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Published July 21st 2016
Melbourne Maritime History in Mordialloc
Pompei's Boat, Pompei Bridge, Mordialloc VIC 3195
99% of the time beaches are at their best during the day. Unless you're on a cruise ship, fishing boat, or freighter: the sunshine and blue skies shall usually offer the most vivid backdrop seaside. The Pompei's Boat sculpture within Mordialloc is one such exception to this rule. While already a beautiful piece in the day, at night it takes on another range altogether, serving as something of a beacon to motorists passing by.
Not to take an inch away from the many other wonderful pieces of art, installations, and constructions in Melbourne - for this city is surely filled to the brim with such pieces - yet the tremendous thing about this sculpture by Julie Squires (unlike perhaps a out of the way bronze monument that may be important but hard to spot) is it is simply unmissable - and especially so at night. Those who wish to ensure similar pieces both pay tribute and gain notice could surely take heed from this work.
The Boat seen alongside the bridge also named for the Pompei family.
The story behind the piece is equally rich and compelling. It's the tale of a young man named Jack from an Italian emigrant family who made their way to Australian shores, Jack Pompei spent much of his early life in Melbourne, and grew up to build boats by the seaside in Mordialloc for decades - countless times himself venturing into the waters of Port Phillip Bay and Mordialloc creek to save a swimmer in trouble - and in doing so building a legacy of craftsmanship and community engagement throughout his life.
Though Jack has since passed away after a long and happy life, his story endures in the local neighbourhood, just as this installation provides a window into it for those from further afield. Accordingly, not only does the sculpture serve as a fitting tribute to the Pompei family and wider boating and sailing tradition within Melbourne, but also serves as a solid testament to the individuals and activities that made Mordialloc a community.
Not unlike the value of a lighthouse to a sailor looking to navigate into port, the sculpture serves as a familiar landmark for anyone passing through the South-East suburbs along the Nepean Highway. And, just like a lighthouse in turn: undoubtedly this is a piece at its very best vision during the night. Best of all it is situated right alongside the Pompei family's Boat Building Works, continued after Jack's passing by his son Leon, and achieving a quality mix of history and continuity in the same space.
The sculpture situated alongside Pompei's Boat Building Works in Mordialloc
On a final word, Pompei's Bridge is also notable as it sits along Mordialloc Creek, and is regarded as the last beach with real curvature on Port Phillip Bay until Frankston. Topography may seem unimportant at first to someone just looking to get in an afternoon swim during the summer, but it's handy as a compass: if you like crescent beaches like Half Moon Bay or Hampton Beach then staying north of the sculpture is sage. By contrast, if you love a long and open expanse of sea and flat sand where you can swim, boogie board (and maybe even get in a game of beach cricket) then heading south beyond it to Chelsea, Edithvale or Seaford.
So, whether you stop for the sculpture or merely cruise over the Bridge, this little art and history hub in Mordialloc remains both beautiful and useful - something a good boat should surely be.