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Published June 22nd 2018
An ocean cliff with stunning views that must be experienced
Situated on the spectacular coastal escarpment on Sydney Harbour's South Head is Gap Park. And it is begging to be explored with its breathtaking views of both harbour and the sea to a series of magical paths amidst windswept native coastal vegetation that traverses the cliff tops.
Gap Park offers undisputed spectacular coastal and city views!
Being an ocean cliff on the South Head Peninsula in eastern Sydney- Watsons Bay, Gap Park faces the mighty Tasman Sea, making this Park a popular tourist place of interest attracting international and national tour groups, independent visitors, and local residents... and it is not hard to see why once you visit!
The signpost at the start of walk features informative and interesting facts about Gap Park and Watsons Bay...
The Gap and Gap Park are formed from Sydney sandstone making it part of Sydney basin. The cliff was laid as sediment more than 200 million years ago in the Triassic period and 40 million years later during the Jurassic era, a cataclysmic event resulted in a massive crack forming within the strata. This event caused erosion from wave action and created the cliff line around Sydney.
The start of the breathtaking & relaxing coastal Gap Park walk...
The Park and The Gap are also home to some of the best bird-watching, whale watching (during migration season) as well as being home to a rich history containing early fortifications, shipwreck relics, and disused gun placements from past wars and sadly is an infamy for suicides.
Prior to European settlement, The Gap was inhabited by the Birrabirrgal Aboriginal clan who were part of the coastal Darug people.
Shortly after the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, the British established a makeshift signalling station on the ridge above The Gap. Its role was to give early warning to the colony of any approaching ship and in 1790 a formal signal station was built.
Spectacular Sydney city views can be seen from Gap Park...
In 1857, the sailing Dunbar ship, captained by James Green was carrying 63 passengers and 59 crew when it struck the rocky cliff at the foot of The Gap due to poor visibility and stormy weather. Captain Green misjudged the entrance to the harbour causing the ship's topmasts to snap and the ship breakers pounded against the rocks due to the pounding of the waves. By light the next day, crowds watched as the breakers pounded the victim's corpses against the rocks and other bodies and cargo and wreckage were washed inside Sydney Harbour with the incoming tide; many of the dead were naked and had been mutilated by sharks.
The dark clouds add a haunting beauty to Gap Park...
The funeral of Dunbar victims was one of the longest processions ever seen in Sydney and a young sailor named James Johnson was the only survivor. He was rescued after clinging to a rocky ledge below The Gap for 36 hours.
The Dunbar's anchor was recovered more than fifty years later and can be found on the cliffs at Watsons Bay with a memorial tablet.
In 1871, a year after the official withdrawal of Imperial British Forces, the headland around Gap Park and The Gap become a military garrison when work began to build coastal artillery emplacements to defend the Port of Sydney.
Sadly, Gap Park and The Gap are well-known places for suicides. Between 2008 and 2011 numerous measures have been implemented to dissuade those at risk of ending their life, these include security cameras to monitor the area, several purpose-built Lifeline counselling phone booths as well as information boards from the Black Dog Institute and Beyondblue.
A small reserve within Gap Park has been dedicated to the 'Angel of the Gap'
In 1936, noted Australian diarist Meta Truscott recorded how she and her uncle, Christopher Dunne, witnessed a suicide at The Gap. By chance the pair watched a ship sail through the Sydney Heads and her uncle asked the well-dressed, middle-aged man, who sat next to them on the bench what the ship's name was - to which he replied and soon afterwards, the smartly-dressed man stood up and walked away; he climbed to the top of the cliff and jumped to his death.
Gap Park can be accessed from the scenic Robertson Park...
A light to the sadness, Don Ritchie (nicknamed Angel of The Gap), a former WWII Naval veteran and retired insurance agent was awarded a medal of the Order of Australia for preventing suicides at The Gap. From 1964, Ritchie saved 164 people from jumping the cliffs. He crossed the road from his property and engaged them in conservation, often beginning with the words, "Can I help you in some way?" Afterwards, he would invite them back to his home for a cup of tea and chat. Some have returned years later to thank him for his efforts in talking them out of their decision. Don Ritchie passed away in May 2012.
If you are experiencing mental health issues or suicidal feelings contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue 1300 224 636. If it is an emergency please call 000.
A reminder from Lifeline that help is always here for us...