April 7, 2022

Get wrecked!

Has your kid ever told you to ‘get wrecked’? They might even spell it ‘rekt’. Previously slang for ‘drunk’, ‘wrecked’ has creatively morphed into also meaning ‘I beat you / you’re hopeless’. My teenager loves using this phrase when he wins a game of Smash Bros or proves to be taller, stronger or more knowledgeable than me (all of these are becoming more common with every passing day).

In Byron Bay though, getting wrecked might just mean swimming out to, surfing near, snorkelling around or just looking at The Wreck, which lies offshore from Belongil Beach.

The Wreck is the remains of a ship that sunk nearly 101 years ago. During a gale, the steamship Wollongar broke away from its mooring to the then-jetty. The captain tried to head out to sea but the ship was already broadside to the beach and wind and waves pushed it closer.

These were the days where passenger travel and cargo transport between Byron and Sydney was mainly by boat. On the afternoon of 14 May 1921, it was fortunate that passengers had not yet boarded. With help from surf lifesavers and others on shore, all crew were rescued to safety.

The cargo, a perfect of-the-day Byron load of bacon (from the piggery), bananas (from nearby plantations) and butter (from the Norco factory), was retrieved the next day by a hastily rigged-up flying fox.

The ship was unable to be re-floated so was sold to salvagers who left the hull and boilers on the seabed.

Sadly, an identical replacement ship, creatively named Wollongbar II, met a even more serious fate as one of 37 ships attacked during World War II. Being torpedoed in April 1943 by a Japanese submarine resulted in the death of 32 of the 37 crew.

The hull of the original Wollongbar can be seen from the air at low tide and the rudder bar can be seen above the water.

I’m not a surfer or snorkeller but I understand the sand bar that’s build up around The Wreck can create some quality surfing waves and that, on a clear and still day, exploring the remains is a great way to get wrecked.

Vivienne Pearson is a freelance writer whose writing lives at viviennepearson.com

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