When Sam arrives, after the long drive from Adelaide, they walk down between the houses, kick off thongs and pick a path to the shoreline. There, they whoop and squeal at first contact before plunging into the dusk. When they breach, Kai points at the strange thing beyond, looming in the water.

It had started off well. Buoyed by $4 million in federal funding, 3000 tonnes of metal and engineering promised a prototype for green energy. One megawatt lighting a thousand homes without a carbon footprint.

There were patents and multiple awards and a $20 million capital raise fuelled by the assurance of a sustainable, low impact and innovative energy source. A world first invented here and fitting for this place ridged by outcrops and dunes that fall to a deserted coast.

It chugged out of Port Adelaide full of hope and expectation, kept afloat by dozens of industrial strength airbags. But the engineering calculations were awry and soon it became apparent that the airbags were struggling to keep it afloat. Towed out of the main navigational path it was cut loose 1500 meters off shore to plant it’s cement legs in the seabed right in front of a perfect, sleepy stretch of South Australian coastline.

Arguing ensued. There were reports and then comments on the reports and then more investigations. The company went into liquidation and the waves battered the turbine on stormy days. Notices were pinned to poles next to dog poo bag dispensers warning of a 200 by 200 meter exclusion zone enforced with the promise of a $1250 fine for any breaches while, on sunny days, the sliver roof of the turbine glinted in the sun. A community engagement team were sent in to ask the people who had come to know it on weekends (or in their retirement) whether they wanted it blown up or towed away and despite a firm response that ‘they just wanted it to be removed’ the turbine was still there when their friends from Adelaide arrived for Easter. In fact it was still there, defiant and yawning, three and a half years later.

When the sun sets a single yellow light blinks with a pause that is long enough to make them wonder if, between waves, it has finally succumbed to its eroded depths. On the balcony they debate how, out there, in the black depths and amidst the battering, it has remained resilient against the brine; shiny as if it has just landed there from outer space. They say the turbine can create a vortex that could suck a diver in and Sam imagines dark things swimming around it’s depths and feels the dread of even darker things tangled inside.

But Kai imagines it as a tiny dwelling in the middle of the deep blue sea. It’s inside lit by a calm and quiet fire; a hearth ridden with rugs. Those that live there are old, they shuffle together making use of flotsam. At night, when the water is quiet, they cast a single line towards open water and wait patiently for a persistent tug. They wipe away salt in the sunshine and polish the metal back to new. And, when the waves thunder and crash, they stay inside to weave salt and seaweed and seagull wings, their faces lit only by the flames; causing the light to flicker from tiny portals while we watch on.

Read more about Adelaide Stories here.

One thought on “Adelaide Stories #13. Shanty

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