HMAS Sydney II Memorial – Symbolism
Dome of Souls
This is the centerpiece and inspirational heart of the entire complex. It consists of seven pillars, testifying to the National significance and intention of this Memorial, while expressing the traditional symbol of the pillar as world axis, ‘ joining heaven and earth. The pillar denotes wisdom, power, goodness, strength, the tree of life and, surmounted by a crown, spiritual ascent.
This forms a Dome composed of 645 Stainless Steel Gulls, representing those lost. The concept was inspired by the incident which took place, when a flock of silver Gulls swooped over the assembled crowd, during the Memorial Site Dedication Ceremony, 19th November 1998, while the Last Post rang out in the evening air, at sunset, the last recorded moment in time when HMAS Sydney was seen. Traditionally, the seagull personified the souls of lost sailors and in this context these elemental symbols form a link with the men of HMAS Sydney II, as spirits flying free between water and sky. The canopy thus formed, becomes an open filigree stainless steel structure, redolent of the sound of sea and wind creating a sense of disembodiment and peace, as a graceful distillation of the overall concept.
The Waiting Woman
At the edge of the precinct stands a sculpture of a woman. Appearing almost real, she leans anxiously into the wind.Frozen in time and bronze, her strained gaze fixed patiently forever on the far horizon, she is the all encompassing ‘Waiting Woman’ grieving for her men folk Through her, the pain of loss is felt, the everlasting empty waiting of those, many of whom will come to this place of healing, to close this tragic chapter in Australian history. Hopefully these will find comfort in the existence of this sacred site; this place of contemplation which honours and remembers the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for freedom.
The waiting woman represents the anxious mothers and relatives looking for the return of their sons serving on the HMAS Sydney. A powerful picture of the bonds of love strained from the uncertainty of their fate, hoping against all odds that they will appear over the horizon.
Set against a panoramic view of the Western Australian coastline you can feel for those who waited for the return of the HMAS Sydney
The Wall of Remembrance
Encompassing the south-west side is a semi-circular wall, faced with W.A. Black Granite, engraved with the names of the 645 men lost. This represents the ‘encircling Arms of the Nation’ welcoming home it’s lost loved ones. The exterior face of the wall is sculpted with a low relief motif emblematic of the eternal sea. At the Entrance Portal, historic photographic images of HMAS Sydney II, bring to life the reality of the tragedy
Inscribed with the individual names of all the sailors lost with the HMAS Sydney, these curved black granite walls are a magnificent memorial in themselves.
“Lest We Forget”
These men were tragically taken from their families, both children and parents, from sisters and cousins. This Memorial reminds us so clearly that the freedoms we enjoy came at a high price, the lives of men like these.
Based on the historical symbolism of Standing Stones as grave makers, this vertical element in stainless steel, linking with the steel birds of the Dome, represents the prow of HMAS Sydney II, metaphorically in a single dramatic gesture, while providing a major focal point visible from many miles around.
The Pool of Remembrance
Since the discovery of HMAS Sydney II on 16th March, 2008, the Rotary Club of Geraldton commissioned Smith Sculptors, the original Memorial designers, to design and constuct a 5th element known as the Pool of Remembrance thus ‘closing the circle’
On 16th of March 2008 the wreck of HMAS Sydney II was found in position 26 14 45 S – 111 12 55 E
The intention was to complete the original HMAS Sydney II Memorial project by incorporating concepts that were not possible for the 60th Anniversary in 2001 and which could only be implemented upon the discovery of the location of the Sydney. This occurred on 16th March 2008 and the Pool of Remembrance Project was launched.
This would be achieved by the creation of a dignified commemorative area of contemplation and remembrance, complimentary to the existing Memorial precinct, without intruding on any previous symbolic elements. It is a ‘ circle within the circle’ of the original Memorial, which symbolizes the ‘circle of life and death’ and the concept of Eternity and the Infinite.
The centerpiece and heart of this ‘element’ is a Pool of Remembrance. As an appropriate place of commemoration and contemplation, it was decided that no new vertical elements or major dramatic features would be used in the design.
The final concept is a simple, recessed pool, approached by circular terracing symbolically descending ‘down’ into the depths, as it were, evocative of the war grave where the ship now silently rests on the sea floor, 120 nautical miles off Steep Point.
The floor of the pool is a map, 5 meters across, showing the location of HMAS Sydney II, embedded in coloured granite. A 2 meter high Stainless Steel gull is fixed to the exact spot where the Sydney lies, with the co-ordinates radiating out from this, both on the exact bearing towards the wreck site. 26 14 45 S – 111 12 55 E. A circular waterfall pouring out from under the bottom terrace dramatically reinforces the concept of ‘going down into the depths’ Inspired by the shadow pattern of the gulls under the Dome of Souls, the lowest step is formed in polished black granite into which is engraved images of 644 Silver Gull shadows, circling the pool and the ship. The 2 meter high vertical Silver Gull is Number 645.
The polished black granite symbolically links this final terrace to the Wall of Remembrance. It is a powerful illustration of the original concept describing the two curving walls as ‘ the arms of the Nation welcoming back it’s lost loved ones’.
At night, circles of under step LED Lighting create a somber, haunting effect underscoring and amplifying the quiet, contemplative atmosphere of the surrounding Memorial Precinct.
Close by, the Waiting Woman waits no more. Now she watches over her loved ones, eternally at rest. The circle of life and death embodied in the design of the National Memorial to HMAS Sydney II has been closed.