Coogee Beach
© Copyright Mike Fernandes 2013
Coogee Beach
Coogee beach is one of the more popular beaches in Australia. The suburb of Coogee is situated in the City of Randwick. The beach is popular for swimming and for surfing however, surfing can be risky due to the dangerous shore-breaks due to the beach dropping off rapidly. The word Coogee is said to be taken from a local Aboriginal word koojah which means "smelly place". This is a reference to the smell that you can sometimes get at the beach of decaying kelp that is washed. Recently this situation has improved as the kelp is removed & disposed of before decaying. Most of the Aboriginal population had relocated by the mid 1800s due to being decimated by disease and conflict with the European Settlers. The Coogee Bay Hotel now stands on the location of the first school built in the area in 1863 and was only open for around 10 years. Coogee Bay Hotel opened in this same position in 1873. In 1883 the original tram line was opened run by steam trams. The Electric Tramway was connected to Coogee in 1902 which was of great benefit to the popularity of Coogee. The tram line went to & from Clovelly at Darley Road in Randwick. The tram line between Coogee and Randwick closed in 1960 to be taken over by buses. The Coogee Palace Aquarium, sometimes known as The Palace, and Swimming Baths were officially opened on 23 December 1887. The dome on top of the Palace was 55 feet in diameter and the interior of the dome was painted and decorated. The dome collapsed during a large storm and was later rebuilt. The palace had many features including an indoor swimming pool, an aquarium featuring the tiger shark from the famous shark arm murder case (described), a Great Hall that could be used as a roller skating rink, swings on the lawn area, whirligigs, rocking horses, toy boats, a herd of 14 donkeys to ride and a Canadian toboggan run down the hillside for 250 feet. There were also bird aviaries, a stage for a band and an open air bar. The aquarium and baths closed in 1986 due to rival competition from Bondi and Manly which, like The Palace, also replicated English seaside resorts. The shark arm murder case - On 17 April 1935 a fisherman caught a small shark off Coogee Beach but while pulling the small shark in a 3.5m tiger shark swallowed the smaller shark which allowed the larger shark to be caught. Instead of killing the Shark or letting it go the fisherman took the larger tiger shark which was still alive to the Coogee Palace aquariums where it was set to make a wonderful attraction for the following Anzac Day weekend. On Anzac Day the shark arm murder case started. The tiger shark regurgitated a tattooed human arm. This arm was identified by the tattoos as belonging to Captain James Smith. This led to a murder investigation but no one was ever. This case is one of the best known Sydney underworld mysteries. Stay tuned - WE intend to find out more! In May 1982 the Palace building was heritage listed. In 1985 the building sold for 1.62 million dollars and was to have a five million dollar restoration done & completed in time for it's centenary in 1987 but the building was sold again in February 1986. The Heritage Council prepared a recommendation to remove the Permanent Conservation Order. This would allow plans to demolish the building and replace it with a three storey retail/entertainment outlet. The Coogee Pier, an English seaside style as an amusement pier, started construction in 1924 and was officially opened in 1928. The Pier was 180 m long and had a 1400 seat theatre, a 600 capacity ballroom, a 400 seat restaurant upstairs, small shops and a penny- arcade. The surf over time damaged the pier and it was demolished in 1934. Life guards recently discovered remains of the pier on the ocean floor about 50 meters out from the shoreline. In January 2003 at dolphin point just north of Coogee Beach, it was noticed that one of the fence rails when viewed from a particular angle and distance, resembled a veiled woman which was interpreted as Mary the mother of Jesus. Many Christians visited to worship the apparition however the fence was damaged & destroyed by vandals. People still petition the Catholic Church and the New South Wales government to build a chapel in its place. Also at Dolphin Point there is a four-metre high bronze sculpture that serves as a memorial to twenty of the Australian victims of the Bali bombing in 2002 who were residents of Coogee and its neighbouring suburbs, including six members of the Coogee Dolphins rugby league team.
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