Lake Macquarie History

The Shark Picnic

Anne Gleeson

We picnicked or went for Sunday drives or visited Aunts/cousins just about each Sunday. As an adult I have come to realise this was most likely because there was never much money to spare in the family and with five kids it was probably easier to take us out than to amuse us at home. We would always go to Mass early on a Sunday morning and then after we got home, we would change and have breakfast and then head off.

We often took my grandfather with us on these adventures. Mum and Dad and the five of us kids and Grandpop would load into Dad’s blue and white Dodge or the brown Vauxhall and off we would go. This was of course in the days before rules about seat belts and passenger loading in a car. At one stage Dad had a dark green Prefect van. It had two bucket seats in the front and anyone else who was a passenger would sit on wooden seats in the back of the van ... those were the days.

On this particular Sunday we went to Pelican park for the picnic. We swam and played about in the shallow water before lunch and developed a healthy appetite ready for the picnic lunch which was generally sandwiches and homemade cake followed by a drink of juice or “make-up” cordial. Dad and Pop probably shared a beer and mum would have had a cup of tea from the thermos.

As we waited the obligatory hour before we were allowed to go back in the water after lunch (in case we got cramps and drowned), Pop called our attention to something floating along in the water. It was a very large shark swimming back and forth not far from where we had been swimming earlier in the day. Of course Mum decided that even though the shark swam off there would be no more swimming for us that day. She did not get too much of an argument from me. The shark had come in pretty close to shore, and Pop had picked up some pebbles and thrown them at the shark. He said he was trying to scare it away so we could go back in the water.

Fast forward about 40 years and we are now living close to shore of Lake Macquarie. My eldest granddaughter used to ask me with the regularity of a four year old. "Grandmother, do you think there are any sharks in that water? My Mum says there probably isn’t". I would ask her then what she thought - "do you think there are sharks in there?" and she would say "tell me the story about when you were little and you saw a shark?" And I would tell her the story about my Pop and what became known as the Shark Picnic. I have told her that story probably about thirty times.

As the health of Lake Macquarie improves and shark sightings become more commonplace, it is a positive thing that the sharks and dolphins have made their way back into this amazing natural wonder.