Symbolism Silver Gull Sculpture
The design of the HMAS Sydney II Memorial Commemorative Silver Gull Sculpture is based upon the design concept for the Dome of Souls and the Pool of Remembrance. This is the centerpiece and inspirational heart of the entire complex. It is the starting point for the Memorial concept and the source of the most fundamental basis to the project. It’s validity as a concept is based on the fact that it was directly inspired by the incident which took place at the Dedication of the Memorial site,19th November,1998, when a flock of Silver Gulls swooped over the assembled crowd and flew in formation as the Flag was raised at sunset, while the notes of the Last Post rang out in the evening air.
This inspiring moment is encapsulated and frozen in space and time by the formation of a domed roof, sculpted from a flock of 645 stainless steel Silver Gulls each representing one of the 645 men who were lost. Birds are symbolic as spirits of the dead. The silver Gull element represents the seagull which historically embodied the spirits of drowned sailors.
The birds in this context are symbolic of the Souls of the men from HMAS Sydney II expressed in this ethereal way, serene, elemental spirits, flying free between water and sky.
It is as if at that moment of Dedication, they flew past to give their imprimatur to the Memorial and confirm their transcendence. This incident has created an opportunity to produce a totally unique concept, specific to this Memorial at Mount Scott, individualising it, in a distinctive way for all time. The cupola of birds, which is 9 meters high, is intended to be uplifting in nature, while providing a sacred space of remembrance and a symbolic link with the men of HMAS Sydney II.
The Dome forms a canopy which is a filigree of stainless steel and an open weave structure. The effect of distilled light reflects the silver sea, creating a sense of disembodiment and peace. Standing in the center of this empty space, one becomes aware of the vastness of the ocean: this ‘ great open grave’. As one’s eyes are drawn towards the light, there is a sensation of looking upwards to the surface of the sea. By day, the beauty of Geraldton’s blue sky can be glimpsed, filtering light through the sea-silver winged shapes into the Memorial’s inner space, while at night the Cupola, lit by an eternal flame, forms a dome of gold, glowing at the top of Mount Scott. The open filigree structure also lends itself to sound effects, redolent of the sea and the wind, evoking an emotional response in all those who come to experience this sacred space. This inner space in itself is highly symbolic and is designed to be evocative of the emptiness left behind by the missing men.
The polished black granite base echoes the Wall of Remembrance. This sculpture is therefore a small part of the Memorial itself. Each solid Silver Gull Sculpture is individually hand made, signed and numbered by the creators of the Memorial, Joan and Charles Smith and is accompanied by a Certificate of Appraisal.