote that he was a tradesman in the metal industry and was doing more good for the country than if he were interned.  The Magistrate said he would not inflict heavy penalties because "To my mind,. the only bad feature of the case is Durkop's assumption of his brother in law's name".   How or when Durkop escaped from internment is not known but he was never recaptured during the war.

Strangely enough, when National Nine TV Network made its "Spyforce" series, starring Jack Thompson and Peter Sumner, about espionage in World War II, various episodes have were made in Hong Kong, Macao, Bangkok, Malaysia, and Singapore, but most of it was apparently shot at Deep Creek, Narrabeen - where heavy bush doubled as New Guinea and Asian  territory.

The relics of Stoney's works appear to have received little attention prior to when in January 1994, bushfires raged across the peninsula, better exposed the remains of an almost-forgotten industrial site at Deep Creek on Narrabeen Lagoon.


This is the “Never Been Beaten Lime and Cement Works”, or “Stoney’s” as known colloqually.   The works were active apparently from 1934 to 1945, and had been established by Edward Giles Stone, a pioneer in the use of reinforced concrete.

Earlier, in partnership with Ernest Joshua Siddeley, Stone had built some remarkable structures in NSW and Victoria, including a floating pontoon at Circular Quay and a sewerage aqueduct at Geelong.   However, the company foundered over its failure to complete a breakwater at Glenelg in South Australia.

Stone turned his attention to schemes for the manufacture of hopefully cheaper cement.   Companies he formed or was connected with in Tasmania and Port Kembla were all markedly unsuccessful.  In 1934 Stone moved to Lake Narrabeen where he seemingly intended to produce lime from a combination of shell grit dredged from the lagoon and estuarine mud.    There is a circular depression seen on aerial photography between the works and Deep Creek.   It is now known if Stone made that, for getting mud - or if Nature made it, or both?

The things revealed to locals after the bushfire intrigued some and the matter got into the local paper.  A 70-metre-long dam of novel design, a midget/model submarine and a submersible anti-aircraft gun platform, were the most unusual things seen.   Vandals later destroyed the submarine-like object.   Also near his house site was something (likely still there) which some thought might have been intended as a model of Warragamba Dam.  This could indicate that Stone was even dreaming of tendering to build Warragamba Dam (??).

The encroachment of the Wakehurst Parkway in 1941 no doubt greatly interferred with any grand plans that Mr Stone might have been entertaining - and that was the end of that.   Mr Stone himself died jsix years later.

The relics at Deep Creek mark the last chapter in the very protracted (but unsuccessful?) cement-making endeavours of engineer Ernest Giles Stone.  Stone apparently sought to make cement from shell grit and clay as starting materials, and using a rotary kiln made of concrete - all deemed "impossible", or at least impractical by some, and totally unfeasible economically by many.  At least one person has written of such endeavour as a fraud or con; others think Mr Stone may have been sincere but somewhat misguided, and/or even grown eccentric in his older age.  But such has been mainly just speculation, and it would be nice to know in much greater detail exactly what Mr Stone was doing at Deep Creek.   Industrial heritage specialist Mr John Gibson in 2008 began detailed research into Mr Stone's career.  There is also a Wikipedia article which summarises what is known of his life and work - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Giles_Stone


Fuller references, and a chronology of his works, can be found in the Wikipedia article.   Whether or not he was a con-man in cement making at all is in doubt.  Not is doubt is that he was a great engineer in the use of cement, in concrete.   Stone blamed the government (and sought legal compensation from it) for the ultimate failure of his planned cement works at Deep Creek.   Putting the Wakehurst Parkway through, and resuming the prime part of his land, thus also blocking his direct access to the lagoon, certainly would have spoiled his grand plan for that site.  By then Mr Stone was too old to ever try again at some other (fourth) place.   Thus Deep Creek, his third place of attempted cement-making, became Stone's final retreat for this endeavour.  Whether he began constructing a concrete rotary kiln at Deep Creek, of began the shifting in parts of the one he had built at Port Kembla, remains to be determined.

Stone was born on in Sydney, the son of John Jasper Stone, Civil Engineer, and Caroline Smith.  He worked at first with his father's business, then for the Roads and Bridges Branch of the Public Works Department for about seven years.  After that he joined the Sewerage Construction Department.  Three years later, in 1900, he joined the then newly formed Sydney Harbour Trust as its Chief Design Engineer.

Stone left the Public Service for private practice In 1907, setting up as a 'Consulting Engineer and Structural Architect, specialising in Reinforced Concrete'.  He built concrete silos, houses and other structures via a precasting plant in Emu Plains NSW.  In 1912 he  entered into partnership with Ernest J. Siddeley and business expanded.   Stone was the designer and Siddeley was the project manager who executed the works.   The works produced by Stone & Siddeley include a wool store at Geelong, the Barwon Sewerage Aqueduct, floating pontoon at Circular Quay, structures at Mortlake Gas Works, and the Breakwater at Glenelg.

The Glenelg Breakwater job proved the downfall of Stone & Siddeley's company.   Stormy seas defeated the efforts to build the breakwater and the company was financially ruined.   After the partnership ended Stone's aspirations to make cement began in Tasmania, then later moved to Port Kembla, and finally to Deep Creek at Narrabeen Lagoon.   Stone was one of the founders of Tasmanian Cement Pty Ltd in 1922. The initial plant was to be near Hobart but Stone instead suggested a Railton site because of oil shale there.  He proposed using the exhaust gases from the cement kiln to distil oil from the oil shale. Erection of plant began there in 1923.   Stone was eventually sacked as construction engineer there, and it is evident that his cement-oil shale ideas did not work.  Stone thereafter was behind the erection of a substantial-looking cement works at Port Kembla, but it too was apparently a failure.   Stone likely did not accept that it was his process or design which was at fault, and he set out to try again with the "Never Been Beaten Lime & Cement Works" at Deep Creek.



Interior of rotary kiln segment still present at Deep Creek



The kiln segment lay formerly in heavy overgrowth, since cleared away somewhat (some general brush clearing took place along a power line running nearby).   Note the geared turning ring about half way along the structure.

Closer view of the large gearing teeth and the note concrete construction of the kiln.   The opinion of some concrete technicans (pers.comm., esp. PB) is that this kiln could not have long withstood any actual usage.

These interesting relics, which include a large dam, a ?retort of uncertain function and evidences of a "cement" factory

(especially a segment of a rotary kiln) relate to a former industrial site known as "Never Been Beaten Lime and Cement Works" or "Stoney's works", believed to have been organised by the engineer E. G. Stone who had a long career associated with concrete and with attempted cement-making.  None of his cement-making initiatives are known to have been commercially successful, however.


In 1994, a local family, that of builder Bob Bray, "re-discovered" the works, as reported in a local newspaper, the Manly Daily, on 17 February 1994.  This got a local history student, Ken A. Gardener interested in it and he made a case study of it - recognising it as a site which perhaps had "significant potential to be preserved as an example of an industry that played a part in the history of Warringah and was unique to the area".   Mr Gardener had no way of then knowing that this was not a story "unique to the area" but rather the end of a longer story of one engineer's attempted cement-making that started in Tasmania, moved to Port Kembla and ended at Deep Creek.


Ken Gardner contacted Warringah Council and received information from them that the area in question lay in the then newly formed Pittwater Municipality.  However, on contacted Pittwater Council they believed it was instead in Warringah Shire.   Mr Gardner could find no records of the area with Warringah Council, however.


Where the newspaper got the name "Never Been Beaten Lime and Cement Works" has not yet been noted.  However Department of Main Roads (1966, p.26) shows a creek named Cement Works Creek, showing that the site was known as a cement works in the 1940s.


The Manly Daily 17 February 1994 article states "A 70m long dam,  submersible anti-aircraft weapons, a midget submarine and scale model of Burrinjuck Dam are just a few of the wonders revealed at Narrabeen by last month's bushfire.  For almost 60 years the, the secrets of the Never Been Beaten (NBB) Lime and Cement Co. have lain hidden, veiled by lush vegetation." 


The newspaper article describes the dam as more than 5m high, built on a 3m wide base and topped by a 1m-thick concrete beam, with "12 braced buttresses, between which are outward-sloping catenaries of curved corrugated steel".


The site is continuing to be studied by Mr John Gibson.  Mr Gibson has been collecting all information on the owner of the plant, Mr. E.G. Stone (Edward Giles), and also information on his partner Mr. Siddeley, in the hope of clarifying further what the activities were at this site.


It has not at present been found where that name (Never Been Beaten Lime & Cement) come from.  It is not found to have been a registered company name, nor a business name, from the records of ASIC or NSW Fair Trading.   Nor is the other name encountered, of  "Narrabeen Lime and Cement" formally traceable.   Mr Gibson thinks that Stone purchased the land at Deep Creek 1941 and sold it in 1951, but that he could have leasing the site prior to that.    The site is a very interesting one.  Mr Gibbson tallies seven individual spots over quite a large area where one or more artefacts exist, often hidden in rather heavy bush. Some of these things include a 'retort', the remains of a rotary kiln, concrete tanks (both on the shoreline and on land), a model dam, a full size concrete dam (70m), and a model submarine in concrete.  The site is listed as local heritage interest.  If it really was "making" cement then this is rare and would be of state significance.  However, if any cement making at all was carried on there it perhaps might have been only at experimental scale(?).



Charcoal retort as photographed in K. Gardner's report, then about 5m high.  It had cast iron doors

at the base.  The incline ramp apparently delivered timber  to the top.   The 17 February

1994 article refers to the retort as used to produce charcoal which was then used

to provide power for the different operations (at the Deep Creek plant).



Rear view, collapsed, as seen today.   How the collapse took place, leaving the crowning structure undamaged, is unknown.

Perhaps supporting stilts were largely of wood and burned away bit-by-bit, gradually, over a succession of bushfires?

    (Photo: J. Gibson)



Ditto, October 2008, and showing a ?lidded ?grate structure below the platform.



Photo of the same in 2012.  Still more subsidence perhaps ongoing and the 'grate' perhaps now difficult to see.   ( Photo:  Matt Hunt)



Opposite (loading ramp) end of the collapsed structure.  (Photo:  Matt Hunt, 2012)


To find the remains of this not-understood structure ('burner"/"retort") go to point "A" to park (parking is not good along Wakehurst Parkway) then walk east along the power line track - and it cannot be missed.


Besides this "retort", during WWII Stone apparently also started using "pits" at Deep Creek for charcoal production (State Library Archives, Stone papers, re legal case for compensation, 4 March 1947).   This may indicate that he wished to rapidly increase charcoal production for sale, in addition to that which he'd wanted perhaps at first just for his own use(?).



In case all the charcoal was not needed on site there was a ready market in WWII for charcoal, e.g. for vehicles.



A simple double barrel charcoal retort built by Daniel O'Connor in Dallas, Texas


According to how Daniel O'Connor, who built the above successful retort, describes it, charcoal making is slow but easy work.  There are two ways to make charcoal direct and indirect. The direct method involves setting a pile of wood on fire and controlling the air intake in order to char the wood and not burn it into ash, e.g. by covering the pile with dirt and sod.   The indirect or retort method involves cooking the wood with a outside energy source to drive off the volatile gases and char the wood.  The indirect method usually yields more charcoal for a given amount of wood. Even though an outside energy source (a fire) is needed in the beginning, the process can be made self sustaining after a short time.  The expelled volatiles can be distilled to produce products like turpentine and wood alchohol, which was done prior to the petrochemicals industry.  Or the volatile gases can be diverted to make the process self sustaining. It is simple in concept and execution. The wood is heated until it starts giving off gas. Route this gas back under the container and ignite it.  Once this is happening, the wood gives off enough energy to 'cook' or char itself.  When all the gas is driven off the the fire dies out and charcoal remains.   A pipe from the top, in the above contraption, is routed under the barrel.  The pipe below the drum has 1/2" holes drilled every 6" along either side of it.  Under the above two barrels, loaded with cut wood and sealed, a large fire underneath takes 45 minutes before the emission of volatiles begins.  As the gass yield starts, flames begin licking out of the holes drilled in the bottom pipes.  In about 5 or 10 minutes the flames become like pressurised gas and if the drums are enclosed (e.g. within concrete blocks) they will shoot out the holes, hit the side walls and travel up and around the barrels.   The fire dies on its own after about 2 hours, and the charcoal is let cool down overnight.




The Never Been Beaten Lime and Cement Works  (Source being sought - a photo which appeared in the Manly Daily, in 2008).

The site today is known as entrance to Morgan Road Firetrail.


The original of the above photo (per Manly Daily) is, per Mr Peter Benkendorff, known to be held in the Mitchell Library collection and is there labelled "Cement works, Warringah Shire) (No. GPO1-23305, dated 5/1941) it is associated with another photo with a note "Looking north up bank of Middle Creek from Cement works" (No.  GP01-23617 dated 9/1940).   Both are from the Department of Main Roads collection.  (Is there some confusion between Middle Creek and Deep Creek?).


For 1940-1941 it is generally agreed that no company in the Manly-Warringah area could have been in any way competitive in cement or lime production with the existing manufacturers such as Commonwealth Portland Cement (Portland), Kandos Cement (Kandos), Southern Portland Cement (Berrima), Standard Portland Cement (Charbon), and Sulphide Corporation (Newcastle) who had their own coal mines or nearby supplies. The last manufacturer of cement and lime in the Sydney area (Goodlet and Smith) closed in 1918, after proving uneconomic in competing against these large concerns close to natural resource bases.


The above Never Been Beaten Lime and Cement Works seen clearly on 1943 aerial photo.   (Adastra Airways photo).   The partitioned circular structure seen to the right of the factory buildings is there standing and provides a  ready reference point.   Note also that Mr Stone had some sort of drain leading out from the factory area to the Lake, here seen passing under roadway (the "Parkway" road at this time seeming to have been constructed from the west eastwards and to have gotten as far as "Stoney's" works.   A semi-circle of ?mud seems to surround the exit of the drain at the lake shore?   Both the dua/joined 'poontoons' at southern side of Stoney's road (just east of the entrance to the works) and also the circular structure with radial partitions (directly east of the works) are visible in this 1943 view.


Stone's circular and radially partitioned structure.






Same or similar area, where Council appears to have built a viewing platform close to some E.G. Stone era relics?





Concrete tanks at the lake shore - no doubt connected with Mr Stone a prominent experimenter with concrete .  (Photo:  Matt Hunt, 2012)


The Council has been working to commemorate the old works here.  Heritage investigator John Gibson was engaged to research and report on things.  John has written on how at least "a small recognition of Mr Stone's works and life" has appeared on the this new walkway between Deep Creek and Middle Creek, Narrabeen, near where he had his last attempts at producing cheap cement.  John Gibson notes that Mr Stone had started with the Public Works Dept. in 1892 and died in 1947.  The present writer has also been interested in his works at Sydney Harbour and Parramatta River (Mortlake Gasworks).  Of special interest has been a concrete barge constructed by E. G. Stone.  It was was of two apparently made initially for the circular quay wharves 6 and 7 in 1914.  It was noted as “the largest in the world" at the time.  John Gibson presented the story of Stone's work in a 16th Engineering Heritage Conference in Hobart in 2011 (not seen).  The present writer tried to trace where are the Maritime Services Board (or earlier) records today - and thereing maybe someone on the fate of the "world's largest barge".   After many fruitless letters to the State Government on what happened to the records this was given up on.  However in April 2013, "Colin Brady @ Waverley" sent to a heritage interest group: "Subscribers,  For those that missed the outrage sheets in this week's papers, the concrete cellular barge previously discussed on this site as an early item of significant concrete engineering has made a reappearance.  Once moored off Luna Park as a themed  Dance Pavilion and later River Boat, the barge has now been proposed as the much hated landing pontoon for the helicopter service soon for Sydney Harbour . The image in Tuesday's SMH shows a very down at heel barge sulking somewhere about the Harbour (possibly Lavender Bay ) with the disparaging comment  that this was once considered as a heritage item. These days that's about the worst insult one can use, the same disparagement being employed in relation to the fatal  wall collapse in Melbourne . Despite the wall being identified as of relatively recent construction and poorly maintained, the TV commentators constantly identify the heritage factor as the potential cause of collapse".  


Building the "biggest concrete barge in the world" as referred to above by Mr. Stone.  The pontoon was built for the Sydney Harbour Trust in 1914 and was divided into 44 watertight compartments.  For many years if formed part of wharves Nos. 6 and 7 at Circular quay, and slightly smaller pontoon (?builder) formed No. 5 jetty.  The pontoons disappeared when Circular Quay was rebuilt in the 1950s.  


Down the slipway and the potoon or barge hits to water.



Circular Quay, looking south, in 1914.

(Photos:  Above three photos survive from "Maritime Service Board archives", but where those archives now are is elusvie.)


What happened to this Stone-designed item .. once the world's biggest floatable concrete barge/pontoon?   Enquiries were made about where are the Harbour authorities records now(?).   The present Sydney Harbour authorities did not know.   It can only be presumed that some of the old Maritime Services Board or other Harbour authority records might be at Kingswood (State Archives).   This deserves further follow-up.   Michael Clarke (a member on an engineering heritage discussion list) noted "John - I'm not surprised that NSW Maritime knows nothing about the Circular Quay pontoons - I suspect they have lost virtually all of their history - and into the bargain, don't care.  Some years ago I bought a copy of First Port Future Port written to celebrate their 100th anniversary; while it contains an extensive timeline (my scan is attached) it contains ***** all about the engineering and engineers, but it does record a lot about the Commissioners and administrators! Obviously written by a PR firm and approved by bean counters!".


In the past Mr Don Fraser, who has written "Sydney from Settlement to City" had also promoted interest in finding the fate of this barge, but was later on doubtful if any trace of it had yet been found.  [Source:  Fraser, D.(Ed.), 1989 Sydney From Settlement to City: An engineering history of Sydney.  Engineers Australia Pty Ltd. Sydney.]


Further follow-up suggested that after its service as a pontoon for ferry passengers at Circular Quay it was taken over to the other side of the Harbour and ended up as dance floor moored at Luna Park.   The North Sydney Council was asked about it but knew nothing of it.    One problem is that suggestion was also found that Stone had two such structures built, the other one being somewhat smaller - but the one which was seemingly for years at Luna Park is currently suspected to have been the once "world's largest concrete barge" one.  The last word about it, by those interested in Luna Park history, was that it was thought to have been taken to nearby Lavendar Bay (a ship wrecking area?). 


Some of the Stone-built structures at Deep Creek are clearly visible on the 1943 airphoto and there is a photo of them in pristine (but unfinished?) condtition taken in 1941 (photo 23306 above).   The had been joined together mid-height by a T-shaped metal bar.  They are large cylindrical hollow reinforced concrete structures that had been blocked off at both ends.  They have a truncated-flat surface along each side, as if they were designed to be joined together in banks.  They are divided into three parts with concrete dividers (each with a 7 sided hole in it for uknown purpse), and each had three rectangular openings at the top.  These structures have been referred to as either  ‘pontoons’ or  ‘submersible anti-aircraft gun platform'.  It was John Gibson's opinion that they were pontoons maybe intended to support Mr. Stone’s intended dredging operations.  

It is known that Mr. Stone, via the name of company Industries & Cements Ltd., held a 20 years dredging licence for the Lake commencing from 1933 (Mines Department, 26 March 1943).  It is also believed that he'd been actively dredging the entrance to both the Lake and the mouth of Deep Creek at different times.   The "Chairman of Directors" of Industries & Cements Ltd (was that Mr. Stone?) wrote to the Warringah Council requesting security of rights to dredge (Council Correspondence, 1 April 1937).   It is noted that the shells dredged “… were barged to circular concrete lime burning kilns just west of deep creek” (Butterworth, 1980).


The remains of Stoney's dam, NW above the cement works and no doubt intended to supply water to the works.


The dam in 1943, at that time holding some water.   This small creek which the dam is on has been called "Cement Creek" by some but how that name originated is not known.


The 1943 view of the works area, zoomed out more.  As seen here, sand bars are usually present at mouth of Deep Creek.


What does the above photo "mean".  The current writer (JGB) on first seeing it immediately assumed that when this was taken the Wakehurst Parkway must have been being constructed from the west and had just reached "Stoney's" works.  It had not yet built over the Cement Works Creek (small creek draining from the works area to the lake) but the same main roads works, coming from the east as well, had reached and bridged over Deep Creek.   However, the foremost expert on these relics (John Gibson) in his reporting to the Council described Mr Stone's roadway thus: "Extending from the ends of the bridge abutments on each side of Deep Creek [Stone's bridge] there is an extent of raised land about 2 m wide. On the eastern (Pittwater) shore this appears to extend for about 100 m almost south east where it turns almost nor-north east. On the eastern side there are some pieces of sandstone paving that could have been part of the road structure. On the western shore (Warringah), the raised ground appears to extend from the bridge abutment almost west to the concrete structures (items 13 and 14). Just west of these structures the road splits with one arm continuing west, and another arm turning right to provide access into Mr. Stone’s cement works. Past this junction the remains continue on to where there must have been a bridge over the canal (Cement Works Creek).  From here it is apparent that the road followed the lake shore toward Middle Creek.  This raised ground is considered to be the remnants of the original roadway between Narrabeen, Stone’s works and Oxford Falls.  This road is clearly visible on the Department of Lands Spacial (sic) Information Exchange (SIX) aerial photograph of 1943".   If this had been a roadway running from Oxford Falls to Narrabeen then was it a Public Road?   One would then presume so - i.e. that Stone had built besides an existing public road and had not constructed a length of roadway from the east, with a major creek crossing, solely to get to his works site on the western side of Deep Creek.   Now if it were a public roadway in use from Oxford Falls to Narrabeen that predated Mr Stone's presence, then it presumably had a wooden bridge over Deep Creek, which Mr Stone replaced with a concrete bridge.   The amazing thing is that when such questions first arose how difficult it was to find any answers to such.   Was it an earlier public road or not?  If it was then who approved Mr Stone replacing the public bridge with his own?   Even now (2012) no map to show if it was a public road of not has been able to be found - nor does anyone seem to know if or how Mr Stone was enabled to replace a public bridge over a significant creek?   Unless the old public road never had any bridge across Deep Creek and people had to row that bit? 



The sand bars (and small boat) at mouth of Deep Creek - commonly visited by fishermen.

Small craft are sometimes dragged across sand to gain access into Deep Creek.



Sand waves moving down Deep Creek.



The site today.   The radially partitioned circular structure is still there, just to the left of where

the entrance road goes into the trues, although not discernable in this photo. The

kiln lies near the power line, next pole along.


No kiln segment visible.  Although the rotatry kikn segment (photos above) is very close to the busy Wakehurst Parkway it has never yet been pickable from the air.  The partitioned rounded concrete structure, is visible however, as seen above.   What that structure was for is unkown.   It has been noted that shells dredged from Narrabeen “… were barged to circular concrete lime burning kilns just west of deep creek” (Butterworth, 1980).   This is a circular structure but without evidence that it was ever a 'kiln'.

Another smaller rectangular outline in a small clearing further north, near the equant intertidal pool.  This one is later and is not not evident on the 1943 air photo.  It is likely a Water Board works compound (small fenced square near western end?), related to building a new sewer pipe crossing of the creek.


Mouth of Deep Creek.  A considerable amount of land may have been cleared in the past on the west bank.  Outlined area on east is the Deep Creek Reserve.  In terms of overall valley bedrock trend, the original course of the valley may have been through the lower right corner of this view.  The piece of land which now forces the discharge of the creek around to the southwest may hence been formed when the lagoon was open to the sea prior to the growth of the present coastal barrier(?)   No significant driling is know of hereabouts, however when a narrow pedestrian bridge was put in on the upstream side of the Wakehurst Parkway bridge it was thought that there is some weak cementation layers in the sand above 4m depth.   No samples of the cementation were recovered for study.   Numerous peat bands exist.  The dark bands seen just offshore in this view are zones of vegetated patches (mounds?), zoomed in on in following view.



Enlargement of dark banks just offshore - this resolves further as a pattern of anastomosing vegetated (and ?muddy) mounds.



Same patches, just breaking water at low tide.



Atoll-like rings result when the centres have die-off.



Showing how the patches are at lakeward-convex sandy shallows.





The Deep Creek intertidal bullseye pool.    Presumably this is remnant from former channel.

The last apparent movement of the creek channel has been eastwards.




The extent of the Deep Creek Reserve.  This runs along the east side of the creek.   Within the reserve there are known to be a number of Aboriginal sites ( rock shelters and one occupation shelter; fire places and stone tools, and several rock engraving sites  with human figures,  wallabies, fish, and a shield).  



 The general area is favourable for sandstone overhangs.   On Mullet Creek near the Elanora Conference Centre (off Wesley Street).



Cliff at Deep Creek


Sandstone country north of Deep Creek, and the area of present day Dendrobium Crescent, Elanora Heights.  Note the excellent clarity of NNE jointing - which is not apparent in current imagery (below).   The

zoom-in below is to the strong outcrops above "Dendrob.." above.    These sorts of joint-controlled eminences, especially when of square-ish plan sometimes get name (elsewhere) with names like 'the fortress', and a quite similar feature as the above one, but west of Stoney's works, was picked by somebody in 2012 from the air as an "ancient building".




Same area today, at Dendrobium Crescent, Elanora Heights






Another series in the same area  - north of Deep Creek, near Bungonia Avenue.  Again NNE jointing is seen.



Looking back down over Narrabeen Lagoon and Deep Creek from over Eleanora Heights area.


Regarding the  NNE trending barrier deflecting the mouth of Deep Creek note also the forms of similar orientation seen on the lagoon floor nearby on the bathymetric map (above).


The Warringah Library holds the following undated report (not yet seen):


K. A. Gardner, (?1994).  A Case Study of a Former Industrial Site at Deep Creek, Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, known as a Never Been Beaten Lime & Cement Works or "Stoneys".  Unpublished, date unknown, Warringah Local Studies Library.

This is presumably copy of a thesis findable at one of the metropolitan universities.  Mr John Gibson (pers. comm.) who has looked at the site further and took the above present day photo informs that Ken Gardner's study was an undergrad historical archaeology report. It gives some historical background and interpretation.  There are seven remaining artefact clusters remaining at the site.  For some reason (report not yet read), the author interpreted the above structure as a "retort".   From the modern view of it that is puzzling, but in light of what Mr Gardner saw and photographed in 1994 it then had a more extensive appearance.  The structure has since collapsed or the area infilled(?).   All the remnants are heavily overgrown but there could be considerable plant remains still present.   But what was it exactly?


This is a heritage site noted in the Council LEP.   At first Council ca. 2005 could not locate it but the site has since been relocated.  When Mr Gardner had done his study on it the ruins were particularly well exposed in consequence of a preceeding bush fire having removed dense undergrowth from around them.  


The more colloqual name of the "Never Been Beaten Lime & Cement Works", i.e."'Stoney's", relates to the name of the company believed to have built it:  The partners E.G. Stone and Siddeley.


A so-called "Narrabeen Lime & Cement Co." is also that was supposed to have existed but sounds very likely to have been the same as for the ruins at Deep Creek.  


Little has been found as yet about the Stone and Siddeley company, although it seems to have been quite sizeable.  It incorporated in 1915, or thereabouts, and was dissolved in 1939.  It's greatest activity and maximum expansion was likely in the 1920s.  It maintained offices in 8 Spring St, Sydney for some time

This company built the Barwon Sewer Aqueduct in Victoria 1916-1920 and E G Stone is considered a significant Australian engineer.   They are mentioned in Colin O'Connor's bridge book (although that states they are from Tasmania) and there are mentioned here: http://home.vicnet.net.au/~aholgate/jm/unbltarchtexts/unbltarches6.html with photograph of a bridge they built: http://home.vicnet.net.au/~aholgate/jm/unbltarchdrgs/gsa_s-and-s.jpg

... and are also mentioned here:



Mr Stone's work has been researched by a number of people, including Iain Stuart (pers. comm.), principally to do with the development of reinforced concrete and its application in Australia. 

Edward Giles Stone was born on 17th February 1873 in Sydney and served a 'cadetship' with his father, a Civil Engineer, J.J. Stone.  He then worked for the Roads and Bridges Branch of the Public Works Department for about seven years, after which he joined the Sewerage Construction Department. Three years later, in 1900, he joined the newly formed Sydney Harbour Trust as Chief Design Engineer.  In 1907 he entered private practice as "Consulting Engineer and Structural Architect, specialising in Reinforced Concrete".  

Some time after 1909 Stone set up a precasting plant in Emu Plains NSW, for the manufacture of reinforced concrete houses, silos, water troughs, bins and other products. The system he developed was used for the construction of a five-roomed cottage, still standing at 2 Railway Street, Emu Plains, and for a large house of two storeys in Iandra ( 7 Windermere Avenue, Northmead) for the Hon. George Greene, member of the Legislative Council of NSW (listed on the Baulkham Hills LEP).   

In 1912 Stone began his partnership with Ernest J. Siddeley, in which Stone was the driving design force while Siddeley was the project manager who executed the works.  Edward Giles Stone adopted the Considère system and the partnership produced some remarkable buildings and structures using this system, notably the Dennys Lascelles Austin wool store at Geelong, the Barwon Sewerage Aqueduct, Floating Pontoons at Circular Quay and the Breakwater at Glenelg (Lewis 2004 see also the article in the Commonwealth Engineer). Stone and his partner Siddley designed and constructed the concrete structures on the Mortlake site including the coal and coke bunkers, the tunnel to take the Telpher system under the retorts, as well as the Power House.

Some interesting aspects of the Stone story are on a website about engineer John Monash and his pre-WWI works ( http://home.vicnet.net.au/~aholgate/jm/texts/asbhist.html ), Alan Holgate mentions Stone and Siddeley as rivals to Monash (People who interacted with JM - http://home.vicnet.net.au/~aholgate/jm/mainpages/people1.htm )  - S&S being in competition with JM on the  Queensland House, Abattoirs Br[?], Geelong Sewage Aqueduct, Tooronga Rd Br, Echuca Service Reservoir, and the  Mortlake Service Reservoir.    With regard to pontoons, The Porsgrunds Cementstöperi A/S, in Norway, is known to have began experimenting with small concrete pontoons in 1913, but in Australia concrete pontoons must have been at least under consideration even before that.  south Australia's Chief engineer in 1908 asked Monash to design a pontoon for a crane, which was built in 1909.   Moncrieff sent a sketch showing a length of 50 feet (15.2m) and a beam of 22 feet (6.71m), specified a maximum draught of 2'-6" (762mm), and suggested a shell thickness of two inches (51mm), which was later considered insufficient:   "In a class of its own is a reinforced concrete pontoon designed and built to an order of A. B. Moncrieff, Chief Engineer of South Australia, for use on the Port River. The pontoon was 15.2m long and 6.7m wide and had a crane mounted at one end. Only one was supplied.   In 1909, South Australia's Chief Engineer asked Monash if he could supply reinforced concrete "pontoons" for river work, of the type being built in Europe. Monash admitted that he and his workforce had no experience in this type of construction; but he was keen to open up a new line of business and negotiated to build a prototype with others to follow if the first was successful. Design of the hull, and stability calculations, were carried out in the Melbourne office under Monash's direction. His Resident Engineer in Adelaide worried about the problems of building and launching the vessel ..... The prototype hull was floated on 16 March 1910 and was afterwards worked for some time equipped with a Priestman steam crane .... However, no further orders were made and there is evidence that the crane was removed within a year, and the hull used as a simple barge."

In June 1906 the South Australian Reinforced Concrete Co was formed.  John Gibson, an industrial chemist by training was one of the Directors.  Gibson was also manager of the David Mitchell cement works.  He became involved in the setting up of Monash's South Australian Reinforced Concrete Company (SARC), and subsequent problems and 'political fallout' of the ill-fated Glenelg breakwater project.  In 1907, the Public Works Department of South Australia formulated plans for a breakwater at Glenelg.  In 1908 SARC won the contract.


The Governor-General of Australia, the Earl of Dudley, was to 'drive' the first pile with due ceremony; however, on 13 March 1909, strong winds and choppy waves turned the cermony into a fiasco - the barge jolted in the rough water, a crane hook snapped, the pile disappeared beneath the waves and officials were concerned for the safety of the Earl (Guests arriving for the cermony - http://images.slsa.sa.gov.au/searcy/11/PRG280_1_11_578.jpg ).  



The 13 March 1909 ceremony to drive the first pile for the Glenelg breakwater.  The jetty

is seen to the right.  Lord Dudley, the Governor-General, was brought out by launch

to the small decorated platform which had been establised at the site.

(Repository:  SA State Library, Searcy collection ; misidentified as ca. 1911).


The keenness for the Governor General to be involved may be because Glenelg’s  jetty, built between 1857 and 1859 was opened by His Excellency, the Governor-in-Chief, Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell in a huge ceremony at 2pm on Monday 25th April 1859.  One of the first piles has also been driven by the Governor on 29 August 1857:


As the breakwater building task proceeded it remained very difficult and hazardous because of high waves and repeated storms. The elderly foreman was unable to cope with the danger and responsibility, and developed nervous exhaustion.  In April, Glenelg was hit by a heavy storm that sank boats and caused damage over a wide area.  The winch and boiler were washed off the construction site.  On 13 June another storm struck and damaged piles already emplaced.  Monash decided to pull out of the project and seek settlement with the government, attesting that further work would be futile and a waste of public money.  However the Public Works Department would not terminate the contract and insisted that work continue.  Work, however stalled in negotiations and legalities, and eventually (1911) SARC did extricate itself from Glenelg, at a loss.


Nothing more was done regarding the Glenelg breakwater until 1914, when Monash's competitors, Stone & Siddeley, won a contract to build the breakwater based on concrete caissons - rectangular tanks sunk at regular intervals and filled with sand. Stone & Siddeley started work on a 1400 feet long structure in 1914 but their work too was destroyed by a storm in 1915.


The Government renegotiated with Stone & Siddeley in 1916 (some mentions say work started in 1915) for a 2470 feet long structure linked to the jetty. Considerable progress was then made with the work until a further series of storms and a partial collapse forced the firm into bankruptcy in 1917.   Stone & Siddeley sued the Government for supplying faulty data.  


Apart from the ruins, Glenelg still has no breakwater.  Huge concrete ‘blocks’ visible out from the present Glenelg jetty are the remains of the caissons from Stone & Siddeley's unfinished work.



Glenelg jetty in shallow water.  The water deepens rapidly beyond it.



Outline out to sea from jetty showing area of the breakwater ruins.

Seven or more rectangular concrete caissons seem apparent.



The original 1907 plan was for and arc of piles 1200 feet long, and 1500 feet from the beach,

out from the existing jetty.  The revised plan in 1916 was for Stone & Siddeley to construct

a much longer ?straight structure of 2470 feet, and linked to the jetty.



A similar concept drawn by artist J.R. Jobbins in ca. 1850 for a Glenelg pier. An illustration of

"design of the proposed Glenelg pier and breakwater by engineer William Bennett Hays".

It was intended that the jetty would have a curved "head" on it, which could be faced by

iron plates to act as a breakwater.  These iron plates were delivered to the beach

but never installed for some reason, and were eventually disposed of as scrap.

(Repository:  S.A. State Library)


In 1853 Hays applied for a years leave of absence to return to England. While there he supervised the purchase of material for the Glenelg jetty.  Before leaving, he had prepared plans for the extension of the Port Willunga jetty using a special T-shaped head for the breakwater.  He charged the contractor £76 extra for his design, without the knowledge of the government. An investigation was instituted when the contractor asked for reimbursement from the department. Hays, in Britain, maintained that the patent had been registered in London, and that he was legally entitled to charge for its use. The colonial secretary was scathing in reply, saying that Hays's behaviour was 'most inexcusable and highly unbecoming an officer in his position', and suggesting underhand conduct. It was decided that his behaviour merited dismissal and his services were terminated in January 1856.


The breakwater story may be little known to much of the public today, e.g. "Unfortunately Glenelg is fronted by open sea. If they built a breakwater and pier there could be a possibility. I think there were intentions of building one in the past. You can see it at low tide further out from the current jetty"; although divers have a better appreciation of it and call it 'The Blocks' or 'Glenelg Blocks' - "The Blocks is a relatively shallow dive straight out from Glenelg. If you are fit enough you can snorkel out there, but we suggest going by boat.  The blocks are part of the old Glenelg Jetty and break water that washed away in a storm in the early 1920s.  Made up of a series of large concrete blocks, with a depth of approx. 6-8m, it makes a great easy dive.  Expect to see large varieties of marine life including many resident Wobbegong sharks. The dive can be limited in visibility because of its proximity to the Patawalonga outlet, but on a clear day can make an awesome dive." (although even this particular better appreciation of it has the date wrong, 'early 1920s'); "The Glenelg Blocks are situated a few hundred metres from the shore, in line with the Glenelg jetty.  They are a series of huge cement blocks, originally placed to serve as a breakwater. The tops of the blocks usually break the surface and can be located easily.  Colourful growth and numerous fish make this an interesting dive.  It is best not to dive this site after rain when visibility deteriorates.  Depth 4-6 metres.   Wobbegongs, nudibranchs, common reef fish, spider crabs; An interesting and mostly overlooked site.  Plenty of fish and nooks and crannies".


The mention of blocks in line with the jetty (in addition to the line orthogonal to it) shows that Stone & Siddeley did construct the stipulated link between the jetty and the breakwater.   Thus the jetty actually did get built out to the breakwater.  


The jetty has quite a long history.  In August 1857, construction of it started and it it was opened on 25 April, 1859. Costing over £31,000 to build, the structure was 381 metres (1,250 ft) long.  There were several additions to the jetty. A lighthouse was built in 1872 at the jetty's end, but a year later it caught fire and was cast into the sea to save the rest of the structure. A replacement lighthouse was built in 1874, and was 12.1 metres (40 ft) tall. Other additions include public baths, and aquarium, a police shed and a three-story kiosk with tea rooms.  The large aquarium was built on the jetty in 1929. It would display creatures such as fish, sharks, dolphins, seals, stingrays and octopuses. The kiosk was wrecked in a storm in 1943, and the entire jetty was destroyed by a hurricane  in 1948.   Most of the structure washed away and the rest unsafe. Re-construction was not completed till 1969.  At just 215 metres (705 ft) long, the new structure was than two thirds of the original jetty.


After the Stone & Siddeley company failed, i.e. sometime after 1917, Stone moved his interest to Tasmania and to cement rather than concrete.


Sir John Monash was amongst the group of well known business people who financed and started the National Portland Cement company on Maria Island Tasmania in 1920 (which plant was closed in 1929).   At that time Stone seems to also have gotten interested in cement making.  He gave an address to the Launceston Stock Exchange in Jan 1921, about potential cement production; and he became one of the founders of Tasmanian Cement Pty Ltd in 1922.  The initial plant was to have been near Hobart but Stone became interested in Railton as an alternative site because of nearby oil shale.  He formulated an invention to conjointly exploit that as well, by using exhaust gases from the cement kiln to distil oil from the oil shale, and/or oil form the oil shale to fuel the cement making.  Erection of a plant began there in late 1923 or early 1924.   Stone worked as Managing Director but without salary.  He received shares for his part in founding the company and assignment of his inventions and patents.  The company was continuously short of money in 1924.  It persuaded Dorman and Long (who had secured the contract to build the Sydney harbour bridge to take up shares.  In 1925 the company was still short of money.  The president (Sir Hugh Bell) of Dorman and Long visited Tasmania and D & L again agreed to put in money, but only on condition that they took over management.  Stone was asked to resign as Managing Director, and the board (including L. Ennis of D & L) later decided to terminate Stone as construction engineer.   The company was reformed in July 1928 as Goliath Portland Cement.  Because of the problems at Railton, Dorman and Long had to buy their cement from Kandos for the harbour bridge, and arranged to sell a portion of their shares to Kandos (this information mostly pers. comm. Peter Benkendorff).   Stone then went on to try and establish a cement works at Port Kembla, and when that to failed he seems to have shifted these interests to Deep Creek, Narrabeen(?).


Stone registered a company "Industries and Cements Ltd" in 1933, which was not dissolved until 1949.

According to those who have endeavoured to research the Deep Creek site, E.G. Stone purchased the land there in 1941 and sold it in 1951.  Perhaps pertinent to this is the fact that the bridge that carries the Wakehurst Parkway over Deep Creek was built in 1941-1942, which would have given access to the western shore area for heavy trucks etc.   The area alongside Deep Creek in 1941 and earlier had a caravan park and recreational usage.

The company Stone and Sideley did many works involving major use of concrete.  They made large concrete pontoons at Circular Quay ferry wharves, concrete bridges over Hickson Road in the Rocks, set up quite a large plant in Port Kembla in the depression years, and had projects in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.  They had a noteable concrete pipe-making factory at Geelong.  Messrs Stone and Siddeley, were referred to primarily as reinforced concrete specialists "of Sydney" who also had branches in Tasmania and South Australia.  Mr E.J. Siddeley presumably lived in Sydney as a man of that name was appointed club patron in 1957 of Briars  sporting club at Greenlees Park, at the Corner of Ian Parade and Wellbank Street  in Concord.


They were possibly of of an experimental or innovative inclination, as the name of one subsidiary might suggest: "Exploratory Construction Products" (formed in the early 1930s).   This was apparently some sort of plant to produce cement in the Illawarra area.   Like with the Narrabeen plant it too was sited at a lagoon, the Tom Thumb Lagoon.

Apart from in Gardner's study, no other reference to any business called the "Never Been Beaten Lime and Cement Co." has been located apart from knowledge obtained in August 2008 that the Manly Daily carried a story and photographs about it [this is currently being followed up on].


The local idea of the place seems to have developed that "Stoney's" works was using shell grit.   There is also the equant ?shallow hole just a bit north of the plant, with a track going to it from the plant in 1943.  Estuarine clay for experimenting with *could* have been taken from there.   But it could just as likely, or more likely, be a completely natural feature.   Re chronology of the site Stone could possibly have resurrected/continued there with some  experimenting he is known to have been doing at Port Kembla.   His leases were apparently cancelled at Port Kembla in 1938, and from the evidence of the photos in the Mitchell Library the "cement" plant was present at Narrabeen Lagoon in 1940.  However the note "Looking north up bank of Middle Creek from Cement works" (No. GP01-23617 dated 9/1940, Mitchell Library) is erroneous on the creek name.  The works are in fact on Deep Creek. They are not on Middle Creek, which is another creek which drains into Narrabeen Lagoon.  Such an error is unlikely if the annotation was contemporaneous or made by the photographer. This suggests the thought that the annotation was made later on. Indeed, the whole idea that this was a "cement" works may be a later myth added to the site because the man there was well known at the time to be a cement-maker (or wannabe cement-maker .. as you have now detailed).

There is the booklet "Swept under the Carpet - A History of a Failed Cement Works Project at Port Kembla" by Don Reynolds (Illawarra Historical Society Wollongong 2003) which may throw much light on Mr Stone's activities.  It is the opinion in that work that Stone had little practical knowledge of the cement making process.   Reynolds research indicates he was sacked from Tasmanian Cement Pty Ltd.  Other information (fide P.B.)  indicates that Stone's plant to combine oil shale recovery with cement making did not work and nearly sent the Tasmanian Cement company broke.  It seems that he convinced investors that he could make cheap cement from shellgrit and clay.  The shellgrit was to be separated from a deposit, off the coast made up, of ca. 50% shellgrit and 50% quartz sand.   Surviving photos show a clay digester and pipes for a shellgrit handling facility.   Peter Benkendoff noted that Stone installed a rotary kiln made of reinforced concrete, but that anyone familiar with cement making and cement clinker mineralogy would realise the kiln would have fallen apart the first time it was lit up.  The works was never completed due to financial difficulties and technical problems.  Don Reynolds states in the booklet "There has been a great deal of speculation that the project was in fact a major confidence trick."



Looking SE towards Stone's Cement Works which was built within the Reid's Hill Quarry

at Port Kembla, 1932   (Photo:  Weber Collection, National Library of Australia)



Same looking SW, slightly earlier.



Stone and Siddeley's pipe factory plant at Marshall, which photo may include Mr. Stone.  This plant's oviform pipes went for the Geelong Sewerage ocean outfall in 1913-1914, and also to the Barwon river aqueduct.

(Photo: Barwon Water Archives, Geelong.


There was also an article in the Express, 29th October 1969, about the Stone endeavour at Port Kembla.  This state's:  "It's known as 'Stone's Monument' but some call it a monument to business miscalculation and, still others, a monument to business conspiracy".

No full biography of Edward Giles Stone has been found but there are numerous scattered articles showing how innovative he was.  He was perhaps one of the first, or the first, to propose large scale building of concrete ships in Australia, as shown by an article in the "The Argus" of Friday 8 June, 1917, p 6   
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1624032 ):



Mr. E. G. Stone, of Messrs. Stone and Siddeley, engineers and contractors, has put before the Prime Minister a proposal to construct a 4,000 ton concrete vessel within seven months, and after that, if the work is organised on a large enough scale, to maintain an output of one similar vessel a week. Mr. Stone stated last night that the Prime Minister had received the proposal very favourably, and was fully alive to the situation.

"This is the one kind of vessel for which we have all the materials available in Aus tralia," said Mr. Stone last night," and the question of labour will offer no difficulties.  Tiie vessels would be built of concrete, with a framework of steel bars, which can easily be obtained. Messrs. Thompson Brothers,  of Castlemaine, and other engineering firms have offered to supply the necessary engines within the specified time.  They will be internal combustion engines, of the semi-Diesel type, and the vessels will be capable of a speed of 10 knots an hour. A greater speed could be attained, but it would not justify the expense. The vessels will be purely cargo-carriers, of course. My firm
has offered to back my opinion that the vessels will be seaworthy and satisfactory, by a guarantee of £10,000, and Messrs. Thompson Brothers will back their engines.   Private shipping companies have approached me with regard to designing 8,000 ton vessels. I think that these larger vessels can he built without difficulty, and with equal safety. Our suggestion is to build the vessels at Geelong and Adelaide.  Both places have an ample supply of materials and the necessary facilities, and at both special terms have been offered which would enable the vessels to be very cheaply constructed.

"We built the biggest concrete barge in the world," continued Mr. Stone. "It is 180ft. long, with a beam of 80ft., and is now in use in Sydney Harbour, where it serves its purpose well, and has stood many heavy shocks. We have gone very carefully, into the matter of the seaworthiness of concrete vessels, and studied all the various strains and stresses, including the 'hogging' and 'sagging' strains to which they would be subjected.  We have had our calculations and data checked by University professors and other experts, and are satisfied that, when properly designed and constructed, concrete vessels will have an elasticity equal to steel ships, and be quite as seaworthy.  Concrete vessels are being built in Norway, and a recent cable message stated that the Norwegian Government had ordered 50,000 tons of shipping built of concrete. We have been in touch by cable with the builders of these vessels in Norway, and are absolutely certain that,  we are on the right track. I may say that we believe that with properly constructed compartments, these concrete vessels would be proof against submarine attacks; that is to say, that they would not.sink if torpedoed."


(Transcription thanks to Ken McInnes)




For how long Stone's barge remained the world's biggest is unknown.  By 1995 the then biggest, made in France for use off the coast of West Africa as an oil production platform, was 220m long.  It was almost 80 m longer than its then nearest rival that had been floating off Indonesia since 1976.  Concrete usage avoids rust.  "Concrete is a good material for marine applications - durability is no problem," said Claude Valencho, of Boygues, the Paris-based company building the vessel.  (New Scientist, 11 March 1995).



Prow of an abandonned concrete barge, England.   Boat graveyard near Sharpness.

Steel rusts, concrete doesn't.

An old concrete barge with caissons, at Portland Harbour Island, England.  Concrete barges were  towed

across the English Channel to Normandy, to form an artificial harbour (the "Mulberry" scheme)

for D Day, which hastened the end of the Second Great War (1939-1945).   The plan was

to sink caissons to form a six mile long half circle breakwater and create an artificial

harbour.  Building of a commissioned 273 concrete barges commenced in 1940

at Barrow-in-Furness and elsewhere.   Completed barges were launched

broadside as Stone did in 1917.  (Photo:  CanveyIsland.org , Essex) 
(For more information - http://www.ConcreteBarge.co.uk )



Normady today, with one of these concrete constructions.


(The old WWII barges are mostly gone, and sometimes lamented, as internet discussion shows: "Please also remember the seven French - Canadians that were killed in a Wellington bomber that flew down the length of long road, engine ablaze and crashed and burned so fiercly at the end of Northwick Road, that when the bodies were recovered the pennies in their pockets had melted and fused to the bones. These guys are buried in Sutton Rd cemetry in Southend.  I moved to France and when I returned I found the Barge had gone to my great dismay. Who was responsable for this and with whos permission ? ---- [Answer] by Dave Bullock ~ As explained on http://www.ConcreteBarge.co.uk the adjacent Yacht Club demolished our Barge on May 22nd 2004 during a Bank Holiday weekend. Apparently it was an "eye sore" ~ History of our Beloved Barge gathered so far: Dave Bullock recalls "I was born on Canvey Island in the early 1960's and can remember as a small child first looking over the concrete crowned black sea wall at Canvey Point and seeing a strange boat made of concrete!  I remember being told it was probably built by a failed inventor and had never floated - well who could believe a boat made of concrete could ever float?"  As the years went on the general opinion was that she was part of the WWII Mulberry Harbour, another part of which is still off Southend-on-Sea to this very day.  ~~~ It was May 2003 when we received "guess what they've demolished now" phone calls from family.  Surely not the Labworth cafe - no - they couldn't destroy it as they even had to build the new sea wall around it!  The Lobster Smack perhaps?  "Not the Concrete Barge?"... sickenly yes.  On the Friday before the Bank holiday weekend the adjacent Yacht Club had destroyed the Barge. The reason given was that it was 'an eye sore' and a danger to the kids who played on it. We believe they did own the vessel (compare it with owning an animal - you are just its keeper!) but after much argument in the local press (see 'NEWS' section) the fact was she had gone. A visit to the site (see 'VISITS') resulted in the sad sight of a few remnants covered in a foul black clay and the decision to set up this website in her memory, and indeed in memory of all the Canvey landmarks that have disappeared over the last few decades.)



Other old English concrete barges, England.  From an article "Concrete on the Cut" by Robert Hamilton

in Waterways World,  Jan 2000.   This states that the first concrete boats were built by a Frenchman,

Lambot, in about 1848.  It was in WWI when iron was directed toward the war effort, that

concrete boats appeared in Britains canals.   The first of these reinforced concrete

boats were launched in 1917, the same year that Stone launched in Sydney. 


( per http://www.concretebarge.co.uk/02-canveybarge/3-history/scans/13.htm )


Joseph Louis Lambot , in Carces, France, built concrete vessels from 1848 onwards.  In he made a concrete rowing-boat for display in the World Exhibition in Paris.


A concrete schooner was built in America in 1892, and in 1905-1913 practical concrete vessels were being built in Germany, England, Holland and Norway.  


Apparently several concrete barges were built in the Panama Canal in 1911.  The Porsgrunds Cementstöperi A/S, Norway, began experimenting with small concrete pontoons in 1913.  Stone in his 1917 letter to the PM particularly mentioned Norway.  The the first Norwegian iron and concrete ship was launched on 20 August 1917 at the Porsgrund Cement Works in the presence of the Prime Minister M. Knudsen. 


In 1917 the Ferro-Concrete Ship Construction Co. was set up at Barrow-in-Furness and proposed building concrete ships.  However, the British Admiralty in WWI inaugurated a program for concrete barge building.  These were initially thought desirable for transporting ores from Spain.  A combined requirement for tugs and barges amounted to 154 vessels, but this output was never achieved.  Bt the time the war ended only one of these barges had been completed and 74 were in progress of being built. Things slowed down and by the end of July 1919, only 19 vessels of the program had been launched.  By this company.  Other companies were also building and the final figure for British concrete barges of  WWI programs is perhaps 54.   Lengths were 51.8-57.9 m.   A noteable one launched in 1918 by Hill, Richards & Co. of  Poole was the "Creteacre" (57.96 x 10.29 x 3.99 m).  This and other large barges (this company made about 9 large barges) were ordered in 1917, the year that Stone made his Australian proposal.



There are two Wikipedia pages on Stone which gather much of what is known:






Request to Warringah Council for information on the former factory at the mouth of Deep Creek, or traces of Mr Stone in records at first produced nothing.  Regarding the Deep Creek site, Council advised that  they have no area files earlier than 1959, nor could any maps that far back be found.  A check of building cards for Wakehurst Parkway and Morgan Road back to 1946 found no mention of Edward Giles Stone, nor did the old rates 
old rates record microfilms for those two roads contain anything.    However from other sources it emerged that 
there was believed to be data in early Council minutes, including that Stone was paid by Council to dredge the entry to Deep Ck for 50 pounds in 1935, and that he doggedly petitioned Council for a lease to dredge the lake entrance and put up flood gates over period 1933-1937.    It does rather seem that he was dredging sometime around 1937, but that gates such as he envisaged were never built.


A possible connection which came to light is that of the undeveloped part of the Deep Creek catchment approximately 40 percent was Crown land and approximately 37 percent of it was owned by a company known as Hawker Siddeley Aviation.  Mr Stone used to be in a Stone and Seddeley business - could there be any connection?




Narrabeen Head - Lake/lagoon entrance, and changes along the sand barrier/beach


Everyone knows this is a dynamic environment, and could change ever more with rising sea level.



Tidal marine delta at the lagoon mouth.



Linguloid sand waves atop ditto.

It is stated that at the beginning of the twentieth century, Narrabeen Lagoon was relatively shallow and mostly closed to the ocean.  In 1911, widespread dredging of the lagoon commenced (information from Council) and this continued until 1985.  In the 1950-60s dredging was prominent with operations entrance on the western side of the main road south of the entrance bridge.  By the 1980s the bed level of the whole eastern channel had apparently been lowered by some 2-3 meters and even deeper in some areas where deep dredged out holes were left.  Where the records are of this dredging has not yet been located.  Warringah Council has records for the later years; and in 1982 that Council did an EIS proposing to take 4.5 Mt of sand out of the Lagoon over 20 years.  Edward G. Stone apparently did get a 20 year dredging licence to run from 1933 but how much (if any) dredging he actually did do I have not yet been able to find out about.   Various verbal advice has been that he did do some dredging operation, and may even have made some lime.   If he did make any lime, no record has yet been found of where he sold it to.

In order to keep the Lagoon open, mouth "clearances" have been undertaken every 3-5 years since the mid 1970s, paid for by the Warringah and Pittwater Councils.  The 2006 clearance, for example, lasted over about 12 weeks and saw some 45,000 m3 of sand removed.  This was dumped to replenish Collaroy/Narrabeen Beach.   The NSW Government repays Warringah Council for up to two thirds of the total costs of clearance (in accordance with a 2:1 cost sharing arrangement in the NSW Floodplain Management Program).   Warringah Council pays the balance intitally but then seeks a share of re-imbursement from Pittwater Council because this work also benefits residents from that Council area.

Flow-on benefits of clearance may include significant improvements in recreational amenity around the lagoon entrance area. For example, during the peak summer holiday period of 2006/07 the Sydney Lakeside Caravan Park (the only park of its type on the Sydney Northern Beaches), which is just west of the entrance, was once again filled with ‘happy campers’.  This contrasted with the previous year when the entrance had become closed with sand and tidal flushing had fallen to zero.  The water had become stagnant and in the summer of 2005/06), both Pittwater and Warringah Councils were receiving  numerous complaints from park visitors and members of the community about its condition.

Before the clearance works commence (based on 2006 example) the Lagoon entrance must be artificially closed with sand.  The primary motivation for doing that is to minimise turbidity and the transport of suspended sediments during clearance works and ensure that lagoon water levels remain sufficient to cover the seagrass beds and ensure their survival during the entrance clearance operations. The artificial closure is via construction of a sand "levee" to a height of 1m AHD, with levee sand being progressively emplaced deposited in a south-north direction.  Such levee height is sufficient to maintain water level for ecological purposes, while also providing some storage capacity for any rainfall events that might occur during the entrance clearance works (CLT, 2007).


The last Review of Environmental Factors was completed in February 2011.   Sand excavated from the entrance continues to be spread at selected locations along Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach as part of the replenishment program.  Approximately 35,000 cubic metres of sand was moved to there in the September-December 2011 operation.  Some past clearance figures (from Cameron et al, 2007) are:





Location with

Respect to Ocean

Street Bridge

 Cost ($)






5 months





1 month










3 months



East and West


4 months



East and West


5 months



East and West


4 months



East and West


3 months



East and West


4 months



East and West


2 months

2011 35,000 East and West   4 months











People in the 1940s digging a channel to liberate the impounded lagoon.

Periodic mechanised opening began in 1975.



Artificial lagoon opening in February 1995.


Working on the entrance in September 2011.  At that time 40,000 cubic metres of sand was extracted over 12 weeks and spread on the Collaroy-Narrabeen beachfront, starting at Jenkins St and working north.  This was the tenth sand removal from the entrance since 1975, and the last removal before that was 43,000 c.m. in 2006.


High waves off the rock baths at Narrabeen Head


Photo on 5 March 1976.   The offshore waves are 4-5m high and at this time a mega rip current developed at the northern end of the embayment that extended a kilometre offshore.  

Narrabeen Beach at 7 July 1978.  Storms caused moderate erosion towards the northern end of the embayment.  The erosion scarp visible is up to 3m high.  The greatest erosion is believed to have occurred at the head of a rip current cell.   The remnant form of the rip cell is seen visible here opposite Octavia Street.  (Photo:  NSW PWD)

Rips are the sites of particularly strong beach erosion during storms.   Rips are the return flow of the massive amounts of water breaking on the beach during the storms.   Erosion propagates 'upstream' of the rips.   On the Narrabeen/Collaroy beach the rips are spaced ca. 100m apart in fair weather and up to 500m apart during major storms.   During severe storms there is preferred rip development in the Clarke to Devitt Street area, which may be related to effect of offshore 'reefs' upon waves.  


Rips first of all punctuate any offshore bar, and this may allow larger waves to penetrate further down the rip channel and attach the beach at the head of the rip.  This wave breaking further up the beach at a rip is shown in the 1978 photo above.   Rip associated erosion may form scarps up to 5m high, up to 200m long, and extending back up 10m further than erosion on adjacent areas of the beach.

Wave front sharp offset - what causes this?


Lagoon entrance viewed from the lagoon side.   Area immediately inside the entrance, on the northern side, is a caravan park.



The lagoon entrance, and camp, in much earlier times.



The lagoon entrance in 2008 looking north from the southern sand spit side towards Narrabeen Head

with the rock platform where the baths are.


Lagoon entrance close-up.   The beachrock is unjointed material near the pathway.

This beachrock is just above high tide.  More beachrock has been found further south along the beach, as at thin layer in drillhole N16, at 0.3m R.L. A.H.D.  And in same hole, which began at R.L. 4m, more beachrock was encountered deeper, as two layers at 6.0 and 9.5m   In nearby hole N17 which also began at R.L. 4m, beachrock layers were encountered at 5.5 and 7 m (below which the sediment was red-brown).   At nearby hole N18 which began at R.L. 9.5m, there was some very weak cementation between beachrock encountered between 4.5 and 6.5 m (probably not beachrock-related).  At N21, not far south of the entrance to the lagoon, drilled from 10.5m R.L., there was weak cementation met with at 8.0-8.5 (not beachrock?), and three layers of beachrock between 11.5 and 14.5m (i.e. 2-4m below sea level, similar as the beachrock at 2 and 5.5m below sea level in N16).   It appears that beachrock formed levels around present high tide level and also at an ?earlier time/s where it is now found about 2m and 4-5.5m below sealevel.   The upper level of beachrock around present sealevel is also seen at northern side of Long Reef, and at Palm Beach beachrock occurs at 5-5.5m in PB DH26 (commenced at R.L. 3m; hence at 2-2.5m below sealevel.   Shell from 1.5m below the Palm Beach breachrock was dated at 6,800 +/- 337 years (GS 1982/343).



A lower sea/tide view (2005) of the same, with the baths and low sand at the entrance more emergent.

The entrance to the lagoon can periodically fill with marine sediment when the amount of sand moved

in by incoming tide continues to exceed the amount of sand removed by the outgoing tide.  Such

blockage of the lagoon, if coupled by strong rainfall, can then cause flooding of low-lying areas.

The entrance "throat" to the lagoon is usually so inundated with sand load that it is always 

a shallows area, and the tidal range there is typically only 0.25 m.

The rock platform on the ocean side of Narrabeen Head was the site for an early 1930s rock baths which was built under the Unemployment Relief Scheme.  At that time it became one of the largest and most distinctive rock baths in the Sydney area.



A strong swell showing off South Narrabeen Beach in mid 2007, looking north.  Note the high waves and the sand heaped up in yards.  Also the back of beach was eroding as a wall in places up to 4-5m high, with the sand sand thrown into yards.  (Photo: by Surfers group - with comment by "Indo Surf" http://www.indosurf.com.au  -  "I took  my first shiny new board out to the Pool in 1962, when Nat used to surf there, a (little) bit like a right pointbreak. The sand all washed away from Narrabeen too in the late 1960’s. The houses and units should never have been built there on the sand dunes, but too late now. I wonder what global warming will do to the real estate prices along this strip in the next decade?! What do you reckon they bulldoze the lot and set up 'surfer’s only' camping areas every couple of hundred metres, with all the rest just bush!").

Surveying of change along Collaroy/Narrabeen Beach might have been undertaken by multiple parties?  One has been the Water Research Laboratory (WRL), a part of UNSW, as part of their ongoing research work.  They have used equipment (a RTK-DGPS) mounted on a quad bike and driven shore-parallel along the length of the beach.   The design for beach replenishment rests on the need to create a profile which endeavours to secure some short-term stability and protection for the properties along the beach-front.  Further information on the management of Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach is available at http://warringah.nsw.gov.au/environment/coastline.aspx



As above, 2007, showing eroded beach rear, and a half-buried seat for sitting and gazing out to sea.


Collaroy end erosion - a bit of somebody's backyard destroyed(?) - and houses not far distant. By 1987 a number of houses had been lost, and there was considerable general concern that the Council was allowing big houses to continue to be built right adjacent to the public beach (Clarke and Malone, 1987).  Already by 1987 this had become one of the most highly capitalised sections of the NSW.

At the southern (Collaroy) end of the beach the sea took two houses in 1945, and six to seven others were substantially damaged.   In a 1967 storm one house and a hise rise block of flats began to be undermined but were saved from any bad damage.  In 1974 several houses and a high rise block of units were again threatened.  Dumping of rock and fill at the back of the beach was done (as seen above) to try and counter the advance of marine erosion.   (More recent history is uncertain, apart from the sand replenishment activity).



Threatened houses in 1920 at Collaroy Beach.


Beach erosion in 1967 (photo of 4 September 1967) at the "Flight Deck" home units block.  Prior to the storm the beach was at the level of the concrete slab seen projecting out from the building.   The storm eroded away 5m thickness of sand.  Extensive fill, hundreds of tonnes, was brought in to protect the building.    (Photo:  Water Research Lab., UNSW)

Same date.  House undermined at north side of Frazer Street.  (Photo:  Water Research Lab., UNSW)


In March 1996 a prolonged battering by storm waves did major damage to the rock baths.   Also, waves were such that on one occasion a seven-year-old boy playing on a bodyboard was washed out of the baths and his body was never found.   


In 2002 the NSW government declared an aquatic reserve from the south end of Turimetta Beach to the rockbaths at Narrabeen Head. Within the protection zone, which extends to 100 m offshore, but there are bans on taking a whole range of intertidal invertebrates.





At one time in the late 1900s storm activity also moved boulders so as to expose part of the previously obscured cliff face, and this was found to be covered with a veneer of calcite-cemented sand.  Such was suggestive that at some time in the past there may have been a depth of mobile sand deposited upon the rock platform area (and since removed).  Similar "recent" carbonate cementation of detritus is observed at other places along this length of coast.   For there to have been significant sand over the rock platform area it may have been a period when the lagoon was permanently blocked(?).   Partial cementation (unknown nature) has also been logged in bores in the barrier sand area, e.g. drillhole N21 (not ascertained if samples are preserved.  Cementation can be beachrock (such as is known from Palm Beach further north and also near Long Reef on the beach at the end of Florence Avenue) or it could be the weaker type of cementation as occurs around buried trees ("pseudofulgarite" type).


The beachrock opposite Florence Avenue at Fisherman's Beach, Collaroy Basin, seen at low tide.  (Photo:  Peter Mitchell)

[ This occurrence is noted in quite old excursion guides from Sydney University geological excursions.]


Dolerite -  The 1902 handbook of the Geological & Mining Museum (p. 186) lists dolerite from "Narrabeen" (but exact location is not known)





Aboriginal fish hooks, carved from shell - occasionally/rarely found along the shores.


Locals perhaps continue to find/note occasionally the various indications of former Aboriginal presence, yet despite extensive enquiries made for this district there were only very few persons ever contactable in the Narrabeen area who have a direct interest in local deposits (further details on this are herein).    There have been occasional talks given on Aboriginal presence in the area, especially about the western end of the Lagoon and if any continuous Aboriginal presence may have existed there till quite recent times (No signage today records the presence of that remembered camp within what is now the Sydney Academy of Sport. - viz. http://www.dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/aboriginal_settlement_narrabeen_lagoon ).    Or "Destruction of Narrabeen reserve - North Coastal - 1959 - The last community campsite on the northern Sydney coast, at Narrabeen, is destroyed to make way for the National Fitness camp.  Dennis Foley writes (Foley, 2001: 57-8):"'

“Many of our people lived in and around the Narrabeen area long into the 1960s.  They were fishermen or worked in rural industry before the 1940s when cattle and farming were still attempted in the northern beach areas. The area that the New South Wales Academy of Sport is built on, was one of our last camps. The National Fitness Camp as it was then known was constructed on the bulldozed foundations of a camp that survived on the urban fringe right up to the late 1950s. … As children we would accompany our uncles fishing for blackfish, crab and prawn. They knew exactly when and where to fish. This was of course before the murder of the lake by pollution" ( http://www.historyofaboriginalsydney.edu.au/north-coastal/destruction-narrabeen-reserve )

Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment spokeswoman Judith Bennett was quoted as saying in 2013 "There is all this fabulous Aboriginal heritage on our doorstep" - although there may be general 'impression' of such, when individuals have been specifically asked what they knew of any sites the matter has evaporated thus far [and insufficient persons interested could be found to invite to any discussion meeting - but still looking ]  ( viz.  http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/northern-beaches/national-park-proposed-for-narrabeen-lagoon-catchment/story-fngr8hax-1226695742068).  


Fortunately, however, Museum authorities have collected and preserved assorted information.    One find - "Narrabeen man" - is of outstanding interest, and the oldest skeleton found around Sydney.



Some "inland" (Brewarrina area) children visit Narrabeen Beach, January 2014.


SMEC Australia Pty Ltd.(2011) in "Narrabeen Lagoon Plan of Management", has written "The earliest known evidence of Aboriginal activity is 30,000 years ago in the Parramatta area (Jo MacDonald Cultural Heritage Management 2005)" [NB: older evidence, at least to 40,000 years has been proposed at Upper Castlereagh which SMEC did not mention].  SMEC (2011, p. 33) also wrote "Evidence of Aboriginal activity in the Narrabeen Lagoon catchment is about 6,000 - 20,000 years ago (Harris et al. 2010)".  By mid 2013 I thought I had pretty much finished reviewing sources for Aboriginal history of the Lagoon yet I had nowhere else seen anything as old as 20,000 years mentioned.  Hence this seemed important.  Seeing it could take be a long time to actually get and search the Harris et al. (2010) book I thought I'd ask the Council if they knew where that oldest site was.  

It is thought that there's about 30 sites with Aboriginal traces around the Lagoon shore.

There are two main highlights of this - a find of a significant skeleton ("Narrabeen Man") near the beach, and an "Aboriginal camp" at the western end of the lagoon (Middle Creek mouth) which was in quite 'recent' times (last century).    Narrabeen Man has been well studied.   Nobody is known to have commenced any sort of study of the "Aboriginal camp" but a substantial oral record of it has been recorded from the knowledge of Dennis Foley.  Denis Foley's information/memories re the camp is readily findable on the internet, and includes a video made of him speaking about it.


By early 2013 the following steps had been taken in searching for any information on the Aboriginal camp:

1)  Initially when starting this webpage the Council and others were contacted.    Did they know anyone interested in history or heritage or environment?  No.   Did they have any records on Stone's old "cement factory" just west of Deep Creek, or the bridge he built over that creek, etc.?  No.  Did they know anything about the 'supposed Aboriginal camp being displaced by a National Fitness camp?' - No.

2)  After the webpage was uploaded the same potential sources were informed of it and again asked the same things, in case anything further had cropped up that they might be aware of.   Council still had nothing at all, so far as they were aware of,  regarding the Middle Creek camp.  They did know that the whole area there at the creek mouth had been infilled at some time, but they did not know by whom, or when, that was done.  However, they, and others, this time around were able to give me some names of possibly interested people.   This lead to the following being ascertained:

- A man named Mr Hunter, who is or was a painter, found old newspapers laid under some old linoleum which he took up inside a house.    There were two articles about this camp.   He gave these cuttings to Mr John Ogden of Plateau Road, who he must have known was interested in Aboriginal history.   It is recalled that one of the articles was a Manly Daily article and one was probably a Herald article.

- The Manly Daily offices burned down; and all records/newspapers are lost (?).   Hence it is not possible to follow up with them.

- Mr Ogden gave the articles to his next door neighbour, Julie Jackson, who is researching Aboriginal history (for a Sydney Univesity project on Aboriginal history of region around Sydney).

- Julie had gone to Rome when first sought but was later got in contact with and she supplied copy of one of the abovementioned newspaper articles (  narrabeen-abor-camp-3.jpg which shows a suitcase as baby's bed and is in the Herald article).   That article gave an interesting clue in the name of the child's father.

- According to the Herald article the baby and her three brothers and sisters, and parents, comprised one of a number of families there which the Council ordered to leave.    There is no mention about anyone ordered off being Aboriginal, however.   It would seem from the article that the Council were merely ordering away some people who had over-stayed the set limits for camping at this place.   According to the paper they refused to move on.   The article records that Council said they would be fined five pounds a day for being there after a stipulated date.  

- Although there's no hint about anything aboriginal at this place if one only had the newspaper information, and the baby looks light-skinned, it was not difficult to find that this baby and father were clearly of Aboriginal descendant.  This can be done merely from the surname reported reported in the newspaper.   That baby's family name was Embrey, and a search for any "Embrey family" via NSW BDM shows such surname as virtually unknown in the past in NSW.   However, search on "Embrey" quickly finds them as Queenlanders, viz. Fred Embrey (attached: fred-embrey.jpg).    Data for that photo reads "Fred Embrey and breasplate.  "WITHIN a few miles of Murgon is the Queensland Government's settlement for aborigines, the Cherbourg Mission Station. The picture gives some idea of the class of habitation provided. On the right is a conspicuous member of the settlement, Fred Embrey, who holds the title of King of the Mt. Mia Station blacks."   ( The Queenslander, 28 December 1938, p. 22)".

- The next lead to follow, from John Ogden, was advice to contact Bob Waterer, who John thouight might know about the camp.   Bob, now in his late 80s, is currently at the "War Veterans Home" (RSL retirement village), at Collaroy Plateau.   Bob, however, was not contacted, because other persons who known him later advised me that he didn't have any direct knowledge of that camp.  Some of John Ogen's photographic work (which has ranged all over Australia) is shown below:

"Capturing Aboriginal Australia" - a study of photographic sources by John Ogden.

John Ogden has extensively been to all libraries across Australia reviewing Aboriginal recorded ethnography/anthropology, photos etc.  He published a selection of the photos timed to coincide with the first anniversary of Kevin Rudd's prime ministerial apology to the "stolen generations" for the behaviour of the Government towards the Aboriginal people.  

"From Truganini the 'last Tasmanian', to 'King' Murray Jack, Burnam Burnam, Bob Bellear, Cathy Freeman and Tracey Moffatt, only one man can say he has eyeballed them all.  Consumed by what he calls his 'beautiful obsession', John Ogden has trawled public libraries, galleries and museums and private collections in every state and territory in the past four years, poring over more than 300,000 images taken from 1847 to today.   With one more sponsor to cover production costs, he hopes the book will raise more than $200,000 for renal health programs run by the Jimmy Little Foundation. Five hundred copies will be sent to remote communities, "where some people can't read or write and they can look at it and say, 'Wow, that's my culture'".  "A fourth-generation Anglo-Australian, Ogden was driven to compile the book by the so-called "history wars", which debated the mistreatment of the first Australians - 'You only need to look at the pictures to see there were frontier wars. But it's not to make people feel ashamed. It's not a political rant … It's basically trying to show the richness, resilience and diversity of the culture' ".  


By 2012, John Ogden had published three books by Cyclops Press( since 1999):  Australienation, Portraits from a Land Without People and Saltwater People of the Broken Bays, and he was working on a companion book to Saltwater People, looking at the history of Sydney’s eastern and southern beaches.   

- John Ogden said that he has some coverage of the Middle Creek camp in "Saltwater People".  [Not yet seen.]

- In "Landscapes of Clearance: Archaeological and Anthropological Perspectives", edited by Angèle Angele Patricia Smith and Amy Gazin-Schwartz, the book's page 156 relates a sad-sounding account:of the clearance by the local Council of the Middle Creek Aboriginal encampment :-  


'Smashed camps, broken toys, bulldozers at dawn ... smoke drifting up from one or two places in the sandy soil where the last campfires of millenia still lay smouldering ....' , so runs the account in that book.


But is that all factual?   Did bulldozers really come at dawn?    


Was this really a site "millenia old", or was it some Council camping ground where relatively recent newcomers were occupying space at, and the Council didn't want that situation to continue?   


Who has real story, or even the simple facts of land ownership/administration at that time?   Who actually took people away - and where to?   Dennis Foley (pers. comm.) says they were taken away, by truck.   It is thought they were possibly taken to somewhere in the Blacktown area.


 One writer describes that those Aboriginal people who lived in such camps (and could not afford rents elsewhere), were rounded up by authorities and subsequently  "disappeared".   This writer states "Their camps—including the well-known one at Narrabeen Lakes - were demolished.  The whereabouts of many of these people remained forever unknown to other members of their families, many of whom were too afraid to ask questions"  ( http://epress.anu.edu.au/caepr_series/no_27/mobile_devices/ch09s02.html ).   The same source also states: "By the 1880s small pockets of traditional owners and others continued to exist in various locations of Sydney. They included Manly, Neutral Bay, Double Bay, Blues’ Point, the north shore of Botany Bay, La Perouse, Kurnell, Sans Souci and a noisy camp at Circular Quay (Nugent 2005: 47). Other settlements have been recorded at Pittwater, Narrabeen Lakes and in isolated pockets along the Hawkesbury and its tributaries (Brook 1999; Foley 2001). Darug families could still be found along the Hawkesbury, the Nepean and Colo Rivers, on the Sackville Reserve, near Rooty Hill, and in and around the various farms working on the western urban fringe (Goodall 1988: 35)."   The writer of this is Dennis Foley, so it is not any additional person who might be a further lead.


View of the lagoon or 'lake' water from area where they had lived.   Image at historyofaboriginalsydney.edu.au , tagged "Probably all of the Narrabeen community are trucked to western Sydney".    No signage today records the former presence of the camp, which became the Narrabeen National Fitness Camp (now administered by the Sydney Academy of Sport).

Conference organised at Byron Bay in 2006 by The Centre for Peace and Social Justice, Southern Cross University.  One of the conference items was "Peter Read interviews Denis Foley.  Whose Landscape?  Who's Exiled".

To what extent were the people who were taken away (and who had their humpies demolished - apparently where the National Fitness Centre was later constructed) just illegal squatters (Council camping ground over-stayers) or to what extent were/are they direct descendants of those who were there for millenia?   To the writer of what is so far the main found fragment of contemporary newspaper information, it seems that he may not have thought they were aboriginal/part-aboriginal people in any way.   Some at the camp area which was flattened appear to have been recent immigrants from Germany.  The State Government over the years has flattened the buildings of poor squatters on public lands at many places.


Dennis Foley is related to the people of that camp although he never lived there himself.  He believes that they were to some extent the direct descendants of the ancient native people of the Narrabeen area - not in a loose or figurative sense he says, but in a very direct sense.


Dennis has made this matter now widely known about (e.g. it is found in the Dictionary of Sydney) but it is interesting to reflect that if it had not been for one man (Dennis) nobody seems to have a record of the event.   That perhaps illustrates how hit-or-miss our sense of history may sometimes be.


History Professor Peter Reed who also likes or feels affinity with this country has recognised/accepted Dennis Foley as the spiritual custodian for Aborigines of this place.   Dennis is one of many "white Aborigines" who have traced, or maintained knowledge of  their mixed descent from local clans -  other prominent ones including "Darug" groups around Doonside/Blacktown, at the Cumberland Plain west of Sydney. 


According to reports, the camp was removed in 1959, and some say it was removed to "make way" for a National Fitness Camp.  The book 

"Landscapes of Clearance: Archaeological and Anthropological Perspectives  edited by Angèle Angele Patricia Smith, Amy Gazin-Schwartz" on page 156 gives the year the camp was bulldozed "by the Council" as 1957 rather than 1959.   Yet another 'source' states that the clearance occurred in 1958.   So we find three different stated years for the reputed bulldozing.


A baby in a suitcase bed.  She and her three brothers and sisters, and parents, comprised one of the families the Council ordered to leave.    She may not be of dark skin and the newspaper article makes no mention at all about the families ordered to leave being in any way Aboriginal.   However the article gave the baby's family name as Embrey - and a search for Embrey family, does rather suggest that this family was likely of Aboriginal descent. 

The father of the above child (not named at the time of the photo) was recorded as Mr  E.A. Embrey.    The following two men are E.A. Embrey's and their marriage dates are:

4853/1915/ EMBREY, ERNEST A married KINGSHOTT, MATILDA B registered at  REDFERN



Also noted that in 2012 in Rita Rainbow’s second-hand shop in Marcoola, on the Sunshine Coast, there was a smooth, crescent-shaped piece of metal which a shopping browser  (Jamie Dunn) recognised instantly  as an Aboriginal breast plate and thought he'd buy it.   On it was a name –  "Fred Embrey" – as well as a date and place.  Jamie bought the object and decided to find the rightful family who owned it - and return it to them.  He began phoning every Embrey he could find in the phone directory and asking - "“Hello - Are you Aboriginal?”   Nup .. nobody was.   The people he phoned were indifferent, polite, and of no help.   None knew of having any Aboriginal links.   However, on further search, Jamie found in a history book a  photograph of Fred Embrey wearing the very breast plate now in his possession.   Jamie presented the breastplate to the school at Cherbourg, an Aboriginal community, northwest of Brisbane.  There was a scream from the back of the children, and it was someone who said they were related to Fred Embrey.

Cherbourg assembly or "roll call".    Cherbourg was established by William Thompson of the Salvation Army in 1899.  It was taken by the Government 1904 under the “Aboriginal Protection Act” and Aboriginal people ofr all tribes, from "all over Queensland and New South Wales" were indiscriminately moved there according to the current Cherbourg history project.  

Man with breastplate (this one is not Fred Embrey).

Fred Embrey and breasplate.  "WITHIN a few miles of Murgon is the Queensland Government's settlement for aborigines, the Cherbourg Mission Station. The picture gives some idea of the class of habitation provided. On the right is a conspicuous member of the settlement, Fred Embrey, who holds the title of King of the Mt. Mia Station blacks."   ( The Queenslander, 28 December 1938, p. 22) 

( Fred was photographed as "King of Mt Mia Station, Kilkivan, 1 February 1927 - Cherbourg, Queensland. South Australian Museum: N1375)

".Wha'din (Fred Embrey), a great songman, a chief who struggled to maintain the culture of the Kabi people during the reservation days of Aboriginal Australia."   ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabi )

Dennis Foley wrote a 2000 book "Dispossession: The Story of My People, the Eora of Tuhbowgule" and this is described also by Peter Read, "Whitefellas, Our Country", Sydney Morning Herald (Spectrum liftout), 26 August 2000, p 4.]:  "One night late in the 1950s came news that the camp had been destroyed.  At dawn his uncles raced to Narrabeen to find the settlement flattened, the people vanished among the hills and smoke rising here and there from twisted sheets of iron littering the sand.  The national fitness camp was coming.  Foley still wonders what happened to the residents."   Read added "Not a hectare of land has been returned to the Gai-mariagal people, not a single sign erected to commemorate any of their old sites and camps, which people still remember, at Narrabeen, Manly Lagoon and on the harbour foreshores."


Dennis was born in 1950 so his memory of seeing the destroyed camp one morning was from when he was very young, under ten.


"(1954-1964) - A further wave of revocation relating to the Government policy of assimilation and the removal of Aboriginal people from traditional reserves to new reserves set aside in other places or outside towns. Probably all of the Narrabeen community are trucked to western Sydney. After this time, no official or unofficial reserves remain in Guringai country.  1959 - The last community campsite on the northern Sydney coast, at Narrabeen, is destroyed to make way for the National Fitness camp." ( http://www.historyofaboriginalsydney.edu.au/north-coastal/1950s ).


There was a reserve there, as seen in below map - R7504 (notified 6-10-1888).


NRS 10663, National Fitness Council Policy book, c.Nov 1939-21 May 1959, [11/19038] Plan of land resumed for National Fitness Camp at Narrabeen Lakes  (NSW State Records) 


The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 July 1947, p. 4.

The National Fitness Camp must have existed in 1951 because 500 girls (and 4 boys) went there: 




LEFT: Ann Charlton, 14, of Brisbane, cleaning hurricane lamps at the Jubilee International Girl Guides' camp at Narrabeen yesterday. RIGHT: Paul Conroy, 17, of Narrabeen, shows Alice Lee, l8, of Boston, U.S.A., some of the sights at the Narrabeen National Fitness Camp, where the Guides' camp is being held. Alice is the only girl from America in the camp. Paul, who is a King's

Scout, is one of the four boys in the camp with 500 girls.

( The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 August 1951, p. 1 - http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/18218180 )


Other reportage shows the girls camped there 27 August till 5 September 1951 (The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld.), 2 May 1951, p. 8).   Another article says Papuan guides came in grass skirts but donned navy overalls for formal occasions.  One report states the area they camped on was about 80 acres ( The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 August 1951, page 2).

An article in the The Sunday Herald of 3 December 1950 (page 4) described a number of national fitness camps ready for children in the holidays.   Narrabeen was not mentioned, whence it must have commenced being ready in 1951.


This is confirmed by a report in The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania) of 6 December 1950, p. 3, which stated "National Fitness is spending over £12,000 this holiday season. Its officers will supervise in N.S.W. 61 play centres, and it is holding camps at Broken Bay (the mouth of the Hawkesbury, near Sydney), Lennox Head and Commodore Heights. It is also opening- a new camp at Narrabeen in January, and the first occupants will be 80 aborigine children. 

"You can see the cave in the rock up there.  Well, down below that where you can see a building - there used to be a couple of humpies there.  It wouldn't take much to dig around there and I guarantee you'll find a midden all along there, and broken bottles.  I can remember that cave.  Because that cave is a nice ledge that runs all the way along there.  


Bulldozed - all the trees were bulldozed down - we came out, I think it was a day or two later.  We got told, by someone who'd witnessed it .. he saw the truck go away .... with everyone in the back, wailing.  We don't know how many people .. 20?!   15, 20, 25? .. who knows.   

( http://www.historyofaboriginalsydney.edu.au/north-coastal/dennis-foley-recalls-town-camp-narrabeen-lagoon )




Extracts from the book "Belonging: Australians, Place and Aboriginal Ownership" by Peter Read


No other mentions of William De Serve have been found, nor any death record by that name.   Nor any records at all of "De Serve" in NSW.  There are many records for Le Serve surname but of those no William Le Serve birth or death found.   William de Serve, via Peter Read (from Dennis Foley), was born in 1895 (on Barrenjoey?).   


Re "Council came in and got rid of the lot", Council was queried re the Deep Creek camp when this webpage was first commenced but knew nothing.   They were also again checked with in June 2014 in case any records had since turned up.   The State Government has been enquired to several times but can find nothing so far re the Deep Creek camp.





NARRABEEN MAN ... speared thousands of years ago


Narrabeen man was a remarkable discovery in 2005, and probably the discovery for which Narrabeen should be most famous (unless natural gas should take that distinction?).   The excavation of this skeleton behind North Narrabeen Beach was the first such scientific excavation known for Narrabeen.  However a skeleton was earlier found nearby earlier on.  That was recorded from "North Narrabeen beach" and was the full skeleton of an adolesent buried in the dune sand.   Details of that earlier find are not yet known. 


The Narrabeen man find is scientifically significant, even at national level.   The site of the discovery was nominated as local heritage.  Particularly noteworthy is the VERY poor Government support given to the study of Narrabeen man, the State Government being unwilling to pay ever for a full suite of radiometric/radiocarbon dating.  This may be compared to the case of a seemingly very significant find by an archaeologist, Fr. Eugene Stockton, at Upper Castlereagh many years ago.  Fr. Stockton (a Catholic priest and also a qualified, Masters Degree, archaeologist - well regarded for his work on the Blue Mountains, found a large flat pebble with serial strike marks on it (such things are usually regarded as human artefacts) in situ near the base of the extensive gravel sheet of the Upper Castlereagh river flats, Nepean River.   I was still at Sydney Uni when Fr Stockton announced and spoke on this find.   As a geologist the stratigraphic position of that find immediately shouted VERY OLD!   Yet Government would give no funding at all for the better recording of such a potentially very important site - not even the estimated $200 to made a thorough photograhic record.


The Narrabeen man skeleton and its associated archaeological recovered material have very high scientific significance.  This is not only the oldest known Narrabeen person, but also provides the only archaeological evidence anywhere in Australia for death in this manner - interpreted as via multi-barbed spears (known as "death spears").


In the case of Narrabeen man, Government was apparently unwilling to have the bus shelter damaged or destroyed; and the recovery of the skeleton was a development-driven salvage operation rather than a full-scaled piece of scientific research.  Also there was more that could have been done, and still could be done (especially more carbon dating of things from the excavation) but Government was unwilling to pay for more than one radiocarbon dating.  Five charcoal samples were collected very close to bones, and there was also a piece of wood.  There are also shells and other things that can be dated.  Also, bone dating should ideally be duplicated at different laboratories to maximise reliability.


Results of this discovery are described in "The first archaeological evidence for death by spearing in Australia"  (McDonald et al., 2007); and also in " Deadly weapons:  Backed microliths from Narrabeen, New South Wales" by Fullalgar et al. in "Archaeological science under a microscope: studies in residue and ancient DNA analysis in honour of Thomas H. Loy".  [ Richard Fullagar is of Scarp Archaeology ( 25 Balfour Road, Austinmer ), richard.fullagar@scarp.com.au


The discovery was made by workmen digging a hole at the southern side of the bus shelter in Ocean Street (not "Oceania Street" as first reported), as short distance from the intersection with Octavia Street, on the northeast side of the intersecton.   This is about 120m west of the scarp at the rear of Narrabeen Beach.   Besides excavating the skeleton at the bus shelter, archaelogical monitory of the Energy Australia work also extended for 70m north and 100m south along that side of Ocean Street.


Ocean Street is at the crest of the dune sand between the beach and the lagoon.    About 80m south of Octavio Street, at the corner of Loftus Street, a 3m deep house excavation entered cross-bedded dune sand.  The spoil of this dune sand showed no whole shells.  Further south near the end of Ocean Street, years ago, a large excavation between Ocean Street and Pittwater Road showed the sand to be remarkably featureless - no shells or pseudofulgarites or other features noted (by the present writer - geotech reports could be checked for along Ocean Street). 


The identity of the discoverers had not yet been learned of.  Later on it was learned that they were David Lloyd Davies of Mangrove Mountain and Paul Greaney of Bondi, employees of Emerald Civil Engineering of Chester Hill.   The men informed their manager, John Pratsas, that they thought they'd found a possible finger and hip bone. Pratsas contacted Police immediately.and Mobile unit NB104 picked up the call to proceed to the scene.   The bones were noted by the diggers between 3:30-4:00 p.m. on 20 January 2005, and Police attended 6:10-8:30 p.m.   The story was written up by a reported the next day and was in the newspapers by 22 January 2005.





Report of 22 January 2005


Greaney had found a threepence piece dated 1916 in close proximity to the bones.  The Police made arrangements for the threepence to be delivered to Bondi Police Station and have it entered there as Miscellaneous Property pending further investigation.   A pathologist from Glebe attended and informed Police that it was highly likely that the remains were Aboriginal.   It is not known if the threepence reached Bondi Police Station or if Police interest was aborted before that happened.   The Police endeavoured to contact NPWS but found nobody available.   Police also called the Aboriginal Land Council but nobody was available.   The Police also called the Warringah Council but nobody was available (years later the Council was enquired to as to whether they'd ever been informed of the discovery before it was in the newspaper - initially it was thought "no", but that answer was later modified).  The Police also contacted the State Government (Dominic Adshead, a State Parks Operational Officer) but were told nobody was availalbe to attend..  


Initially the find was recorded by someone as being at the wrong end of the opened trench (as the southern end instead of the northern end).  The first bones encountered were unfortunately broken into many pieces (the bone of the skeleton was particularly brittle for bone buried in dune sand - reason unknown, perhaps because grass/brush fire once affected the skeleton?).  A few bones or bone fragements proceeded to crumble after collection.


The discovery of bones was on 20 January 2005, at a trench from which about 5t of sand had been excavated and stockpiled.  Police were called and removed about 20 bones (with or without recording details?) which they took to the Coroner's Morgue in Glebe.   Ms Margrit Koettig (an archaeologist with NPWS) was informed of the discovery by Energy Australia.  NPWS registered the site as 45-6-2747 in the AHIMS system.  Energy Australia engaged Jo McDonald Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd to carry out salvage excavation.   Such was done by Jo McDonald, Denise Donlon, Mark Rawson, Amy Stevens and Peter Veth.  Richard Fullagar and Jude Field were subsequently involved in study of the finds (residue analysis and artefact wear studies).


It was possibly a contractor working for Energy Australia Pty Ltd who own electrical cabling in the area.    Apparently at the same time further human bone fragments were later on found in spoil (from that pit) which was then sitting at the ocean end of Octavia Street, a short distance to the east.  Energy Australia apparently encountered further faunal remains (including non-human bones) as trenching continued along Ocean Street.  It is likely that these too were collected.


Cables in the area are generally 25-50 cm below surface but at this point excavation had gone in excess of metre in preparation for intended directional boring to carry the cables below the bus shelter.


The man had clearly been speared to death.   It also began to be early said that he'd been "ritually" slain, but what any evidence of that is remains unknown.   The discovery was not a burial as the bones were partly disarticulated and the skull in particular was considerably offset.  Moreover a mark on skull is interpreted as a fire burn scorch - whence the skeleton was for a time on the surface and subject to (?bush)fire, before being buried probably by windblown drifting sand.   Several bones were recorded as "charred" but none were calcined.  A large piece of partly burnt wood was found lying beneath his left shoulder bone (not known if this wood has been carbon dated).  Small quantities of charcoal were also collected during the excavation. The radiocarbon date of ca. 3,700 years ago was obtained from pelvic bone fragments, and became the oldest dates human remains in the Sydney region.  No sites had previously been excavated at Narrabeen.


Stable isotope analysis and carbon-14 dating was done by Joan Brenner-Coltrain.   The initial prognosis from the nature of the sand and freshness of the shell content was for an age unlikely older than 1000 years and perhaps as young as 200-300 years.  The bone dating came out more than ten times that initial younger estimate.  It is not known if any of the accompanying shell content that was recovered has yet been dated.  The isotope analysis was done on acid extracted bone collagen.  Collagen yield was 3.3% (bone begins with 25% collagen and yields above 1% are considered suitable for dating).  


The sand containing the skeleton yielded little other than the stone tips (17 stone fragments, including 6 broken pieces, such that when refitted there was a total of 14 assumed implements - of which at least 12 were steeply retouched or "backed").  There were also some shells and some small fish bones which may or may not have been stomach contents once.  A number of fresh looking (unweathered) small shells were found at the level of the skeleton.



Fragments of fish bones which Narrabeen Man might have consumed.


Fullalgar et al. wrote that "A recently excavated skeleton dated to 3677 cal BP provides an extraordinary opportunity to determine the function of its associated backed artefacts". Seventeen stone artefacts were recovered during excavation there.  Three were refitted, and, of the 14 near complete artifacts, 12 have been clearly backed. One backed artefact was found lodged between the L2 and L3 vertebrae with unhealed wounds, indicating spear penetration near the left hip. Other backed artefacts were found adjacent to or lodged in vertebrae suggesting two spears had penetrated from the back. Breakage and use-wear on most artefacts indicate use as barbs or ‘lacerators’.   The skeletal injuries, penetration depth, distribution of fragments and use-wear indicate a minimum of three weapons, and probably more, were used in the slaying of the Narrabeen man.


The top of the cranium was below the concrete slab of the bus shelter, well down.  "Dots on the spinal column indicate the location of the lodged backed artefacts (arrowed) and the placement of the other images indicates schematically the locations in which the artefacts were found (Reproduced from Antiquity" (cf. "Three were refitted" / one lodged between L1 and L2 and that had "bone residue (similar in colour and structure to the human vertebra) embedded in cracks at the crushed tip".)  [ McDonald et al., 2007].  There may be some confusion on this as the initial report stated that two stone tips had been "found embedded in his vertebral column" whereas the subsequent reports refers to one in bone (at L1/L2) and three having been "re-fitted".  Also, the same report stating "Two backed artefacts were found embedded in his vertebral column" also elsewhere states "We found a total of 12 backed artefacts (spear barbs) around the body including the three embedded in his spine".  The "Two backed artefacts were found embedded in his vertebral column" were between L1/L2 and L3/L4 as initially reported, however as shown in the above diagram they were between L1/L2 and L2/L3.  This might be the result of bone identity misinterpreted in field notes(?).  The third one was in the spinal process of T11.  One artefact (OON11) was found lying flat and in situ on the spinal column but appeared not to have penetrated bone (the fourth up of the dots shown on the diagram above).

The figure description that the dots are "the location of the lodged backed artefacts" could be more accurately stated as impact points.   Some may be points where stone barbs reached bone but did not embed and fell away from contact after decomposition(?).


McDonald et al., 2007.  The skull was interpreted to have a series of old healed depressions plus the more recent cut to the top of the skull.


Showing the "burn mark" and sand cementation onto the skull.   Burn marks are also present on the right ulna and right tibia.

Many of the bones had sand encrustation but apart from the patch shown above most of it fell away from the bones.



Right ulna burn mark.

They stated the adult male skeleton had been exposed during cable installations "1.5 m below the present ground level" (no measured vertical section of vertical/oblique  photography of the excavation walls have yet been noted - some photos of the site may have been afterwards posed?).


The find was at a bus stop but the main publication on it showed no location map and no site plan - already at least one person has mixed up which bus stop was involved.  Some reports said the skeleton was besides the bus stop, others stated it was below it.


The information that appeared about it was quickly full of inconsistencies.  The Sydney Morning Herald (Richard Macey on 26 November, 2005 ) reported "Four barbs were embedded in Octavia Man's spine" but probably only one was.


That one was the artefact numbered "OON1".   There seem to be early photos showing the OONI stone point embedded in a vertebra.   However, a later published photo of the same vertebra no longer shows the stone in it.


One source says that sea level at the time, about 4,000 years ago may have been up to 1.5m higher, another says uo to 3m higher (quite a difference).   Others in general (but not quoting in connection with Narrabeen man) doubt it was any higher.


The SMH report of on 26 November, 2005 stated that the land council (MLALC) requested the dig to recover all the remains.   But is that true?   Would the remains, first detected by workmen digging a trench for electricity cables, otherwise have just been left there?   No map showing where the electricity trench went has been published either, it seems.


Narrabeen man (a skeleton found in Ocean just north of Octavia Street) became the oldest dated skeletal remains in the Sydney Basin, and the first archaeological evidence of death by spearing in Australia.


This ca. 4,000 year old skeleton provided the first archaeological evidence in Australia both for death by spearing and for the use of backed artefacts as spear armatures.   The associated assemblage of stone fragments consists of 17 small flaked artefacts including three fragments embedded within or between bones. Several stone fragments were refitted, and all but two artefacts are backed microliths.  Anatomical, forensic and artefact studies all pointed to death by spearing.


The skeleton site is 9.0m above present sea level and the skeleton was down approximately 1.5m the publised reports have stated (initial report stated it was encountered at between 1.3-1.5m depth).   Sand was loose and uniform, hence there was no "stratigraphic section" definable.


Although this was the first recorded scientific excavation of a skeleton at Narrabeen others may have been found accidentally in the past, with remains going to the Australian Museum and the Shellshear Museum at Sydney University.  The AM has in the catalogue the record of having an infrant cranium from 'North Narrabeen' (this, Octavio St. section) of the beach has often been referred to as "North Narrabeen Beach" (and the southern part called South Narrabeen Beach, although it is just one continuous sand body).  The Australian Museum item is now unfindable (and might have been given to Aboriginal representatives for burial?).   The Shellshear Museum holds material of four skeletons, including three earlier ones than Narrabeen Man.   One is also recorded from "North Narrabeen beach" and is the full skeleton of an adolesent buried in the dune sand.  The third was cranium of a young adult, recorded as being from Long Reef/Narrabeen.


ABC TV Catalyst - Narrabeen Man forensics report - Video


Paul Willis:  "And from early in the excavations, it was obvious that Narrabeen man had met a violent end".



Digging a trench in the sand for electricity cables in January 2005 unearthed a skeleton.   This was reported as being at the "Octavio Street bus shelter".   The find was reported in all the Sydney newspapers and became known as "Narrabeen man".  After study, the skeleton was later reburied in the National Park.   Initially taken to the Coroner in Glebe, the remains were noted as aboriginal and soon confirmed as ancient.

Paul Willis:  "Four thousand years ago, when Narrabeen man was wandering around this area, sea levels were up to 1.5 m higher."

(Peter Mitchell advising Jo McDonald had earlier suggested 2-3m higher).

Those words of Willis are hardly similar to what the paper (McDonald et al., 2007) says on that.   Both are about supposed higher sealevel at the time but the "up to 1.5m" of Willis is doubled at maximum in the paper, which states "A direct radiocarbon age determination on fragments of bone from the skeleton confirms that the individual died around 3677 cal BP (3480+/− 30 radiocarbon years, CAMS-120202). This date is consistent with a high sea level stand on the NSW central coast (2-3m above the present level) between 3700 to 3200 BP (Haworth et al. 2002).   In the first report it was stated re the obtained date that "At this time, the sea level was slightly higher than than today, and we interpret the finding as indicating that the man was killed at the top of the foredune, about 5m above sea level".   The 2-3m higher sea level at the time is was inferred from a review of Haworth et al. (2002) and four other papers. 


http://www.nearmap.com/?ll=-33.708883,151.302161&z=18&t=h&nmd=20120615 showing Ocean Street / Octavia Street roundabout.  The bus shed is at right between the two cars seen just north of the roundabout.



Oblique view looking east, roundabout arrowed.



The clear digging scar was present on the southern (SW) side of the bus shed up till April 2010 but later disappeared as grass took over.  The excavation extended very slightly under the southern edge of the bus shelter base.


Photographed and described in a Narrabeen visitor's narrative (by Peter Harris).  Peter got very close to the right spot but mistook it for a bus stop on the opposite site of Ocean Road and a bit further south.  Also, as the below shows the "Octavia Street bus stop" is actually NOT in Octavia St. at all.  Rather it is in Ocean Street near Octavia Street!   The above bus shelter is SW of the intersection, in Ocean Street.  The "Octavia Street bus stop" at the corner with Ocean Street, was where in in January 2005 contractors digging a trench for electricity cabling unearthed the skeleton of a 183 cm (6 feet) tall aboriginal male who died aged between 30-40 years old.   However this does not look to be the right bus shelter (presuming the below photos are of the right one).   What gives with this?   Well, the site is known as the "Octavia Street" but stop and it seems a photographer went and photographed a bus stop in Octavia St. (at Ocean Street) in order to write about Narrabeen Man.   He was pleased to be notified years later (in 2012) that the actual bus top was on the opposite side of Ocean Street not far away..  

Bus shelter shown above which was mistaken for the right one is near the below sign, in Ocean Street - but at the SW side of the roundabout at the intersection of Octavia and Ocean Streets.




159A Ocean Street, Narrabeen.during salvage excavation




At the right bus stop: The ABC Catalyst video (Paul Willis narrator) on Narrabeen man is puzzling, for it firsts shows that workmen dug the skeleton up (bones sitting atop a pile of sand (above).   The later is shows the above two people digging with spades.   However digging may have halted in January  2005 when bones were encountered and the hole perhaps covered/backfilled, before being later resumed upon in late April by the Jo McDonald team?   Morever, this photo does not seem to tally with the "Excavation BELOW a bus shelter in the beachside suburb of Narrabeen" that is elsewhere reported (perhaps the skull may have lain slightly under one end of the bus shelter?).  The published article on the site ("The first archaeological evidence for death by spearing in Australia") gives no locality map of the site and no site plan - although by virtue of the bus shelter the site is fortunately very well marked.


Excavation in late April 2005.  Neither the State Government (NPWS) nor the local Aboriginal Land Council attended this excavation but both were kept informed.


The arrangement of bones as found.   Skull was well separated (40 cm) from vertebrae.





Forensic anthropologist Dr Denise Donlon





"Allen Madden and Dr Denise Donion of the University of Sydney with Octavia Man"  Photo: Edwina Pickles

From "Bus stop an execution site … 1500 years ago" by Richard Macey, SMH, 26 November, 2005



Energy Australia's spoil heap at the end of Octavia St was also thoroughly sieved, and more bone fragments found.  The excavated sand pile was about 5t to begin with.  it was sieved and then what became of it is unknown.  Bone fragments in the spoil pile were first detected about 4 p.m. on 20 January 2013 by the Police who were called to the scene from Dee Why police station (Constable M. Hayes and Senior Constable R. Mulheron).

The find provided evidence that, in Australia, backed artifacts were used as armatures on spears. 

Backed artefacts have a global distribution, and in Australia were very prevalent around 3,000-4,000 years ago (the Narrabeen man skeleton dates to this time as well).   Backed artefacts are flakes with 90 degree retouch along one or several margins made by bipolar techniques on an anvil.

The Narrabeen man was found 1.5 m below current ground level.  Some of the bone was charred, but not calcined and the authors of the paper argue that this is consistent with the body being partially covered with burning branches.

The skeleton belonged to a male of 30-40 years old. Stature was estimated to be around 183 cm.  Seventeen backed artefacts were found interspersed in the skeleton. The skull has several puncture wounds, either of which would likely have caused death. Several of the artifacts were found in situ between the vertebrae:

Silcrete point in vertebral column (photo whilst still in pit)

Vertebra with the stone (what sort of stone?) tip embedded.

Captioned as " Backed artefacts (sic - only one is shown)  found with the Narrabeen skeletal remains during excavation. A. The backed artefact (OON1) in situ between L2 and L3 as photographed in the field. B. Damaged L3 vertebra where backed artefact OON1was found lodged.   (McDonald et al., 2007).

It was estimated that three spears were used to dispatch the Narrabeen man.  

The authors of the paper argued that the death occurred during a period of increased territoriality and social conflict caused by higher sea levels and other climate changes.

REFERENCES to Narrabeen man (see also a fuller references listing at end of page)::

Josephine J. McDonald, Denise Donlon, Judith H. Field, Richard L.K. Fullagar, Joan Brenner Coltrain, Peter Mitchell & Mark Rawson.   The first archaeological evidence for death by spearing in Australia.  Antiquity Volume: 81 Number: 314 Page: 877-885.

Peter Hiscock.  Blunt and to the Point: Changing Technological Strategies in Holocene Australia.  Archaeology of Oceania: Australia and the Pacific Islands, ed by Ian Lilley, Pgs 69-95.




( ABC CATALYST:  http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/2278381.htm )

Narrabeen Man

7:30 mins - Windows media - Real Player

Paul with skeletal remains    In 2005, when contractors were digging a trench for electricity cabling north of Sydney, they made a gruesome discovery.

Unbeknown to them, their find was to lead to an intriguing forensic investigation and eventually uncover a 4,000 year old killing mystery.

Dr. Jo Macdonald from Cultural Heritage Management led the expedition and uncovered some remarkable forensic information about who this person was, where this ancient man came from and even what he ate.

However, it turns out that Narabeen Man is far more unique than first thought. Not only is he the oldest dated skeleton in Sydney, he provides scientists with the earliest evidence yet of ritual punishment among indigenous Australians.

Dr. Paul Willis follows the forensic path that pieces together the mystery of a brutal killing that occurred some 4,000 years ago.


Narration: This is a story of a most remarkable death, a long time ago, and a very unremarkable location.

Dr Paul Willis: On this spot 4000 years ago there was a particularly grizzly death. It was a very violent event that is the earliest recorded ritualised killing in Australia.

Forensic science and modern indigenous culture have combined to work out what happened here at the Octavia Street bus stop.

Narration: The startling discovery occurred here at Narrabeen on Sydney’s northern beaches in January 2005 when contractors were digging a trench for electricity cabling. In doing so, they unearthed the remains of a skeleton

After a trip to Glebe Coroner’s Morgue the remains were turned over to archaeologist Jo MacDonald …and a forensic process followed…

Dr Macdonald: A find exactly like this has never been found before in Australia.

Narration: The first thing that Jo needed to do was to establish the time of death. A small sample was sent to the Lawrence Livermore National laboratory in California for Carbon dating. And the result was astounding.

Dr Macdonald: The date came back at about 4000 years ago, which was quite spectacular we were very surprised.

Narration: 4000 years ago when Narrabeen Man was wondering around this area the sea levels were up to 1.5 metres higher than they are today.

Paul: So that spit would have been much narrower. The water levels in the Narrabeen lagoon would also have been higher and it would have acted like a saline estuary.
Narration: And there were aspects of the find that aroused Jo’s suspicions: this was no ordinary burial.

Dr Macdonald: No certainly it doesn’t appear to be a burial at all.

Paul: What told you that?

Dr Macdonald: His posture he certainly looked as though he’d been flung on the ground he had one arm across his neck and his head had been shifted off the top of his veritable column// Most formal burials that you find in Australia are in particular postures and certainly wasn’t one of them.

Narration: To physical archaeologist Denise Donlon, there were many features that indicated this was the skeleton of an aboriginal man.

Dr Denise Donlon: The shape of the base of the nose which is particularly Aboriginal and of course the very large teeth and strong tooth ware (sic) indicating a traditional Aboriginal diet.

Narration: Denise helped excavate the skeleton back in 2005.

Dr Donlon: I estimated from his limb bones that he was 183cm tall, which is about six foot in the old terminology and this is very tall for an Aboriginal man and the average height for Aboriginal men was five foot six.

Paul: So he really was quite tall?

Dr Donlon: Yes unusually so.

Allan Madden: Even when we looked at this guy, this guy seemed to be very thick boned; he was very tall for Aboriginal people that were in this region here in and around the Ku-ring-gai Garrigal mob.

Narration: And from early in the excavations, it was obvious that Narrabeen Man had met a violent end…

Paul: So what wounds have you found?

Dr Donlon: The most amazing wound was found here in this lumber vertebra and it was a spear tip embedded in the vertebra. And you see it actually here in this bag.

Paul: What does that tell you?

Dr Donlon: Well that would have actually passed through his abdomen from the front and the side and would have caused immense damage to the abdominal cavity.

Allan Madden: The most common spear around this area was the fishing spear, you had ceremonial spears here, then you had hunting spears, for different animals that you hunted there were different tips that would penetrate and couldn’t come out and that was the same with death spears.  And I think this feller got the bloody lot of them.

Paul: Death spears are of composite construction that is they’ve got a central wooden shaft and along and embedded in resin along two sides of the head would be a number of small sharp pieces of stone like this called backed artefacts; there could be a couple of dozen in the head of a death spear. And Narrabeen man was the victim of at least three of this kind of spear.

Narration: Richard Fullagar has been taking a close look at the wear patterns and fractures on the 17 backed artefacts found at the grave site.

Paul: Now these are really tiny little chips of rock how much damage could they actually do to a human?

Dr Richard Fullagar: Well in this case they killed him.

Narration: One spear entered from the front, cutting the intestines and a kidney and lodging in the spin. A second spear was thrown from behind and also lodged in the spin. A third spear ricocheted off the skull, which was also hit with another sharp implement. Other artefacts suggest more spears were embedded in the body but they did not do any damage to the bones.

Allan Madden: He hasn’t been initiated; if he was he would have his front two tooth been removed or knocked out as the case may be. And that was in and around this area in the Sydney basin that was the initiation rituals that a lot of the young boys went through to become men.

Paul: As you can see Narrabeen Man has all of his upper front teeth and he’s thought to be thirty to forty years of age, so either he’s not from the local area or the practice of knocking out front teeth at initiation had not started 4000 years ago.

Narration: Perhaps another clue to his origin can be found by examining the contents of his stomach that were recovered inside to the body.

Dr Donlon: In the stomach region we found these tiny fish bones which must have been his last meal, it’s interesting because this is also consistent with stable isotope analysis which was done of the bone which also showed he had a marine diet.

Paul: So this suggests he was a coastal dweller?

Dr Donlon: Yes absolutely

Paul: So Narrabeen Man was a tall Aboriginal male who lived by the coast but not necessarily in that area and who died a violent ritualised death some 4,000 years ago.

But who was he and why was he killed in such a horrific manner?

Allan Madden: He must have done something very bad to the mobs here, for what he would have done that would only be speculation on my behalf, but the way the wounds are and what we see of him it would have been something really bad.

  • Reporter: Dr Paul Willis
  • Producer: Max Lloyd
  • Researcher: Anja Taylor
  • Camera: Kevin May
    Richard Berrill
    Dennis Brennan
  • Sound: Steve Ravich
    Richard McDermott
    Tim Parratt
  • Editor: Chris Spurr

Story Contacts

Dr.Jo Macdonald (Archaeologist)  [ = JMcDonald@jmcdchm.com.au ]

Dr. Denise Donlan (Forensic Anthropologist)

Dr. Richard Fullagar (Senior research Fellow)

Allen Madden (Cultural and Education Officer) [  = Metro LALC ,  amadden@metrolalc.org.au )

Related Info

Australian Archaeological Consultancy Monograph Series





Many thanks to you and the other members of the Catalyst team for producing such a quality, entertaining and informative program.

I have been looking over your site to find previous comments and responses to see what other people are thinking and if my particular questions have already been raised and answered but I have not had any success. I realise I might not have been looking in the right place.

In Narrabeen Man you stated that he was 4000 years old and that 4000 years ago the sea level was 1.5m higher than it is at present. This suggests to me that variations in sea level (and by inference climate change) can occur far more frequently and rapidly than is generally accepted and is also not likely to be driven by human produced CO2 to the extent claimed.

I have been able to measure the CO2 levels of water from a Saline Aquifer (about 60ppm)and River Murray water (about 1ppm) and rain water (about 1ppm). The CO2 is stripped from the saline water to about 5ppm to grow fish. They don't like high CO2.

Can you comment on the 4000 years and 1.5m relative to today's climate change and supposed rising sea and CO2 levels?

David Holdernesse

[ David was not responded to ..]





Speared man unearthed after 4,000 years

Narrabeen Beach Sydney

By Sabra Lane ABC News

Posted Fri Dec 21, 2007 4:47pm AEDT
Updated Fri Dec 21, 2007 4:48pm AEDT

Spear fishing

These days Aborigines use spears for fishing, but in ancient times spearing was used to punish people for transgressions .

Construction workers in Sydney have unearthed what archaeologists say is the earliest evidence of death by spearing.

The men, who were digging a gas pipeline in Sydney, thought at first that they had discovered the bones of a recent murder victim and police and the New South Wales coroner were called in to investigate.

But now it appears the deadly deed happened not in the last few years or even in the last few centuries, but 4,000 years ago.

The workers were digging a hole under a bus shelter at Narrabeen on Sydney's northern beaches to put in a new gas pipeline in 2005, when they made the startling discovery.

Dr Jo McDonald, an archaeologist and senior research fellow at the Australian National University, explains what they found.

"The workmen were digging a hole to put their pipeline underneath the bus shelter and they interrupted or intersected with the legs of a human, which of course caused a bit of excitement," she said.

"They called the police, the police called the coroner, the coroner called National Parks."

And then the National Parks and Wildlife Service called in Dr McDonald and her team to investigate.

"Fortunately... when they encountered the bones, they stopped immediately, so they did fairly limited damage," she said.

But the team had to carefully remove a huge pile of sand to start piecing together this ancient puzzle, before they realised this skeleton had a dark secret.

"It was actually still articulated, all the bones were still in their right anatomical position," Dr McDonald said.

"It was lying there where it had fallen, basically. But basically underneath the bus shelter."

Among the bones the team found 17 stone artefacts.

"We started to find a lot of these little points, which are called back artefacts," she said.

"They're quite common tools that we find in archaeological sites around Australia. But the function of these has never actually been totally demonstrated.

"People have started doing residue studies on these and we've discovered that they've been used for a range of purposes.

"They've been used to cut up vegetables, we found starch on them. We found bits of feather and plant remains and proteins and things on them.

"But we'd never actually found them in a human body, and so in this particular case we've been able to demonstrate that these particular types of tools were used as barbs on a spear and the spear was used to kill somebody."

Speared for transgressions

Dr McDonald says she and her colleagues believe the man was murdered in some way.

"The spear's barbs that we found in the body were found in front, with a front and a rear entry, which indicates at least two spears were used," she said.

"We know from ethnographic accounts around Australia that a spearing was used as a form of punishment for transgressions, but we know that this spearing, very rarely, actually intended death as the outcome.

"So ritual spearing is pretty much part of a prescribed social process, and it's to do with somebody who's really transgressed to the rules badly or has done it repeatedly.

"And we think in this instance that the person had obviously been caught for doing something wrong and has been ritually dispatched. He wasn't well liked, I'd say."

She says the man also had a punctured point, also caused by a spear, on his head.

"But he also had been hit on the head with an axe - he's got a huge slice right through the top of his cranium," she said.

"So dispatched well and truly, I think you'd have to say."

Sydney's oldest skeleton

Dr McDonald says it's a very significant find.

"It's actually the oldest dated skeleton in Sydney - it is the oldest body that we've actually dated," she said.

"And it is the earliest dating of this sort of social practice, going back into times."

She says this is the earliest evidence yet of ritual punishment among Indigenous Australians, dating back 4,000 years.

"It was the first time we found these tools in this context for a start, but it's also 4,000 years old, which means it's much, much older than we might have considered in terms of the social practices that we were observing at contact," she said.

The skeleton has been dubbed Narrabeen Man after the suburb he was found in, but Dr McDonald says that wasn't what the team had originally planned.

"We originally called him the Octavia Man because he was found on the corner of Octavia Street. But the British editor said, 'You can't call a man Octavia!'" she said.

"So he being a classicist and us not being classicist, Octavia's a Roman woman. So we weren't allowed to call him Octavia Man, so we've had to call him the Narrabeen Man."

Dr McDonald says the find shows that important discoveries can still be made in modern Australia.

"It is really important to keep understanding that this intact archaeology is there, and these people put paths, bus shelters in people's front yards and that archaeology can still give us these sorts of stories, even 200 years after roads have been built, buses have been put in and all the rest," she said.

And with the research now finished on the bones, Narrabeen Man will be buried in Ku-ring-gai National Park in Sydney's north some time next year.



In all of the above compilation done on this site where Narrabeen man was found (besides a modern bus shelter) only mentions of the remains of one man were ever noted.   However in a later write-up of the story (viewed in 2013 it states that remains of many more individuals were found there, i.e.:


"2005 - Skeletal remains of fourteen Indigenous people dated at 4000 bp [before the present] are discovered during excavations for a bus shelter at Narrabeen.  They are the oldest skeletal remains so far located in the Sydney region. The remains are put to rest at North Head. Among the skeletal material are 17 stone artefacts including back blades.  One man appears to have been ritually killed.  Stone back blades, used as barbs on spears are found inside his body. There is also an axe mark on the skull.  (abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/12/2125690.htm)"  [ http://www.historyofaboriginalsydney.edu.au/north-coastal/2000s





PS:  Re location of remains (cf. statements "Narrabeen Man will be buried in Ku-ring-gai National Park in Sydney's north some time next year" or "The remains are put to rest at North Head", it was ascertained in June 2013 that the remains of Narrabeen Man are still at the University of Sydney.




First Footprints - ABC documentary


In the ABC documentary "First Footprints", shown on Sydney TV in July 2013, Allan Madden refers to the discovery as a Cadigal man found "under a bus shed".  Was it actually found "under" the bus shelter?   McDonald et al. (2007) actually does state "An Aboriginal man done to death on the dunes 4000 years ago was recently discovered during excavations beneath a bus shelter in Narrabeen .." and "Excavation below a bus shelter in the beachside suburb of Narrabeen  in northern Sydney, south-eastern Australia, uncovered the articulated skeletal remains of an adult Aboriginal male (estimated age 30-40 years)".   In the documentary Jo also refers to when the death happened as being with "sea level slightly higher" (cf.  as above - Paul Willis:  "Four thousand years ago, when Narrabeen man was wandering around this area, sea levels were up to 1.5 m higher" and in the 2007 paper "This date is consistent with a high sea level stand on the NSW central coast (2-3m above the present level) between 3700 to 3200 BP (Haworth et al. 2002).".


History and heritage consideration


The bus stop excavation site was nominated to Council as local heritage, and some signage was suggested.   However, Warringah Council advised in August 2013 that they would not progress this.  This, it was said, was because the (Metropolitan) Local Aboriginal Land Council did not want the 'Narrabeen man' honoured in any way, nor any signage about him put up.  The reason for that was because they consider he must have done something terribly wrong in order to have been speared to death.   Council initially referred to the site in correspondence as an "aboriginal burial" but it was pointed out that all study of it to date had interpreted it as NOT a burial. 






PROTECTIONS ... becoming a National Park



A Narrabeen National Park has been advocated for years and on 





Narrabeen Lagoon has been made a state park, providing increased environmental protections. Picture: Adam Ward Source: News Corp Australia




Narrabeen Lagoon state park status to provide improved environmental protections


FRIENDS of Narrabeen Lagoon have hailed the waterway becoming a state park.

The NSW government announced yesterday that 4.7 million sq m covering the lagoon and surrounding areas would be afforded the new status.

Becoming a state park would protect the lagoon’s its environmental, tourism and recreation assets, the government stated.

The Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment was established in 2005 to extend environmental protections for the lagoon catchment.

They have been campaigning for a state park to protect the area’s environmental assets for nearly six years.

President Tony Carr said he and fellow supporters were rapt with the government’s announcement.

“This is a joyous day. This is great news,” he said.

“This is the first signal we’ve had they’re serious about preserving the remaining bushland around Narrabeen Lagoon.”

Mr Carr said the status would protect the area from further development, which he said had already affected the lagoon.

The park does not cover sections of bushland Mr Carr’s organisation originally wanted included, due to these areas being part of an aboriginal land claim.

Mr Carr said he hoped a national park under aboriginal control would be established in these areas, and he would be satisfied with the protections that allowed.

The move fulfils an election promise the O’Farrell government made before the 2011 election.

Pittwater MP Rob Stokes, whose electorate contains the lagoon, said the lagoon was more than worthy of the state park status.

“Narrabeen Lagoon is a valuable natural asset and we must ensure it’s available for future generations to enjoy,” he said.

The lagoon will be the 18th state park established by the NSW government.

According to the government’s information website, state parks are “truly a national treasure with stunning locations to relax and enjoy a myriad of recreational activities.





THE FUTURE ... and reactions to debate on climate change and sea level rise


Most of what is in this webpage is detailing the past, or attempting to.    When it comes to the future, the Narrabeen area is of special interest re climate change.   How the Liberal party and its leadership, especially Tony Abbot, has been greatly influenced by reading 'denialist' literature on climate change has already been referenced near the commencement of this webpage.


Prior to Mr Abbott leading the Liberal party, and being Prime Minister, that same role was carried out by Mr John Howard ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Howard ).


Mr Abbot had read Dr Ian Plimer's book on climate change (Heaven and Earth), which he considered a "very well-argued book" for refuting most of the claims about man-made global warming, written by a "highly credible scientist".    Mr Howard by his own admission (The Sydney Morning Herald of 7 November 2013, page NEWS-7) had only ever read one book on climate change.   This was "An Appeal to Reason:  a Cool Look at Global Warming" by Nigel Lawson ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigel_Lawson ).


Lawson was a key proponent of Margaret Thatcher's policy of privatisation and deregulation , keenly pursued Australia also by both Mr Howard and Mr Abbott.   Lawson contributed to the 2007 documentary film The Great Global Warming Swindle then in 2008 followed that with his book expanding on his 2006 lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming.  His book has been criticised by the IPCC, and HM Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir John Beddington, whio is reported to have told Lawson that he had "incorrect" and "misleading" claims in the book ( Boffey, Daniel - 27 March 2011 - Lord Lawson's 'misleading' climate claims challenged by scientific adviser London: Guardian).


The same year, 2009, that Dr. Ian Plimeer published his "Heaven and Earth" to further expose the great global warming 'fraud', Nigel Lawson and others launched yet another right-wing think tank on the subject - the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).


The stated aim of GWPF is to challenge "extremely damaging and harmful policies" envisaged by governments to mitigate anthropogenic global warming.   After Tony Abbott came to power in 2013 and abolished the Australian Climate Change Commission, former PM John Howard addressed the GWPF in November that year.   Mr Howard related how he had used Nigel Lawson's "...A Cool Look at Global Warming" when he was PM to counter the advice being given to him by government departments to take stronger mitigation action.


Although Mr Howard was repeatedly called a climate denier by the Labor party (Opposition), Mr Howard did at one stage announce that he had been 'converted' at last into believing in climate change.   However, after his speech to the GWPF ( http://www.spectator.co.uk/australia/australia-features/9071781/one-religion-is-enough ) , the editorial of the Sydney Morning Herald (7 November 2013) reflected that what he'd told the Australian people, re seeming to have been converted to a believer, was now to be seen as only an act of political convenience.


The SMH editorial of 7 November 2013 wrote on how Mr Howard's talk at GWPF was "another worrying sign of the dangerous groupthink among the most influential Abbott govdernment advisers, mentors and spiritual guides.  Their behaviour and Abbott's silence on Howard's speech suggest they deny the need for a decisive policy response to human-induced global warming .....  Howard is feeding a dangerous misinformation campaign".  





From a presentation by Daylan Cameron in 2006.   Similarly on 2010 ( "Coastal Erosion Emergency Action Plan Public Forum", Long Reef Golf Club, 29 August 2010).

Daylan Cameron stated the above, that this is the area 3rd most at risk from coastal processes in the nation at the 15th NSW Coastal Conference at Coffs Harbour (7-9 November, 2006).    Daylan had worked at Warringah Council, and previous to that at Department of Land and Water Conservation, and at Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Trust.   He is now Team Leader (Waters, Floodplains & Coast) at the Office of Environment and Heritage.



Daylan Cameron



The global warming debate raged in headlines over a long period for years in recent times, until by 2013 the controversy had largely died away in the major newspapers.


Politically the left wing of politics was more dedicated to "taking global warming seriously" and the right wing more prone to deny it.    The latter were/are called "denialists" or "right wing denialists", and they in turn labelled/label their opposites the "alarmists" or "warmists" (and themselves "realists").


In 2013 the right won politically and abolished the Climate Commission (Federal) and in NSW greatly downsized (by about 2/3rd the number of public servants working to communicate on climate change and work on ways of addressing it.


The anti-orthodox think tanks vary right through to ones saying that increased CO2 and global warming are excellent things, making for a greener earth.    There are many thousands of discussions on all this easily found with Google.   One example runs:





( http://conservativesonfire.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/surprise-green-house-gas-co2-makes-the-planet-greener-not-warmer )


Listening to the global warming alarmists, one would think that man-made CO2 emissions are threatening the globe. But that’s speculation. Let’s deal in reality. And the reality, according to Australian research, is that in this era of higher carbon concentrations, plant life in dry regions has grown lush.
The greening of the deserts is due to the “fertilization effect” — the impact carbon dioxide has on plant life.

So, thanks to Steve my interest in this phenomena was rekindled and I did some more searching. I found this source quoting from  the Australian Research Council and Land & Water Australia.

Thanks to satellites we know the world has “greened up” since 1980, but we were not sure how much of that was due to the fertilizing effect of CO2. To solve that, one group suggests we need to look in warm arid environments where water is the predominant limiting factor. These are the areas which ought to show whether CO2 was really helping plants grow,  because when there is more CO2 it enables plants to use water more efficiently for photosynthesis. In places where there is already a lot of water, it won’t make as much difference. So Donohue et al. did that, studying regions with a low level of rainfall. They found that the fertilization effect is real and significant and that the cover in these arid zones  increased 11% from 1982 – 2010 and CO2 played a significant role.

This article has a detailed explanation of the modeling technique used by the scientist and how they allowed for differentiating for rainfall effects and other climate variables. This is the summary paragraph:

“The effect of higher carbon dioxide levels on plant function is an important process that needs greater consideration,” said Donohue. “Even if nothing else in the climate changes as global CO2 levels rise, we will still see significant environmental changes because of the CO2 fertilization effect.”

So, although CO2 concentrations have been increasing and have recently reached the threshold of 400 ppm, those claiming all kinds of calamities because of projected global warming due to the increased levels of carbon dioxide have some explaining to do since it is now known that so-called global warming stopped 16 years ago while CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere continued to increase.

Isn’t it ironic that the so-called “green house gas” is doing what green houses do: create an environment to make plants grow!

I also found an interesting article at Skeptical Science. There have been other eras in the earth’s history when CO2 levels were much higher than they are today. You would expect, if you believe the proponents of global warming that the earth heated up then too, right? Look at this:

CO2 was higher in the past
“The killer proof that CO2 does not drive climate is to be found during the Ordovician- Silurian and the Jurassic-Cretaceous periods when CO2 levels were greater than 4000ppmv (parts per million by volume) and about 2000 ppmv respectively. If the IPCC theory is correct there should have been runaway greenhouse induced global warming during these periods but instead there was glaciation.”
(The Lavoisier Group)



The Lavoisier Group referred to (with "Proof that CO2 is not the Cause of the Current Global Warming" by Ian C McClintock), website http://www.lavoisier.com.au/index.php , is the best known organisation based in Australia which promotes scepticism of current scientific consensus on global warming.   The group was founded in April 2000 by former Finance Minister Peter Walsh and others, and strongly supported by  Hugh Morgan of Western Mining.  Walsh had served as Minister for Resources and Energy from 1983 to 1984 and Finance Minister from 1984 to 1990.    He has strong right-wing views, pro-free market and for limiting government.  He is particularly critical of any form of environmentalism.   Clive Hamilton (director of The Australia Institute) identified Walsh as one the climate change sceptics with most influence over Australian Government policy.   Walsh and others at Lavoisier claim that many scientists choose to endorse prevailing theories of global warming in order to protect their research funding, as was the subject of the book Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media by Patrick Michaels.    Clive Hamilton in his book "Scorcher" states that one can find the following arguments in the various papers promoted by the Lavoisier Group:

In July 2013, Quadrant published "The Age of Global Warming is Over" by Paul Collits.   Collits wrote: "Climate change is no longer flavour of the month .. It just doesn't get talked about so much, or at least not in the same way".    He predicted (accurately as it turned out) how in Australia there would be more cuts, and "climate policy will be the first to go".  


"It's all a load of rubbish", Collits believes.   Two well known Australian geologists had been saying that for years - and going even further to say it was the greatest hoax or faud ever perpetrated in human history.  


Paul Collits' article in Quadrant (July-August 2103, pp. 30-33) is of similar theme to Robert Darwall's book "The Age of Global Warming: A History".   Those who write publications like this largely have links to business and development bodies, or think-tanks largely funded by the same.   The work of the think tanks is disseminated through many channels, including journalists and radio commentators ('shock jocks'), some with very wide popular followings.   These include Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt, Chris Smith, Jason Morrison, Piers Akerman, Nick Cater, Janet Albrechtsen, Paul Sheehan, Paul Kelly, Chris Kenny, Tim Blair, Miranda Devine, Howard Sattler, Gary Hardgrave, on and on, in print and on radio.  For most of them, climate change is a political issue, and anyone who doesn't scoff at the science is a left-wing dupe.


Their effect in undermining the "official" views about global warming was increasingly evident by 2010.  At that time 111 countries surveyed surveyed by Gallup showed a substantial decrease in the number of  'believers'.   In the US, a little over half the population (53%) now viewed it as a serious concern, being  10% below the 2008 poll (63%).  That global poll did find that people are more likely to attribute global warming to human activities than to natural causes, except in the USA where nearly half (47%) of the population attributed global warming to natural causes.   Polls, as widely known, yield different results according to how the questions are phrased, yet recent Australian polls also demonstrated falling belief in the "orthodox" position on global warming and what to do about it.


Many scientists, however, do not share the view that all this is the biggest hoax in history.   Many follow the "orthodox science" views that since the early 20th century, Earth's mean surface temperature has increased by about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F), with about two-thirds of the increase occurring since 1980.   That the primary cause is from anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gases is accepted by numerous nations and national science academies.  Especially from the 1990s onwards in the United States, the business-funded think tanks were mobilized to undermine, or cast doubt upon, the legitimacy of global warming as a social problem. These challenge the scientific theory and evidence, and many also argue that global warming it if did occur would be a very good thing, rather than doing harm.  


As best as is know, local councils in NSW do little or no independent research of their own on climate change or global warming.   They act on top-down information and directives from the State Government.   Seeing global warming should cause sealevel rise, the coastal councils are  - at least nominally - all preparing to cope with this.



Sydney Morning Herald, 3 November 2013


Coast protection costs rise with sea levels

Anne Davies

(L-R) Michaela Norri and Ashleigh Smith.

Eroded sand: Ashleigh Smith (left) and Michaela Norris play at City Beach, Wollongong. Photo: Sylvia Liber

Sydney councils and the state government are facing a multibillion-dollar bill to strengthen and maintain sea walls around the harbour and beaches in the face of rising sea levels.

But despite the threat to low-lying areas, housing densities are increasing in high-risk areas. New developments are being constructed in areas that depend on sea walls around Manly lagoon, at Rushcutters Bay, Double Bay and along the Parramatta River.

If the 82-centimetre rise in the sea level predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is realised by 2100, coastal developments the length of the NSW coast will be at risk.

In Sydney, the hundreds of kilometres of walls around the harbour will become increasingly vulnerable to stronger wave action in deeper water. These waves can scour out the footings and cause ''overtopping'', when waves slop over a retaining wall and erode it from behind.

The threat comes not just from seawater advancing onto land.  Sydney Coastal Councils executive director Geoff Withycombe said higher sea levels are likely to raise the water table and alter the flow of stormwater into the harbour.

This has been a concern during the approval process for the Kiaora Lands development at Double Bay.

After a series of dramatic storms, home owners in beach areas such as Byron Bay, Collaroy and Narrabeen are in a pitched battle with nature to protect their multimillion-dollar homes.

But Mr Withycombe said the concept of encouraging individuals to attempt to fortify themselves in vulnerable areas, both coastal and within the harbour, is not sustainable in the longer term.

''We must ensure we stop building in current and future hazardous areas,'' he said.

An idea of the cost involved in sea wall remediation can be gleaned from the work being completed in the Royal Botanic Garden. The historic sandstone Farm Cove sea wall, built between 1830 and 1860, was mostly rebuilt in the 1990s.

But a 200-metre section of the wall is now being painstakingly disassembled. New, state-of-the-art concrete footings are being inserted before the numbered stones are replaced, at a cost of $8.6 million.

Nevertheless, this work is not necessarily going to keep the garden safe from rising sea levels. ''The wall is designed with penetrations in it every 15 to 20 metres and at king tides the sea runs into the gardens,'' acting director of horticultural operations Brad Horan said.

''After heavy storms, water also runs out of the garden into the harbour.  It's not meant to be a dam or a dyke,'' he said.

Sea walls are largely the responsibility of councils, but the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority looks after them in Cockle Bay, Dawes Point, a small section of Circular Quay, Pyrmont and Ballast Point, and has suspended structures at Darling Harbour and Pyrmont.

The state government's Roads and Maritime Services also has some responsibility, while some are on private property.

Engineering consultant Doug Lord, who ran the coastal and estuary management programs for the NSW government for a decade, said: ''I don't think anyone has a total figure for the extent and maintenance cost of sea walls in the harbour, let alone what state they are in.''

Mr Withycombe said the community needed to fully understand the consequences of building sea walls - both the upfront cost and the continuing costs - as well as the fact that building a wall can sometimes just deflect wave energy elsewhere.

''We simply can't afford - socially, environmentally or economically - to build sea walls everywhere,'' he said.

He said the state government, in partnership with councils, needs to start having meaningful engagement with coastal communities, preferably with some federal involvement.

Mr Lord predicted it will take storms on the scale of 1974 to really jolt people into facing the problem. ''Fortunately, we have time to deal with rising sea levels but the cost will only increase over time,'' he said.

A spokesman for Manly council, Chris Parsons, said the council provided maps on its website on areas that were vulnerable to inundation to help residents and developers.

( http://www.smh.com.au/environment/coast-protection-costs-rise-with-sea-levels-20131102-2wtew.html 




Re the need to start having meaningful engagement with coastal communities - has this commenced at Narrabeen?


Yes it has.   Council is known to have started various informational program.   However, rntering < sealevel > in the search box at Council's homepage ( http://www.warringah.nsw.gov.au ) yields ZERO finds.   Entering < sea level > in the search box similarly finds nothing about sea level.


Council does have a coast zone management policy ( http://www.warringah.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/general-information/coastal-erosion/cncoastlinemanagementplan.pdf )


That is subheaded "A Coastline Hazards Policy - Plan of Management".    The project director for that study and plan was Ms Erica Griffiths.  


Erica was Senior Policy Officer at Warringah Council in 1995-1997, then General Manager (Australasia) at An Mea in 2001-2008, then became EFG Consulting.


When this plan was formulated there was relatively little publicity being given to global warming and sealevel rise.


Nonetheless it does get a mention.   On page 5 of the report it does mention that the situation is "expected to deteriorate into the future due to Greenhouse induced climatic changes and predicted rises in sea level".


Council website currently (2013) announces that it is revising the Coastal Zone Management Plan for Collaroy-Narrabeen and Fishermans Beach, and that "many people have asked; "will a seawall be built?". 


Many seawalls in fact already exist along Collaroy-Narrabeen.  Most of them are sloping rock walls on private property.   Some were built at times of severe erosion, to arrest such.  These 'old' walls are usually only visible after major storms.  


The future of seawalls will be determined by the Coastal Zone Management Plan.


Conservationists opposed a sea wall for Narrabeen Beach and organised, in 2002, a protest of about 3,000 people against it.   Brendan Donohoe, chairman of the local branch of the Surfrider Foundation, said the sea wall being proposed by Warringah Council to prevent beach erosion reaching houses and units on dunes along Pittwater Road would dump 85,000 tonnes of sandstone on the beach, at a cost of $12 million.   "Sea walls do nothing to ensure the ongoing conservation of the beach in front of them," he said. "Worldwide experience shows us they actively destroy it" ( http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/11/17/1037490053904.html )


The Council was asked if they understood why the Surfrider Foundation was opposing a seawall for Narrabeen Beach, or if they knew what any of the 'wordwide experience' or research or model might be that the Surfrider Foundation was influenced by.   However, nothing was know.   The same query to the Surfrider Foundation also produced nothing.



Collaroy residents opposed to seawall, 2002.   ( Photo:  Nick Moir )


Public opinion varies on what is best to do.  The above is a demonstration against a 2002 Council proposal for a seawall.   Over 550 submissions were made.  The vast majority objected to a seawall.  


Undeterred, Warringah Council continued thinking of a seawall - but acknowledged that this was not popular with the community.   Council in 2003 resolved not to proceed with a large seawall (after getting over 550 submissions on the matter, the majority of which were opposed to a seawall).


In March 2013 the matter was re-visited with the issue by Council of a new "Discussion Paper" for revamping the coastzone management plan.   This stated that Haskoning Australia Pty Ltd, a company of Royal HaskoningDHV, had been engaged as consultant.  Their team included:

* coastal engineers Peter Horton and Greg Britton from Haskoning Australia; Angus Gordon from Coastal Zone Management and Planning (coastal engineer and former General Manager of Pittwater Council);

* a planner, Sue Francis from City Plan;

* a lawyer, Neil Howie from Wilshire Webb Staunton Beattie;

* an economist, Nara Crowe from Ernst & Young;

* an ecologist, Jennie Powell from Eco Logical Australia; and

* community engagement consultants Brendan Blakeley and Vicky Critchley from Elton Consulting

The discussion paper stated "The risk of damage to public and private development from coastal erosion has been reduced as a result of past construction of protective works (in particular seawalls) at many locations in the study area. These works include the vertical sandstone seawall near Collaroy SLSC, and sloping rock seawalls along the southern part of Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach. In general, the sloping rock walls are buried under sand, but they can become significantly exposed after erosive storms (see example below). Dune reconstruction and revegetation along the northern part of Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach has also reduced risk to development".


Re beach nourishment work the discussion paper states "Council currently undertakes opportunistic beach nourishment when sand excavated from building sites becomes available. In the last 10 years or so, about 50,000 tonnes of sand in total has been added to Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach in this manner.  To add a sufficient quantity of sand to Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach so that seawalls would be unnecessary to protect development and the seawalls could be removed (so-called “massive” beach nourishment), in the order of 2,600,000m3 (4,200,000 tonnes) of sand would be required to provide initial protection (with ongoing sand required to replenish sand loss over time).  Initial costs would be in the order of $130 million using land-based sand sources.  Even using cheaper offshore sand sources (which currently cannot be accessed under NSW legislation) the costs would still be prohibitive (in the order of $65 million).  Massive beach nourishment would lead to more frequent and prolonged closure of the Narrabeen Lagoon entrance. This would have significant adverse impacts on lagoon flooding, water quality, ecology and recreation. Ultimately, this may lead to consideration of the construction of a groyne (structure extending perpendicular to the beach into the water) at the lagoon entrance to capture sand, which itself would have impacts on beach amenity, swimming and surfing conditions. However, in the future (if funding and sand sources become available), there may be the opportunity to undertake “moderate” sand nourishment in order to reduce the time that seawalls are exposed and


A major sand addition already done to the beach zone was the North Narrabeen (Birdwood Park) dune, north of North Narrabeen SLSC.  That area was artificially created in 1975, using about 100,000m3 of sand removed from the Narrabeen Lagoon entrance.   Before that time, this area was unvegetated and was relatively low.

In major coastal storms in 1974, the low dune was overtopped by waves. Wave action then damaged the area in the vicinity of the Ocean Street bridge. Rocks were also washed up to 40m into the caravan park adjacent to Narrabeen Lagoon.  The dune was built in 1975 to reduce the risk of this happening again.   The North Narrabeen dune has grown naturally since its creation in 1975, mainly through trapping of windblown sand moving onshore. 

Some of the surfers have been long stating that aeolian buildup of the North Narrabeen dune has been depleting sand from offshore sand banks, thereby detracting from surfing quality at North Narrabeen.   An article like this think, is shown below:

MANLY DAILY, 21 June 2012:  Surfrider board member Brendan Donohoe said the wave at North Narrabeen was at risk from the beach's oversized dune whose vegetation growth locked up sand, impacting the ocean sand bank and changing wave patterns.  The dune, which is believed to have grown from about 2m in the 1970s, to more than 7m, also restricted the Narrabeen Lagoon from flushing during dry periods and reduced water quality, he said.  Last night surfing identities including two-time world champion Damien Hardman, Laura Enever, Ozzie Wright, Jaymes Triglone, Martin Lynch, Simon Anderson and Terry Fitzgerald attended the launch of the campaign, which is aimed at focusing attention on the waves in Australia. Hardman grew up in North Narrabeen and has surfed there for more than 30 years.  "North Narrabeen has always had a reputation for having the most consistent and best quality break in Sydney," he said. "It's still good in the corner of North Narrabeen, but when I was a kid there was good waves along the whole stretch of the beach."  Enever, who has surfed there for about 10 years, said she wanted to help to preserve the quality of the break. "We want our kids and grandkids to be able to surf here," Enever said.  "We love North Narrabeen and want to protect it and keep its legacy going."  Warringah Council has already been under pressure to reduce the size of the sand dune from surf lifesavers who can't see the beach from their clubhouse office.  The North Narrabeen Coalition, which represents North Narrabeen Surf Life Saving Club, Boardriders Club and Surfrider, has said the council's plans to reduce the dunes to about 7m as part of its draft masterplan, did not go far enough.  Mr Donohoe said the council should investigate the use of a rapid sand pumping system.  "We don't want to lose our breaks by burying them in sand," he said. "It's almost impossible to re-create a great surfbreak." 


 (http://manly-daily.whereilive.com.au/news/story/give-a-great-wave-a-break-say-legends )


Is this just local "lore", or a hunch, or does anyone have any definite evidence on any of this?   Once again the Council was enquired to and asked did it think it understood what the surfers might have in mind as to coastal processes and any relationship between dune and offshore sand causing the wave break.  It seems it once again did not.   Contrary to the expressed idea that the dune captures (and fixes) sand blown off the beach, and eventually from offshore, thereby reducing offshore sand banks is the following idea.  Without the dune it might be that there'd be faster transport of sand into the Lagoon and relatively less sand left in the beach and surf zone area than occurs with the dune present.   It was also asked what was this 'masterplan' that the article mentioned.   The reply was that the masterplan referred to was the "North Narrabeen Beach Masterplan". 


The Discussion Paper stated:  "Comments on this Discussion Paper are encouraged on our website warringah.nsw.gov.au .  At this site, you are also able to sign up to receive further updates as the project progresses such as notification of upcoming community forums and information sessions."  (It is not easy to find though ... ).


Regarding  the "North Narrabeen Beach Masterplan" which Council advised the surfers were talking about in 2012, Council contracted UNSW's Water Research Laboratory to advise on that and some of the advice was "The Birdwood Park dunes have grown significantly since 1951 (Figure 3.2). A substantial increase in dune height occurred in the wake of the 1974 storm event".   The Laboratory (report signed by G. P. Smith, Manager - but see mention of J. Carley below) presumably was not aware that the 'growth' after the 1974 storm was sand placement by the Council?   [Water Research Laboratory Ref: 11099.01 DSR:JTC:ED P20120309, dated 9 March 2012.]

Council had engaged a panel of independent experts, which it stated to be:

Angus Gordon , a leading coastal planner and engineer, is currently identifying the key aspects of wave, water and land interaction occurring along the Collaroy-Narrabeen coastline.

James Carley, a senior coastal engineer at UNSW Water Research Laboratory, is conducting a detailed analysis of the sand dunes within the project area including the history and likely continuing movement of sand along the beach that will need to be considered within any option or plan.

Jennie Powell, a senior environmental consultant with Ecological Australia, is currently researching existing and potential flora and fauna issues which will need to be managed or mitigated by the masterplan.

Public Exhibition of the North Narrabeen Beach Reserve and Birdwood Park Masterplan was in 2012 and there were presumably submissions received.  However, no individual submissions were found on the Council website (only an account of the "Stage one community consultation").    A community meeting was held on Monday 5 December 2011, between 7pm and 9pm at the North Narrabeen Surf Life Saving Club.  About 48 people attended the meeting.   The record of that meeting stated that "As the presentations progressed it became apparent that many of the participants were highly anxious about what the master planning project would include.  As a consequence of significant questions and discussion during the meeting, the format remained as presentations, questions and answers".   The meeding did not move into a workshop as had been intended.   The main issue and concern recorded from participants, particularly the members of the "North Narrabeen Coalition" (a group of surfing bodies and some local residents), included "the build-up and height of the sand dunes", specifically the Birdwood Park dune.   Another meeting was held with the North Narrabeen Coalition on 9 February 2012, attended by 12 coalition members and staff from Council, Straight Talk and the Water Research Laboratory.  


The public record of the Master-planning shows that ideas were divided.  Some wanted the dunes to remain as is, apart from weed removal, to protect from king tides.   Others wanted sand removal, to lower dune height.   Some believed that dune height had affected surfing conditions but there was also comment that dunes have no effect on surfing conditions.   It is recorded that "many comments were received expressing concern about the height and vegetation of the dunes in Birdwood Park" but few of these are made available verbatim.   


Although the submissions to the exhibited masterplan have not been seen it is known that most of the submissions from the public exhibition process strongly advocated that the main issue that needs to be addressed is the lowering of the height of the dunes both in front of and to the north of the surf club, and that no other work needs to be done to the area.  The Masterplan did not recommend and large scale lowering of the Birdwood Park dune.   The North Narrabeen Coalition and the Surfrider Foundation in fact both strongly opposed the exhibited Masterplan.   Some 105 Submissions were received.  Approximately 60% of the submissions opposed the plan on the basis of there being not enough emphasis on reducing the height of the dunes, a further 15% opposed the plan for various other reasons, and 10% wanted the area left as it was.  Less than 10% of submissions were supportive of the Masterplan.


Obviously the belief that a tall dune protects the area behind it would be widely held and was why Council constructed a taller dune here in the first place.   This was confirmed in the community consultation thus:  "best defence against large swells denuding the beach is to have a lot of sand in the fore dune - it provides a storage of sand that gets picked up and moved into the waves to make a sand bank, which helps reduce the wave energy hitting the beach and reduces the ongoing erosion power of the storm".


Equally clear exposition of the belief that dune height had adversely affected surf break was looked for but not found in available online documentation.   It is known that the The Surfrider Foundation submission stated that the Birdwood Park dune should be immediately reduced in mass and the sand shifted into the beach system to improve beach safety and "surf quality".   Query to Council about why the Foundation might think this would improve surf quality did not find that the Council had any idea of this, nor could such be found from search of material at the Surfrider Foundation's "endangered wave campaign".


One individual's similar comment found on the web is by Michael Zaracostas, at  2 Aug 2012:  "Just wait a few more years and all will see the dangers of disregarding the NSW Planning manual on dune management "Coastal Dune Management". Not only on the northern beaches but all along the coastline where the introduced dune vegetation exists in the wrong places, too close to the shoreline. Natural erosion happens for a reason. Because of the introduced vegetation, the sand now blows into that vegetation and stays there, trapped. It comes from the beach which is washed ashore from the offshore banks. The sand that washes up the beach now can't wash back into the water like it's supposed to, the vegetation has trapped it. We end up with a surplus of sand onshore with a deficit of sand offshore. Very dangerous stuff! We might have created dunes but we have created an imbalance in a very complicated dynamic system. You can have your man made dunes, Ill stick with what's natural thanks."


North Narrabeen is renowned as one of the great surf breaks of the world some state.  The large triangle of white water to the left of the headland in the aerial photo below is said to illustrate why.



"The lake emptying into the sea here creates a deep channel (known as shark alley) that is seen as a line of dark green water leading to the apex of the triangle. This is instrumental in forming the sand bank that creates this classic break.  Long Reef about 4 miles to the south hooks onto the southerly swells and directs them towards North Narrabeen. The deep water off shore allows these swells to finally break with more power than most beaches in the area" ( http://members.ozemail.com.au/~russo/tour/narrabeen.html )  (also at http://www.seaaustralia.com.au/Sydney%20Surfing.php - original source unknown).



Another 'explanation' runs thus:




THE North Narrabeen surf breaks are a product of waves, rocks and sand, assisted by the inlet of the Narrabeen Lagoon.

Waves arrive all along the Sydney coast, so what’s special about North Narrabeen?  The Alley is located to the south of the headland and rock platform and, if you check out the seafloor under the break, you will see the rock shelf continues seaward with a thin covering of sand delivered by the Alley rip, created by the lagoon exit.

The big Alley Left first peaks on a rock/reef further offshore, then forms on the rock shelf in line with the exposed rock platform. This is why it peaks much further out than the beach breaks. The Alley breaks over rock and requires the right wave from the east through northeast, which is why it is so consistent - the rock is always there - just add swell.

The Alley Lefts follow the edge of the sloping rock shelf, only terminating or closing out when it reaches the beach breaks.

The Alley Rights are assisted by the lagoon inlet and the permanent rip which flows out next to the the pool, which provides easy access to the break. This flow of water scours the sand to maintain a deeper channel into which the Alley Rights can break, sometimes to the northern end of the beach.

Carpark Rights are a beach break assisted by a rip south of The Alley Left, which tends to flow out at an angle across the surf zone in front of the surf club. This rip scours out the channel into which the Carpark Rights break. The deeper the channel, the better the Carpark Rights, with the best developed rips and channels usually forming during big seas with the rights persisting for a few days following.

The Bombie is all rock reef. Located seaward from the Carpark Rights in deeper water, it starts breaking with 3 metres of swell. Again, the Alley rip at the northern end of the beach provides access to the Bombie during big seas.

When all is combined, this 400m long section of beach has two lefts and three rights which can hold anything from south to northeast swell and from 1 to 5m of swell. The Alley, being rock-based, works whenever the swell is right. The Bombie, also rock only, works in occasional big swells. The Carpark Rights is more fickle.


The Alley Lefts - is the main surf area and is considered the most consistent break on the East Coast of Australia.  There is both a left and right break. Both of high quality, the left regarded as world class. During east to north swells and northeast to southwest winds the left forms a long, hollow, powerful wave up to 250 metres long and holding up to 10 feet.

The Alley Rights, or Shark Alley, works in south to east swells and northeast to southwest winds. It also forms long, hollow, powerful waves that can either barrel or be a long, walling right depending on the banks and conditions.

( SEE:  North Narrabeen National Surfing Reserve -  http://www.surfingreserves.org/pdf/North%20Narrabeen%20NSR%20Booklet.pdf )



Council had stated that the draft Coastal Zone Management Plan, which should bear further on the matter, would be exhibited during November 2013.

Narrabeen-Collaroy Beach has been monitored by scientists since 1976.   Apparently there are no local sea level markers (or gauging) at Narrabeen that can affirm the stated 9cm of sea level change over the last 30 years.   It has had no obvious effect as yet.   Monitoring records suggest little or no overall change, but reveal large variability as sand is swept away in storms and then slowly returns.   There have been beach width change by as much as 80m.   Professor Ian Turner of the UNSW Water Research Laboratory has been studying the beach changes over this period.





APPENDIX 1 - Accumulating chronology for Edward Giles Strone


The following is what was learned of Mr Stone by 2009.   By now (2013) there is likely to be more available.   Any substantial corrections/additions will be noted in red.



E.G. Stone was born somewhere in Sydney, the exact year seemingly uncertain? [or at least not yet known to me ...]

He was the son of John Jasper Stone, a practicing Civil Engineer, and mother Caroline Smith.

He served a cadetship with his father, then worked for the Roads and Bridges Branch of the Public Works Department for about seven years.

After that he joined the Sewerage Construction Department. 

Three years later, in 1900, he joined the newly formed Sydney Harbour Trust as their Chief Design Engineer.

In 1907 he entered private practice and promoted his services as a "Consulting Engineer and Structural Architect, specialising in Reinforced Concrete".

In 1909 he applied for a patent for 'improvements relating to storage chambers' such as silos, using precast concrete plates with integral edge beams.

He set up a precasting plant somewhere at Emu Plains NSW for the manufacture of reinforced concrete houses, silos, water troughs, etc.

One of his ?pre-fabs of that time still stands at 2 Railway Street, Emu Plains.

In 1912 he entered partnership with Ernest J. Siddeley and that firm began to thrive.

In it Stone was the driving force on the design side, while Siddeley acted as project manager who had hands-on superision of the works contracts the company won.

The company adopted the Considère system for reinforcing concrete and they produced some remarkable buildings and structures using this - such as the Dennys Lascelles Austin wool store (Geelong), the Barwon Sewerage Aqueduct, the big barge (later acting at pontoons for Circular Quay passenger wharfs), the Breakwater at Glenelg, the concrete structures of the Mortlake Gas Works, etc.

Stone proposed to the Australian government to begin building ships of concrete:

"The Argus" of Friday 8 June 1917 (page 6) reported the proposal of Stone's to construct a fleet of concrete ships. The paper reported "Mr. E.G. Stone, of Messrs. Stone and Siddeley, engineers and contractors, had put before the Prime Minister a proposal to construct a 4,000 ton concrete vessel within seven months, and "after that, if the work is organised on a large enough scale, to maintain an output of one similar vessel a week". 

The proposal stated "The vessels would be built of concrete, with a framework of steel bars, which can easily be obtained. Messrs. Thompson Brothers, of Castlemaine, and other engineering firms have offered to supply the necessary engines within the specified time. They will be internal combustion engines, of the semi-Diesel type, and the vessels will be capable of a speed of 10 knots an hour. A greater speed could be attained, but it would not justify the expense. The vessels will be purely cargo-carriers, of course. My firm has offered to back my opinion that the vessels will be seaworthy and satisfactory, by a guarantee of £10,000, and
Messrs Thompson Brothers will back their engines".

The envisaged concrete ships never happened. And Stone and Siddeley company was moreover washed into financial ruination by bad stormy weather that made their Glenelg Breakwater attempt a costly failure.

Stone then became one of the founders of Tasmanian Cement Pty Ltd in 1922 (later renamed the Goliath Cement Company).

The initial plant was to be near Hobart but Stone became interested in the Railton site because of nearby oil shale. He formulated  an invention to use the exhaust gases from the cement kiln to distil oil from the oil shale.  Erection of plant began in late 1923 or early 1924.

That never happened either .. Stone's daring? or innovative idea to co-produce cement and shale oil apparently never worked, and with it he almost sent the company broke.

Near broke by 1924, Tasmanian Cement persuaded Dorman and Long (who had secured the contract to build the Sydney harbour bridge) to take up shares in the venture .. and Stone was eased out.

Stone was first asked to resign as Managing Director, then the new Board (including L Ennis of Dorman and Long) next voted to sack Stone as construction engineer. The company then ditched Stone's shale oil dream and the cement plant was converted from would-be oil firing back to more conventional pulverised coal firing. It then produced its firsst cement, in 1926.

Stone then moved north and built a cement works at Port Kembla.

That works also seems to have never been successful and never produced cement, and presumably the investors lost their all.

There is the booklet "Swept under the Carpet - A History of a Failed Cement Works Project at Port Kembla" by Don Reynolds (Illawarra Historical Society Wollongong 2003) which describes this plant. According to this booklet it seems that he convinced investors that he could make cheap cement from shellgrit and clay. The shellgrit was to be separated from a deposit, off
the coast made up of ca. 50% shellgrit and 50% quartz sand. 

Don Reynolds states in his booklet: "There has been a great deal of speculation that the project was in fact a major confidence trick."

After that Mr Stone moved still further north, to land he bought at the mouth of Deep Creek, Narrabeen Lagoon.

There he began building the "Never Been Beaten Lime & Cement Works".

Buildings dig go up, as certain old photos show, and a large concrete dam was constructed to provide a water supply for the plant. But what it produced is in doubt - and I doubt it ever produced any cement(?).

Today if you can park your car near the bridge over Deep Creek, look in the bushes immediately besides the busy Wakehurst Parkway (on western side of the creek) and you'll find a big round cylinder with geared teeth on the periphery (viz.
http://www.lachlanhunter.deadsetfreestuff.com/JB/deep-ck-rot-kiln-1.jpg [link now defunct] )

This is a rotary kiln ... as used for roasting the clinker that is then ground to cement.

And here is a view inside it: http://www.lachlanhunter.deadsetfreestuff.com/JB/deep-ck-rot-kiln.jpg [link now defunct]

I presume that this is the kiln he must have transported to there from Port Kembla .. but from the pristine-looking insides it rather looks to have never seen active service ??

Some time after this Stoney must have died .. no cement ever flowed into cement bags for sale, to fulfill his vision.

Whilst there (at Deep Creek) he also experimented with some odd things, like miniature concrete submarines .. this is know because the remains of one such strange construction were found lying there (but it no longer exists because some vandal smashed it up). [Probably he was experimenting with possible money-making ideas, he hoped, to offer presumably to the 'War Department'? ... something else he was working on there is thought to have been a 'submersible anti-aircraft gun platform', also made of concrete.
Very odd things indeed .. was he by then going slightly bonkers or was he just exceptionally innovative in his thoughts?]

So a fair bit of the man's career is known .. and is still being researched.

However exactly what he did at Emu Plains, or where his first works there were located, is not known.

There is also known to have once been some interest in shale oil in Emu Plains or district .. but that is probably just coincidental, with no likely connection to Mr Stone.

The big old rotary kiln relic at Deep Creek today sits as a silent memorial to a ?gifted man who tried to make cement and failed .. at Tasmania, then again at Port Kembla, and for the last time at Narrabeen.

His ventures into actually making cement were unorthodox and unsuccessful.  In the years he and Siddeley just 'used' cement, to make concrete structures, good success and profit was had .. and the Emu Plains plant, wherever it was, was part of that phase.

[Stoney's last stand at cement making, at Deep Creek, is being researched by an industrial archaeologist, funded by the Wahringah Council, and a thorough write-up of it all should become available in the Local Studies library there some time. Nobody has yet looked intently for his Emu Plains roots.]




The present writer has still to see a booklet that has researched about Mr Stone's Port Kembla cement plant (a failure by all accounts).


Mr Stone's hope of making cement using shells at Narrabeen Lagoon has been discussed at a number of online discussion groups and the following comment was made by a chemical engineer who was Technical Manager at Blue Circle Southern Cement and familiar with all aspects of cement making from the quarries (limestone & shale) through to clinkering in kilns, grinding of the product, cement marketing and cement use in concrete.  His firm opinion was that Stone  could never have made cement with the raw materials available near the site or from anywhere within 150 km distance.   From the shell grit analyses in Don Reynolds little  booklet about Stone's plant at Port Kembla, and others sources, the calcium oxide content is not sufficiently high to make cement.  At Port Kembla, Stone would have had to add some high grade limestone from Marulan as a supplement.  It seems doubtful if BHP would have allowed him to do that seeing they had an investment in the Southern Portland Cement works at Berrima.  This is assuming: 
1) target CaCO3 in raw mix say 80%, 2) clay slip in mix (to promote liquid phase in clinkering) 6% with zero CaCO3), 3)shell grit say 50% CaCO3 and 50% SiO2 4) Marulan limestone 93% CaCO3 - The Marulan (or similar) limestone might end up having to be something like 76% of the mix.   In those terms it all seems very obviously a totally uneconomic venture.  The No. 3 shell grit figures could be improved if Stone went after coarser shell only and purified it considerable - but how much quantity of that could be available at Narrabeen Lagoon?  At the online discussion lists where Mr Stone's work has been discussed there has been insufficient detailed evidence of this thoughts/plans presented to judge between the tentative opinions which persons have formed of it all ( intuitive innovator, 'conman' [as the main writer about his Port Kembla works seems to have thought], wild optimist or just delusional [perhaps more so as time went on?].   

MORE MISCELLEANEA - The creature of Narrabeen Lagoon

Mabel Walsh was driving home with her nephew John when she saw the strange creature walk out of the lake and into nearby scrub.

"It was a bit over 4-feet tall, with dark grey, tough leathery skin, like an elephant’s.   It had small front legs and walked on its hind legs, which were thick and round like an elephant’s… I didn’t notice a tail or ears, but it had small eyes and smaller front legs or arms.  Its head reminded me of an ant eater’s. Its trunk was rigid, squared off at the end and stuck down and out at an angle.

"It had a strange shuffling walk, but was quite fast. It shocked me. It was a peculiar looking thing. I’ve never seen anything like it.   We saw it only for a few seconds."

Mrs Walsh - "Call me a nut if you will but there's a strange creature in Narrabeen Lakes."

"During 1971 a lady was awoken by a terrible gurgling noise but saw nothing. Two fishermen in a boat, saw something by the light of a kerosene lamp.  It had a trunk like an elephant and was walking on the water with its back legs.  It was described as being grey in colour".

Related webpages


The Curl Curl embayment (another barred lagoon)  - http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/5737284/curl-curl.htm






Butterworth, McCann, 1980.  Deep Creek catchment management plan.

Cameron, D.W., Morris, B.D., Collier, L., and Mackenzie, T., 2007.   Management and monitoring of an ICOLL entrance clearance.  16th NSW Coastal Conference Papers.

Clarke, M.N. and Malone, J.D. , 1987.   Collaroy/Narrabeen Beaches.  Coastal process hazard definition study.  NSW Public Works Department, Coastal Branch, 1987.   PWD Report No. 87040.

CLT, 2006.  Narrabeen Lagoon Entrance Clearance Review of Environmental Factors. Prepared for Warringah Council by Cardno Lawson Treloar Pty Ltd.

CLT, 2007.  Narrabeen Lagoon Entrance Clearance Operation Post Completion Report. Prepared for Warringah Council by Cardno Lawson Treloar Pty Ltd.

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Department of Main Roads, 1946.   Wakehurst Parkway.  Main Roads, Vol. XII, No.1, pp.26-29.

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Fullalgar, Richard, McDonald, Josephine, Field, Judith and Donion, Denise (proof).   Deadly weapons:  Backed microliths from Narrabeen, New South Wales.  in "Archaeological science under a microscope: studies in residue and ancient DNA analysis in honour of Thomas H. Loy", Terra Australis, 30.

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Jo MacDonald Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd, 2005.  Archaeological Salvage Excavation of Site RTA-Grn 109-113 George Street Parramatta, NSW. Report to Landcom.

Jo McDonald Cultural Heritage Management. 2005.   Salvage Excavation of Human Skeletal Remains at Ocean and Octavia Streets, Narrabeen: Site. #45-6-2747.  Report to Energy Australia. Held at Department of Environment and Conservation, NSW.

McDonald, Josephine J., D. ;Donlon, Judith H. Field; Fullagar, Richard L.K.;,Coltrain, Joan Brenner; Mitchell,  Peter and Mark Rawson, 2007.  The first archaeological evidence for death by spearing in Australia.  Antiquity, 81, pp. 877-885.

Mckay, P., 1977.   The History of the Cement Industry to 1939 -An Essay.  Cement and Concrete Association of Australia.   July 1977.

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PBP, 2003. Narrabeen Lagoon Entrance Clearance Operation Post Completion Report.  Prepared for Warringah Council by Patterson Britton & Partners Pty Ltd

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