Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Whut.

You guys, Australian history is weird. I'm the first one to admit that. I mean, Melbourne was founded by a dude named Batman. Who had no nose by the time he died of syphilis only a couple of years after Melbourne was settled. And who we managed to LOSE when Melbourne's first cemetery was moved to make room for a market.

Hell, that's not all we've lost. We lost a Prime Minister in 1966. He went swimming at the beach about an hour from Melbourne and never came back. What did we name in his honour? A SWIMMING POOL.

And back in the days when Tasmania was Van Diemen's Land, it was under the control of a guy named Thomas Davey, who was basically the nineteenth century version of Captain Jack Sparrow.
He even LOOKS a little like Johnny Depp, you guys.
Also, source.

According to Robert Hughes in his (rather long-winded, but still fascinating) book The Fatal Shore, Davey
"...marked his arrival in Hobart Town in February 1813 by lurching to the ship's gangway, casting an owlish look at his new domain and emptying a bottle of port over his wife's hat. He then took off his coat, remarking that the place was as hot as Hades, and marched uphill to Government House in his shirtsleeves. Nicknamed "Mad Tom" by the settlers, he would later make it his custom to broach a keg of rum outside Government House on royal birthdays and ladle it out to passersby." (2003:369) 
And Davey is, according to Wikipedia, also known for inventing a cocktail called "Blow my Skull".

I honestly didn't think anything could beat Mad Tom Davey as my favourite bizarre thing in Australian history. But today? Today I was proved wrong.

Because in 1932, Australia went to war. Against emus. AND THE EMUS WON.

Can we just stop and process this for a second? A group of soldiers took a couple of machine guns and went into the desert to kill 20,000-odd birds. And they failed.
"Boo-ya, bitches". Also, source. 

Plus, this "war" led to some completely amazing quotes:

"The machine-gunners' dreams of point blank fire into serried masses of Emus were soon dissipated. The Emu command had evidently ordered guerrilla tactics, and its unwieldy army soon split up into innumerable small units that made use of the military equipment uneconomic. A crestfallen field force therefore withdrew from the combat area after about a month." - Dominic Serventy
"If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world...They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks. They are like Zulus whom even dum-dum bullets could not stop." - Major Meredith

I don't think I really have much in the way of a point. Well. Except for these:
1. What the hell, Australian government?! 
2. Those soldiers should be super pleased that they were only dealing with emus and not cassowaries... #velociraptorsofthemodernera
3. HISTORY IS FREAKING AWESOME.

K xx

24 comments:

  1. Emus don't even taste good. Lucky they are fast runners.

    Was Tom Davey our Andrew Jackson? Sounds that way. Between him and Bob Hawke, we've had some legendary drinkers amongst our leaders!

    I don't hold any particular affection for Batman - Hoddle is my hero. He mapped out a grid system of streets that even today stretches to the outer suburbs, and with the most primitive equipment #surveyingnerd

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    1. I strongly suspect that Davey was indeed our Andrew Jackson. And I hold no particular affection for Batman either. Mostly because his stupid treaty is really hard to write exhibition text about.

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  2. Can you imagine the old people telling their grandkids that story "Ah back in the day during the Old Emu War, we went out guns-a-blazing...and then we walked a mile in the snow"

    In the mean time...I didn't know there was a swimming pool named after the poor dude...that's..awkward.

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    1. ...How can you live in Melbourne and not know about the Harold Holt Memorial Swimming Pool???

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  3. I have to do this. And before I do, know that I love you and this will never ever ever get old.

    QUICK, OVERPOPULATE. WE MUST ATTACK THE HUMANS.
    Also, contact the rabbits! We have a plan!

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    1. AHAHAHAHAHA. Seriously. A week later, it's still not old.

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  4. Hahahahaha. Oh my goodness. I wish we had a war as ridiculous as the War Against the Emus. But alas, we do not. There are little facts about American history that are a bit bizarre, but I think you guys take the cake on this one.

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    1. I'm pretty sure we also win the prize for World's Most Ridiculous Newspaper. See every single article here: http://www.ntnews.com.au/news/only-in-the-territory/

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  5. Oh man, when you tweeted the thing about the emus I thought it was a JOKE!

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    1. Would I joke about going to war with emus?! ;)

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  6. You have now inspired me to learn more about Australian history. Congratulations!

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  7. I remember choke-laughing when you told me the Swimming Pool story on the way to Alice's. Good thing you didn't know the emu thing yet because I'm pretty sure I would've crashed the car.

    BEST EVER.

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    1. SERIOUSLY. I just can't believe it took me this long to learn about the emu war. I mean, come on. That shit should be taught in high schools.

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  8. i went to Frankston to look for Harold when I was studying abroad with a friend of mine. Although It wasn't until we were on our way home that we realised we were about 20 minutes away from where he really went missing. I think he is still alive personally...somewhere.

    Secondly, there used to be a statue outside of Melbourne Parliament that was upside down. Now one would think that this would be quite the statement about the man was protrayed in the statue. And one would be wrong. It was a statement about statues.

    Sadly they took the statue down.

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    1. If you're referring to the statue of Charles La Trobe, it is installed on the grounds of the Bundoora campus of La Trobe University. It was moved into the city for a particular display in 2007.

      There is a picture of it here: http://lostoncampus.com.au/img/poi/l/view-of-statue-41933.jpg

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    2. I was wondering where it went! Thanks!

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    3. I'm still pissed that they took down the stacked up toilets sculpture that used to be by the casino on Southbank. SIGH. It was such an excellent meeting point when going to the movies in high school - "I'll meet you by the toilet sculpture"!

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  9. In a nutshell, modern Australia is a poor poor cousin of kickass old school Australia.

    THE END.

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  10. My favourite part of this story was the question in parliament about whether a medal would be struck for the war!

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  11. If your military is outmaneuvered by birds, I think you need to rethink who's running the military. I wish American history was this ridiculous.

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    1. I love that you don't question the fact that we went to war against birds, just the fact that we were out-manoeuvred by birds.

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