Today, L.J. LaBarthe talks about big things.
Australia is a land of Big Things. Oh, I don’t mean things like Uluru or the Olgas, natural formations that are as much a part of our landscape as salt bushes, killer spiders, nine out of ten of the top ten deadliest snakes in the world and the best coastlines and beaches you could ever imagine. I mean Big Things made out of concrete and steel, usually to advertise something.
Like fruit. Or toys. Or beer.
These Big Things are nationwide, and it’s estimated there’s over 150 of them. The first one built was Scotty, aka the Big Scotsman. He was made in 1963, and still stands there to this day. Scotty’s purpose is to advertise a hotel/motel in Medindie, a suburb on the outskirts of the Adelaide CBD. He’s become a bit of a legend, what with being a giant stone and steel Scotsman, playing a bagpipe. (I have been asked before what’s under his kilt. The answer is: stone. His kilt is solid.)
Scotty’s pretty much been one of those things that’s always been there. His sculpturer, Paul Kelly, went on to design the Big Lobster in Kingston, south-east South Australia.
Visitors to Australia are often astonished at the variety of Big Things we have. I must admit, the first time I saw the Big Koala, in Dadswell’s Bridge, Victoria, my first thought wasn’t so much, “Wow, cool!” but “What a sad looking koala.” I can promise you that koalas do not look like this. They’re much fluffier, generally a paler shade of grey and don’t look quite so maniacal.
He does look a bit sad, doesn’t he? And yes, that is a shop in his belly. He was built in 1989 and is 46 feet tall and weighs 12 tonnes. The internet tells me he’s made of bronze. No wonder he weighs so much. He must be one of the few Big Things that *isn’t* made of concrete.
My favourite Big Thing in South Australia is the Big Rocking Horse. He’s at Gumeracha, in the Adelaide Hills, and is connected to the toy factory there. Once upon a time, you could climb to the top of his head and take in the amazing view, but not anymore, sadly. Still, he stands proudly as an awesome piece of Australiana.
The size comparison with the little rocking horse is accurate – the little one is a proper toy. Mr. Big there, though, is 59 feet tall and weighs over 25 tonnes. The designers, David MacIntosh and John Twopenny took eight months to build it in 1981. The latter of the two then went on to design and build the Big Orange in Berri, in the Riverland, South Australia.
The other Big Thing in Western Australia (out of quite a few Big Things) that never fails to amuse me is the Big Blue Whale at Eucla. Eucla is just over the South Aust/West Aust border, and is basically a motel and truck stop town. It’s in a beautiful spot, though, right on the Australian Bite, so amazing coastlines. It’s right in the middle of the Nullabor Plain, which is known affectionately as the Nullaboring. Anyway, the Big Blue Whale doesn’t advertise whale watching or swimming with whales or anything quite so exciting.
No, the Big Blue Whale advertises beer.
I don’t know why, either. It’s a mystery.
See? Beer. And a whale. He’s 33 feet by 9.8 feet.
This Big Things post would be nothing if I did not mention my favourite three Big Things outside of South Australia. In New South Wales, in the town of Goulbourn, is the Big Merino. I remember the first time I saw it. I was coming home from Sydney on the bus, and I woke up from a nap. (There’s not much to do on a long haul bus trip.) I peered out the window and for miles, there was nothing but wheat fields and this looming giant grey thing. The closer we got, I realized that this was a giant sheep. It’s attached to a roadhouse and inside its belly is a shop, selling souvenirs and, naturally, wool. Beautiful merino wool. The merino is known locally by the name Rambo, which amuses me greatly. He stands at 49 feet tall and 59 feet wide and was built in 1985. All concrete around a steel frame.
Last and certainly by no means the least, are the Big Pineapple (which sells pineapple products) and the Big Macadamia Nut (which sells, yep, you guessed it, macadamia products). These two are on the same property on the Sunshine Coast, which is a truly gorgeous part of Queensland. The Macadamia Nut was built in 1978 and is 52 feet tall; the Pineapple was built in 1971 and is 52 feet tall and 20 feet wide.
A wonderfully clever soul has put together a map of the Big Things, including natural formations, like trees and rocks and things like Uluru as well as the man-made. The man-made ones are the blue pegs, the natural are the green. Check it out, it’s pretty awesome. http://goo.gl/maps/0IPrk
And that concludes my Beginners Guide to Australia’s Big Things. Alas, the only reason for the creation of such things in the first place is as a way to put small towns on the map, but the Big Things are everywhere, not just the country and outback. If you’re coming to Australia, do try and stop by one or more of the Big Things. They’re pretty awesome kitsch.
L. J. LaBarthe can be found in the following places:
“The Body on The Beach” is the latest release from L. J. LaBarthe. It’s a m/m romance and murder mystery, set in Adelaide in 1920. It is part of the “Under the Southern Cross” anthology put together by L. J., which features work from Isabelle Rowan, Meredith Shayne, RJ Astruc, L. J. LaBarthe and newcomer Robyn Walker. The anthology is five Australian m/m stories by five Australian authors and is out with Dreamspinner Press in March/April. Stay tuned to http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=116for more information.