Memories Like Sand
Last week on Swellnet, we ran an article on the la Nina-fuelled erosion that's occurring along the Eastern Seaboard, including Cronulla, and it stirred up memories for Cronulla photographer Greg Button.
Greg was primarily a surf photographer - we've run his shots on Swellnet before - however the Kurnell sand dunes provided an irresistible subject for landscape photos.
"They were magnificent to photograph after rainstorms, heavy winds, and at sunrise and sunset," says Greg, who also tried his hand at sand-skiiing and hang-gliding in the dunes.
Greg still regularly walks from Cronulla to Boat Harbour but the dunes are long gone. If you're on the Australian East Coast and you can see a brick wall or a brick house from where you're seated, chances are it was made from Kurnell sand.
Little known is that the dunes weren't always exposed sand. It was only when early settler Thomas Holt grazed his cattle and sheep on the rolling hills north of Wanda that the vegetation was lost and the sand was bared.
Another little-known (and also disquieting) fact is that in 1937, prior to any significant sand mining, the local council was offered 720 of the 1,000 acres as a National Park. The council was split evenly till the then-Mayor cast his vote against the purchase saying, "the sandhills were completely useless".
A wise man once said not to dwell on the past, but still, to think what could've been...
Scroll through to the very end to see the Kurnell Peninsula now. The last photo was taken by Doug Ford.
What are they going to do with the land at Kurnell? Will they revive it?
There's lots of landfill going in there, so much so that some people call it Kurnell Heights.
My guess is that it'll all become houses.
When the first fleet arrived the Kurnell sand dunes were covered in a cedar forest. The logging of which help with early colonies economy. But once the trees were gone the top soil was blown away. You are right the Kurnell sand dunes built Sydney. Also the land was once owned by the Connell family, but the locals couldn`t pronounce Connell hence Kurnell.
Classic slide film colours in some of these images.
Back at the time of those photos you could drive half way to Kurnell and park and walk over the sand dunes to Greenhills. We called it "ten minute walk". The banks were often great and quite stable. In the eighties they fenced it off and stepped up the decimation. The way the erosion is going the banks at Greenhills might be from the lake mouth!!
There was well worn a track around the northern side of the huge dunes you could walk around to Greenhills without going over the Big Dipper. Some great surfs after school thru the 60's.
After this storm it looks like there are some banks up around Greenhills but Wanda, Elouera and the Wall have outside banks at last and Alley has a long right rip bowl. For how long though is anybodies guess.
Not sure when the last dredging and dumping was? The last dumping at South gave a great bank with dredging lefts and long rights.
It was a real thrill walking in the sand dunes - always like an adventure and often worth the effort. Might have to walk up from Wanda and check the banks at GH out.
Certainly was back in the day Garry. Never any crowds weekdays, just you and a few mates who trekked across grabbing an arvo glass off walking back in the twilight. Been a while since I've been up there I admit but had some nice banks a few years ago and never got really crowded.
Greg might be in the background of this photo -
Also a link here to a Daily Tele article from 2001 suggesting some controversy around the legalities of the sand mining. I didn't know the Holts owned the sand mining lease. Be interesting to know how deep the lake actually is these days.
Beautiful photos thanks for sharing.
Next up - 400sqm blocks and lakeside housing followed by coastal erosion complaints (caused by global warming of course....) and a collaroy like seawall.
That is so sad.
My grandparents had a flat overlooking Shelley Beach. The Island and the dunes in the distance were part of my strongest childhood memories from our regular visits and extended stays. It's been 20 + years and those changes make me feel ill. Something very special has been lost.
Beautiful photos too.
If it's any consolation, you have probably driven over, walked on or looked at buildings that contain some of that sand - now existing as concrete in some form. There is significant pressure on sand resources at the moment - we cant get enough of the stuff.
Oh I get it. Doesn’t make it any better though. We have sand quarries down this way that are also a blight on the landscape.
Likewise, we have one nearby, causing problems in a number of ways, not visual, or enviro impact though, other issues.
@mcbain That is so true. There is a sand shortage world-wide as us humans just keep building things.
Is it true that Kurnell sand was also used to replenish Waikiki beaches?
I believe that the sand for Waikiki beach came from the south coast of NSW not far from Jervis Bay
A lot of places on the east coast that have sand mining have that same myth. Particularly Stockton.
We did/do export sand to Hawaii for construction but they replenish Waikiki Beach sand from their own offshore resources.
Beautiful and informative shots. The first is a true once upon a time. Take care of what you've got.
With rising sea levels It'll open as far as Kingsway
and Byron Bay was the first unlucky customer of this sand pillage. Started in 1934.
Yep, rutile mining. The rutile miners created many of the first beach access roads along the East Coast. The road along Crescent Head back beaches, for instance, was made by rutile miners, as was the detour off The Lakes Way that's now called Pacific Palms. All built to service rutile mining.
Good story and photos.
For someone unfamiliar with the area, where would the Sandhills have been on that last photo?
Where the lake is.
Exactly - where the lake is and about 100m or so above that level - and also they extended right up into the housing at Elouera.
The Mayor at the time who made the casting vote not to purchase the 720 hectares was CJ Monro, auctioneer, real estate agent and local doyen patriarch of the United Australia Party which later became the Liberal Party. I covered the inquiry into the mining of the sandhills for the local Pictorial News in the 1980s but during that time the sandhills continued to be mined as they did during other failed attempts to constitute inquiries. Breen Holdings mined the area behind Cronulla High and trucks leaving the site, which today is the Greenhills housing estate, would blow up Silica across the school's oval. In a strong north easterly we would all have to turn our heads during PE or sport as the trucks left the site until the maelstrom passed. What irked us most was when Breen handed out academic awards on speech night. He continues to keep the high school on the philanthropic drip with bundles of community goodwill shining like a beacon of social and environmental responsibility.
Corrupt pollitricks, been happening for years. Sadly nothing new unless you are a newly ousted evangelical politician looking for redemption. . Even satan's had enough and tired of the theatrics.
Lots of memories of the old sand hills from the 70's. A natural wonder. Didn't know that it was originally covered in vegetation until a failed sheep and the cattle farm was attempted there.
By coincidence I explored the area on Tuesday with the missus. Cape Solander, I had never seen in person (except from the La Pa side). Walked around the headland, found the amazing whale sculpture, huge, but somehow not visible from the La Pa side (checked this morning.
It's all so close to us, on the eastern suburbs side, but a large part of a day trip by road. Hour journey, 2 or 3 hours walk around, lunch at 1770 Cafe (recommended). Hour drive home, day done.
Historical references and pics on the walk really good. Haven't been there for 30 or so years, a trip back in time.
All in all it seems to go, I knew what we had but it's still gone. Paved paradise, thought it was 'just' sand dunes.
Sensational photos by the way.
Between surf and riding dirt bikes that place was a wonderful playground.....sad.
That Thomas Holt cunt has a lot to answer for in this area. Releasing rabbits just one other hare brained idea.
Hopefully I just learned to add a photo to comments. Its a eroding dune and the muddy looking bit below is an ancient swamp that’s likely not seen sunlight for over 10,000 years
Where was the photo taken?
Seaweed that link seems to go your personal album with some of your details on it which may not be ideal.
Eroding dunes are fascinating, always amazed when fragments of shell and stone flakes from Aboriginal times are exposed. To think that someone had been sitting in that very spot thousands of years ago having a feed.