October 29 - November 4, 2017: Issue 335


View down to Stanwell Park Beach.


By George Repin

Near a road stop on Bald Hill overlooking Stanwell Park, on the road emerging from the Royal National Park heading south down the N.S.W. coast, is a memorial to Lawrence Hargrave an Australian explorer, inventor and aeronautical pioneer.

The parking area on Bald Hill overlooking Stanwell Park.

A detailed biography of Hargrave appears in Volume 9 (1983) of the Australian Dictionary of Biography.  Some highlights of his career after arriving in Australia in 1865 at the age of fifteen include:
  • explorations in Papua where he took detailed notes and drawings of Papuan people, homes and technological devices which he found of considerable interest;
  • charting the Fly River and its tributary the Strickland;
  • as ship’s engineer on several of the voyages to Papua his demonstrated, resourcefulness, mechanical skills and powers of observation;
  • joining the Royal Society of New South Wales in 1877;
  • five years as an assistant astronomical observer at the Sydney Observatory where he observed the transit of Mercury in 1881 and made observations of the Krakatoa explosion which led him to develop a theory linking it with the brilliant sunsets seen at the time. 
Thanks to his father’s prudent investments in land Hargrave was able to give up paid employment before he was thirty and from 1883 devoted himself full-time to his inventions.

His observation of waves and the motions of fish, snakes and birds interested him in flight and, in a long paper presented to the Royal Society in 1884, he theorised that the way forward was to  ”follow in the footsteps of nature”.

He chose to live and carry out his experiments into flight at Stanwell Park, a place which offers excellent wind and hang conditions.  Today Stanwell Park is a recognised venue for hang gliding and paragliding.

Hargrave produced many inventions but never applied for a patent on any of them, being opposed to the concept of inventors keeping the results of their labours to themselves.

Three of his inventions were of particular significance:
  • The study of curved aerofoils, particularly designs with a thicker leading edge;
  • The box-kite, which greatly improved the lift to drag ratio of early gliders;
  • Work on the rotary engine, which powered many early aircraft up until about 1920.
Hargrave successfully lifted himself off the ground under a train of four    of his box-kites at Stanwell Park Beach on 12 November, 1894.  He rose 16 feet in a wind speed of 21 m.p.h.

Abbott Lawrence Rotch of the meteorological observatory at Harvard University, having read of Hargrave’s achievement in Engineering, built a kite which, after modification, was adopted by the weather bureau of the United States, and the use of box-kites for meteorological observations became widespread. The principle was applied to gliders and in October 1906 Alberto Santos-Dumont used the box-kite principle in his aeroplane to make his first flight.

Hargrave’s only son was killed at Gallipoli in May 1915.  Hargrave himself died in July of that year from peritonitis after an operation for appendicitis.
An engraving of Lawrence Hargrave, together with drawings of some of his gliders, appeared on the reverse of the Australian $20 banknote from 1966 to 1994.

Lawrence Hargrave has been commemorated in a number of ways:
  • The Lawrence Hargrave Drive is a road stretching from the Old Princes Highway in Helensburgh to the bottom of the Bulli Pass in Thirroul;
  • The Lawrence Hargrave Professor of Aeronautical Engineering at Sydney University and the Hargrave-Andrew Engineering and Science Library at Monash University are named in his honour;
  • Qantas named its fifth Airbus A380 aircraft (registration VH-OQE) after Lawrence Hargrave;
  • A new technology building at his former school in Kirkby Lonsdale, England was named in his honour in 2017.

The Lawrence Hargrave Memorial on Bald Hill.

Close up image of Lawrence Hargrave.

Citation at the base of the Lawrence Hargrave memorial.

Reverse of the Australian $20 banknote from 1966 to 1994 which featured Lawrence Hargrave and some of his gliders.

Photographs by George Repin in March 2009.

Previous Reflections by George Repin 

The Nineteen Thirties  Remembering Rowe Street  The Sydney Push  Saturday Night at the Movies  Shooting Through Like A Bondi Tram  A Stop On The Road To Canberra  City Department Stores - Gone and Mostly Forgotten  An Australian Icon - thanks to Billy Hughes  Crossing The Pacific in the 1930s  Hill End  The Paragon at Katoomba  Seafood In Sydney  How Far From Sydney?  Cockatoo Island Over The Years  The Seagull at the Melbourne Festival in 1991  Busby's Bore  The Trocadero In Sydney  Cahill's restaurants Medical Pioneers in Australian Wine Making  Pedal Power and the Royal Flying Doctor Service  Pambula and the Charles Darwin Connection  Gloucester and the Barrington Tops  A Millenium Apart  Have You Stopped to Look?  Gulgong  Il Porcellino  Olympia  Durham Hall  Sargent's Tea Rooms Pie Shops and Street Photographers The Ballet Russes and Their Friends in Australia  Hotels at Bondi  Alma Ata Conference - 1978 Keukenhof - 1954 The Lands Department Building and Yellowblock Sandstone  The Goroka Show - 1958  A Gem On The Quay  Staffa  The Matson Line and Keepsake Menus Kokeshi Dolls  The Coal Mine At Balmain  The Hyde Park Barracks  The Changing Faces Of Sydney From Pounds and Pence to Dollars and Cents Nell Tritton and Alexander Kerensky  Making A Difference In Ethiopia William Balmain  J C Bendrodt and Princes Restaurant Azzalin Orlando Romano and Romano's Restaurant  Waldheim  Alcohol in Restaurants Before 1955  King Island Kelp  The Mercury Theatre   Around Angkor - 1963   Angkor Wat 1963  Costumes From the Ballets Russe Clifton at Kirribilli  Chairman Mao's Personal Physician  The Toby Tavern The MoKa at Kings Cross  The Oceaographic  Museum  in Monaco  The Island of Elba  Russian Fairy Tale Plates  Meteora  Souda Bay War Cemetery Barrow, Alaska  Cloisonné  Tripitaka Koreana Minshuku The Third Man Photographs and Memories  Not A Chagall!  Did You Listen? Did You Ask?  Napier (Ahuriri, Maori) New Zealand  Borobudur  Ggantija Temples Plumes and Pearlshells  Murano  University of Padua  Ancient Puebloe Peoples - The Anasazi   Pula  The Gondolas of Venice Cinque Terre  Visiting the Iban David The Living Desert Bryce Canyon National Park   Aphrodisias   The Divine Comedy Caodaism  Sapa and local Hill People  A Few Children  Cappadocia  Symi Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre   Aboriginal Rock Art on Bigge Island    ANZAC Cove (Ari Burnu) 25 April, 1997  Hotere Garden Oputae  Children of the Trobriand Islands  Page Park Market - Rabaul  Rabual   Kotor, Montenegro   Galleries of Photographs I   Lascaux  Galleries of Photographs II   The Cathedral of St. James – Šibenik, Croatia  Ivan Meštrović  - Sculptor   Delphi   Gallery of Photographs III  The Handicrafts of Chiang Mai Raft Point  San Simeon - "Hearst Castle"  Floriade - The Netherlands - 1982  Russian New Year  Mycenae  "Flightseeing" Out Of Anchorage Alaska  The White Pass and Yukon Route  Totem Poles  Tivkin Cemetery  Krka National Park - Croatia   Tavistock Square and the BMA  Orthodox Easter  Wieliczka Salt Mine  A Walk on Santorini  Indonesian Snapshots Ephesus - The Library of Celsus  Ephesus - Some Places Of Interest  Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Valley United Nations Headquarters 1958  A Miscellany of Flower Images Gardens Bath St. David's In Wales   Zion National Park Nicholas Himona - Artist  Kraków  Lilianfels  Collonges-La-Rouge  Gingerbread Houses   Cape Sounion   Delos  Wroclaw  Colonial Williamsburg  Gruyères   Strasbourg  Coventry Cathedral  The Roman Theatre at Aspendos  Turkish Carpets The Duomo of Orvieto  Rovinj  The City Walls of Dubrovnik Monaco - Snapshots   Bonifacio, Corsica  Autumn in New England USA  The Great Ocean Road  Pompeii  Didyma  

Copyright George Repin 2017. All Rights Reserved.