Wednesday, 17 December 2008


I realised today that it has been several weeks since I’ve spent time with the Jaeckels. The poor things made it all the way to Australia: four months across the ocean via Batavia, surviving storms and incompetence and the everyday dangers of ocean travel. And now they sit becalmed in Moreton Bay, abandoned by their creator and activator. What must they be thinking? What hand of nature has forestalled them?

On the plus side, I’ve been studying pictures of Brisbane in the 1870s and trying to get an idea of what they would see when their ship finally enters the Brisbane River and begins its twisting journey upstream to the city. Surprisingly, they will see hills already covered with houses, substantial warehouses on the river and at least one bridge across the river. It will seem the ends of the earth to them, but not the end of civilisation. That will come once they have disembarked, spent some time in the city at the German settlement at Nundah, made their way upriver to Ipswich and then struck out on foot. Then they will feel the loneliness and isolation. There will be other travellers, but there will also be mile after mile of deep forest, strange bounding animals, an astounding number and variety of insects, snakes, a burning sun, heavy rain, only the supplies they can carry themselves and a beginning understanding of how hard and long the work will be to create a new life.

Fortunately what won’t be added to their burden is the effort of my writing. That I must do myself.

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