When I first moved to Canberra I stole a morning off uni to visit the National Art Gallery for the first time. As I rode my bicycle toward Parliament House over the bridge I was memorably sprayed-upon by the fountain featured in the image above. In any other situation I would have been more than happily delighted but on this particular occasion in this context I was slightly disgusted and even kind of disturbed (I think I may have been reading too much cultural theory at the time). From then on I referred to said fountain as the ‘Ejaculation of the Nation’.
Fast forward a year or so and I came across an article in the community newspaper, which informed me of the its ‘official’ name which is ‘The Captain Cook Jet.’ Seriously, it really is. I thought of this today because ‘Australia Day’ is fast approaching and ‘it’ and the fountain share in common the fact that they were both evidently founded on an embarrassing lack of any considered thought. The following is a description of the fountain’s ejaculatory power (as featured on the Government’s website):
‘The Captain Cook Memorial Jet was constructed on behalf of the Commonwealth Government by the National Capital Development Commission to commemorate the bicentenary of Captain James Cook’s discovery of the East coast of Australia. It was officially inaugurated on 25 April 1970 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Water is drawn from the lake through a 50-metre intake tunnel to the underground pump house. There are two 4 stage vertical spindle centrifugal pumps capable of pumping 250 litres per second against a head of 183 meters. Each of the pumps is driven by a 560 kilowatt water-cooled 3.3 kilovolt electric motor. Operation of the jet can be carried out both remotely using programmable logic controls and also locally using switchgear.
The water is then pumped through a 450mm diameter steel pipeline which extends approximately 205m from the pump house, through the tunnel and along the lake bed to the concrete nozzle housing structure. The nozzle housing is located 150 metres from the lake wall in the central basin of Lake Burley Griffin.
The nozzle housing accommodates two discharge nozzles – a main nozzle which operates with both pumps operating simultaneously and a resulting jet of water 147m tall, plus an auxiliary nozzle which operates with a single pump operating and a resulting jet of water 110m tall. Remote controlled nozzle selector valves, located in the nozzle housing, direct the flow to either the main or auxiliary nozzle. The exit velocity of water leaving the nozzles is 260kph and the mass of water in the air at any time is three tonnes on single pump operation and six tonnes on dual pump operation.’
Ejaculation of the Nation indeed . . . . Aaanyhow, what is it that we celebrate on Australia Day anyway? The flashing banner on the homepage of the Government website reads ‘Australia day – Celebrate what’s great!’ Okay, so we are celebrating what’s great! If one then clicks on ‘Beginnings,’ we learn a little more about what it is, exactly, that is so great:
‘The tradition of noticing 26 January began early in the nineteenth century with Sydney almanacs referring to First Landing Day or Foundation Day. That was the day in 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet of eleven convict ships from Great Britain and the first governor of New South Wales, arrived at Sydney Cove. The raising of the Union Jack there symbolised British occupation of the eastern half of the continent claimed by Captain James Cook on 22 August in 1770.’
That is what’s great? Yes, apparently. Here in Australia we are still celebrating – every year – the fact that Indigenous people were colonised, brutalised and dispossessed, that Whitefellas inherited this legacy and continue to benefit from it to the exclusion and detriment of Indigenous Australians.
What’s great? The ongoing legacy of a brutal colonial history! Racism and the reproduction of associated structural disadvantage and socio-economic disparity!
Come on fellow Australia mob. Really. Shame job-nha tru.