Friday, 10 April 2009

The disappearing lake

This is a lake not too far from Canberra - Lake George.

Not your average lake, it can completely vanish, leaving a broad grassed plain (like in the photo above) which is mainly used for grazing sheep. At other times it can be one of the largest freshwater lakes in Australia. There have been numerous theories about how it works, but apparently the consensus these days is that because it's very shallow, even when full (ranging from 0.8m in depth to a maximum of 7.5m), the large surface area combined with the windy nature of the region means that evaporation rates are very high - it simply dries up very quickly under drought conditions. The lake has currently been dry for quite a few years.

On the far side of the lake the turbines of the controversial Capital Wind Farm can be seen.

Every time we make the trip to Sydney we drive past this lake, and on our most recent trip we decided to stop at a lookout that we normally shoot straight past. We discovered a memorial plaque - the tragic story of a local family who perished in a boating accident:

This memorial is dedicated to the memory of
the Lynch Family
Christine Agnes Lynch Aged 5 years
Brenda Ann Lynch Aged 12 years
Ethel Hope Lynch Aged 33 years
John Leslie Lynch Aged 38 years
Raylee Monica Koppman Aged 12 years
Lost in a boating accident on Lake George
12th January 1958
"Now safe in God's care"

The Queanbeyan Age published this article about the family 50 years later:

A son remembers

11/01/2008 7:52:59 AM
FIFTY years ago a 13-year-old Queanbeyan boy's world fell apart when he lost his entire family in an accident at mysterious Lake George.

This weekend he will return to Queanbeyan to commemorate his family's tragedy.

Now aged 63, Barry Lynch became an orphan in 1958 after his parents and sisters - father John Leslie (Barry) Lynch (aged 38), mother Ethel Hope Lynch (33), sisters Brenda Ann Lynch (12) and Christine Agnes Lynch (6) - drowned in the lake when their 12-foot skiff capsized on January 12, 1958.

Mr Lynch's cousin, Rayleigh Monica Koppman (12), also drowned in the accident.

Father Lloyd Reynolds, who was the parish priest at the Catholic presbytery, was the sole survivor.

Mr Lynch said the family was boating on the lake to celebrate Christine's birthday.

He escaped being caught in the tragedy because he was holidaying at Numeralla.

At the time the Lynches lived in Collins Street. Mr Lynch senior worked for the Department of Works, Mrs Lynch was a full-time housewife and all three children were students at St Gregory's.

"When the accident took place, we were battlers," Mr Lynch told The Queanbeyan Age.

"We had no financial reserves, and because of the massive cost Queanbeyan launched an appeal through The Queanbeyan Age.

"I'd now like to thank those people," he said.

After the accident Mr Lynch moved into Furlong House (in Morisset Street) with his grandparents. He also became a ward of Legacy.

"A legatee by the name of Stan Reed was particularly supportive - he was like a father figure to me. I owe that man a lot," Mr Lynch said.

"I think of Stan quite often and how fortunate I was to have him as my guardian."

Mr Lynch attended St Gregory's school from 1950 until 1956.

He then went to Queanbeyan High School in 1957 before enrolling at St Patrick's Boarding College in Goulburn from 1958 until 1961.

On completion of high school he moved to Sydney and worked in the earthmoving and construction industry and now holds certificates in industrial engineering.

Mr Lynch has organised for a memorial service to be held as part of this Sunday's 10am Mass at St Raphael's Catholic Church.

There will be reflection for the family during Mass and lighting of candles in remembrance of the family.

"I would like people to attend the church service on Sunday," Mr Lynch said.

"It will give me some closure and be a celebration of my parents' and sisters' lives.

"Queanbeyan hasn't forgotten about this accident.

"It is time for everybody to put some closure on it.

"It's not a sad thing, but about closure," he said.

Mr Lynch is also trying to arrange for a commemorative plaque.

He wants it to acknowledge his parents and sisters and also thank the people of Queanbeyan for the support shown to him as a child to be placed in the town park.

These are the stories that history is made of.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I found this as well about a year ago and was trying to find it again to show my wife but couldn't. Do you know the name of the rest area it is in? Also, when I was there I saw a white pole and some stuff at the bottom of the pole out in the lake (maybe 300 metres out). I walked out the to see what it was and there was a pile of stones stacked around the bottom of the pole, a couple of pieces of wood, a boat propeller and an anchor. I wonder if it is also a memorial to the same accident. Thanks, Steve

karen said...

Hi Steve, the lookout with the memorial plaque is the Weereewaa/Weereewa Lookout. As you're coming south towards Canberra, it's on the left just past the place where the road sweeps right, away from the lake.

I haven't been able to find out anything about the white pole you mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen, thanks, I found it today. Took some photos of the pole/anchor/stones thing but I don't know how to post pictures on here. It definitely looks like some kind of memorial. Thanks for your help. Steve

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember another sister, Carmel, who was also away at Numeralla for that weekend and thus avoided the boating accident.