SYGNA reigned proud over Stockton Beach for more than four decades, but in the end it was nature’s awesome force that brought her there and also took her away.
The 31 trapped sailors who were rescued from the vessel could have scarcely imagined their captain’s ill-fated decision not to move out to sea on May 26, 1974, would leave a permanent mark on the region’s history.
That point resonated with amateur photographer Justin Martin, who may well be the first person since 1974 to look out to sea just north of Stockton with an unimpeded view.
When Mr Martin visited the beach on Monday afternoon to take photographs, he turned to his brother and said: “Where’s the Sygna?”.
Confusion reigned and the men were led to believe the shipwreck may have been further up the beach.
That was until they spotted just a small part of the rusting wreck’s hull poking out from under the surface.
“We just looked at each other amazed when it all sunk in,” Mr Martin said.
“I couldn’t believe it – it was gone – it’s pretty amazing for Newcastle.
“I’m just glad I took my son to go and see it before it vanished.”
Newcastle Maritime Museum president Peter Morris said he was surprised the wreck had taken so long to break down.
“To be honest, I thought it would be gone a lot faster given the type of steel that it was made from,” he said.
Mr Morris, who last visited the wreck in 2014, said the legend of the Sygna’s stranding and attempted salvage served as a reminder of the inherent dangers of navigating large vessels.
“The global seafaring fraternity is constantly aware of the need for a high level of skill and confidence as well as the need for well resourced rescue plans when they get into difficulty,” he said.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service has previously said it plans to erect a permanent memorial to the Sygna wreck.
This could possibly include interpretive signage to educate visitors about the famous wreck.
Mr Morris said he would like the memorial to be visible from a long distance away and possibly made from recycled power poles.
“It is an important part of our region’s history. It needs to be something that can be easily recognised.” he said.
Gust busters in storm annals
IT may have been billed as “stormageddon”, but the past weekend’s east coast low would be best ranked as a lightweight contender in the league of storms that have left the Hunter battered and bruised over the decades.
The 61kmh maximum gust of wind recorded at Nobbys on Sunday morning pales in comparison to the genuine cyclonic blasts produced by 1974’s Sygna storm and the 2007 Pasha Bulker storm.
The strongest wind gust during the 1974 storm was 170km/h, while the Pasha Bulker storm produced a maximum gust of 124km/h. The April 2015 superstorm’s strongest gust was 102km/h.
The Sygna storm was also responsible for the largest wave (14.8 metres) ever recorded at the entrance to Newcastle harbour.
Australian Meterological and Oceanographic Society data shows that while the 1974 storm produced stronger winds, the Pasha storm was more destructive due to the heavier rainfall.
The central pressure of the Sygna storm was deeper (990 hectopascals), compared with the 994 hectopascals recorded during the Pasha storm.
Another comparison shows rainfall from the June 2007 long weekend extended well into the Hunter Valley, whereas the 1974 storm was confined mainly to the coast.
Perhaps the best comparison of the two storms comes from Peter Wilson, who was on duty as a water police officer when the Sygna storm hit.
“I was out walking my dog in the middle of the Pasha storm. I wouldn’t start to compare it to the Sygna storm,” he told the Newcastle Herald on the storm’s 40th anniversary.