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Bondi’s Big Rock – Part 2

By Kimberly O'Sullivan on August 27, 2013 in Other

Photo: Waverley Library Local Studies

Photo: Waverley Library Local Studies

Did It Fall Down Or Was It Thrown Up?

The long-accepted position on how The Big Rock came to be sitting on the North Bondi rock platform was that the boulder had been thrown up during the wild storms of July 1912, something that those who witnessed it had no trouble in believing.

Soon after the storms, scientist Carl A. Sussmilch took measurements of the rock, talked to locals and calculated its weight at 232 tonnes. He noted deep eroded grooves near it that ran along the rock platform toward the sea and deduced that the force of the storm lifted the rock up from under the sea, flipped it over and, with the aid of the strong wind, skimmed it along the surface of the platform. He believed it had been turned over, leaving a new surface on top and marine growth on the underside.

Local residents were divided; some believed the rock had always been there, claiming that they had frequently changed into their swimming costumes behind it. Another view was that there used to be many smaller rocks around this huge one and it was these smaller ones that were washed away during the storms, leaving The Big Rock exposed and prominent in a way it hadn’t been before and leading to the belief that it had suddenly appeared.

Regardless of some views to the contrary, the position that The Big Rock was washed up in the July 1912 storms became the accepted one and this position is repeated in most histories of Bondi Beach.

In mid-2002, Bondi resident Lee Cass, then editor of The Bondi View, disputed the long accepted theory that The Big Rock was thrown up by the sea. His detailed rebuttal analysed the accepted wisdom about The Big Rock and found it wanting.

He proposed an alternative view that The Big Rock fell from the headland at Ben Buckler and, furthermore, that it was in place as long ago as 1888. His article ‘The Big Rock: Exploding The Myth’ appears in the June-July 2002 edition The Bondi View, a copy of which is available at Waverley Library.

The Big Rock Becomes Mermaid Rock

In April 1960, after a great deal of bureaucratic red tape and not inconsiderable controversy, sculptor Lyall Randolph created two mermaid statues and installed them at his own expense on The Big Rock. These mermaids became widely associated with Bondi and The Big Rock soon became known as Mermaid Rock.

One mermaid was washed out to sea in a wild storm in 1974 and has not been seen since. The other lost an arm and her tail in the same storm and was taken down by Waverley Council two years later for safekeeping. For decades afterwards, despite the mermaids no longer being present, the rock continued to be referred to as Mermaid Rock.

However that name, along with the memory of the mermaids that made it their rocky throne, has now almost disappeared and the boulder has gone back to its first self-descriptive title, The Big Rock.