52 weeks of personal history & genealogy: Week 10: Disasters

We are now in Week 10 of Amy Coffin and Geneablogger’s 52 weeks of Personal history and genealogy. This week’s topic: Disasters. Did you experience any natural disasters in your lifetime? Tell us about them. If not, then discuss these events that happened to parents, grandparents or others in your family.

With the 2011 events in New Zealand and Australia, I’m reluctant to lay claim to being involved in any natural disasters of the magnitude of the recent earthquakes, fires and floods.

So my story is really about natural dramas, not disasters, thank heavens.

My most-public drama occurred when I was in the first year of high school, during our May school holidays at the end of first term. My Guide company had gone camping on a spit of high land on a farmer’s property in the then-rural area of Brisbane. There was a pleasant little creek on one side and we set all our tents up and presumably did the usual Guide things –campfire, bush skills etc. Truthfully that part has mostly disappeared from my memory. On the Sunday evening a small handful of us went to Mass at the nearby Catholic Church with one of our leaders who was also Catholic….for whatever reason in those days, few Catholics joined the Guides….or perhaps that was just in my company. We drove home across the dry gravel creek-bed to the campsite as it got dark. During the night it rained and rained.

In the morning we woke up early to discover that the peaceful little creek had burst its banks and was now lapping at the area where our latrines had been situated, and at least one tent was flooded. The gravel creek-bed was dry no longer and was now a wide, swiftly-flowing stream and impassable, with the water steadily rising. Can you imagine the anxiety the leaders must have felt with responsibility for a dozen young girls and no way to raise an alarm –remembering this was pre-mobile-phone days by about 30 years. Even harder to imagine they took the difficult decision to send the strongest swimmer  amongst the Guides to swim the flood waters with a rope around her waist, and fetch help. How brave she was! It seemed logical enough at the time but now we’d all be thinking about worst-case scenarios and law suits.

Jann reached the other side safely, raised the alarm, and in due course the Water Police arrived from Brisbane (somewhat ironically from their base near my school). They managed to get a rope fixed across the flooded creek and then ferried everyone and their belongings across.

The next day a small group of us had our photos on the front page of the local paper, The Courier-Mail, and inside was a longer story. You might imagine that when I returned after the holidays I’d gone from being an inconspicuous new student at my large girls’ high school, to having a small modicum of “fame”. First and last time on the front page for me, thank goodness!

10 thoughts on “52 weeks of personal history & genealogy: Week 10: Disasters

    1. Yes indeed…one of the joys of small newspapers. It would probably still happen in the NT News and merit several pages and lots of mentions of crocs;-)


    1. It was really a “soft” disaster Kristin….yes, we were at risk and yes, difficult decisions were made but I don’t remember feeling fearful (maybe because I actually felt sick that day anyway?!). I’d imagine the leaders were rather more nervous and the Guide who did the swim was incredibly brave.


  1. WOW! Jann was certainly a very brave and lucky girl! She must have been a good swimmer too!

    My father always told me never to camp close to a creek/river bank or under a gum tree, as the water can come up so quickly and gum trees drop limbs.


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