Unforgotten Dreams

Gone, But Not Forgotten

In response to this week’s WordPress Photo ChallengeGone but not Forgotten
On the afternoon of 18 January 2003, the Mt Stromlo Observatory on the outskirts of Canberra ACT was destroyed by wildfire. Standing at the edge of a steep escarpment facing directly into the approaching firestorm – staff were given only 20 minutes to escape with their lives.
Many significant telescopes were lost on that day, including the 1.9-meter (74-inch) Grubb-Parsons reflector, the 1.3-meter (50-inch) Great Melbourne telescope, and the 0.7-meter (26-inch) Yale-Columbia refractor. Also destroyed were the 23-cm (9-inch) Oddie refractor, which was installed on the summit in 1910, and a laser-ranging station with its 1-meter telescope. The fire then consumed the main administration building, which housed the observatory’s library.

I first visited the Observatory with my Dad maybe 50 years ago – and it was there on that day, looking at black and white images on the Dome walls of galaxies and the Milky Way that a passion was born for all things space. Every time we now visit Canberra I make a pilgrimage to the mountain and try to reconnect with that time – before moon landings and computerised personal telescopes such as I now own …
There are new buildings now across the summit with very sophisticated equipment and a new generation of astronomers, but the memory of that original Observatory and the way that it opened my mind to future possibilities will never be forgotten.
“To forget would mean the things we never knew
had never waited to be known, never waited
to be forgotten, had never been; waiting
beneath the long dead stars
in time. . .”

John Daniel Thieme, paulinskill hours and other poems



6 thoughts on “Unforgotten Dreams

    1. Thanks Sue – I’ve always been inspired by the prospect of exploring other worlds (Alien Shores) … and science fiction is slowly becoming fact as we begin to venture out soon to Mars and beyond. I love Carl Sagan’s words – “Maybe it’s a little early. Maybe the time is not quite yet. But those other worlds — promising untold opportunities — beckon. Silently, they orbit the Sun, waiting.”

      Glad you like the Expound Theme.


  1. Thank you. I gave the Daily Press challenge a miss this week because I couldn’t tackle this theme. But I’m so glad I stumbled on your post. I’ve wandered through many a museum in my lifetime, and will see many more yet, but I wonder if anything will trigger as much emotion as the melted mirror and optical glass encrusted with debris that was on display at the National Museum of Australia.


    1. Thanks Cherrie – I still have to get to the NMA and see that melted glass – I’ve seen pics of it. It’s hard to imagine that much heat coming over the mountain on that afternoon.


  2. Interesting post….I love stories like these, where something sparked a fascination, a passion, and even though that trigger is no longer there powerful memories remain.


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