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Stop 1 – Sow and Pigs

Welcome to the first stop of In Defence of Sydney – An Interactive Walk of Middle Head / Gubbuh Gubbuh.

At this stop, you'll hear the story of Sow and Pigs Reef and its historic military significance, including the danger it has posed to vessels throughout time. To learn more, listen to the short audio clip below or click here to read a transcript of this stop.


    Did you know?arrow

    What’s in a name 

    You're probably wondering...why is it called Sow and Pigs Reef? Well, from the sky, the reef is said to look like a pig with her piglets. Hence the name Sow and Pigs Reef. Take a look at the aerials in the gallery above... what do you think?

    Defensive ditch

    To reach Stop 1, you passed through a set of low sandstone walls and over a defensive ditch. This ditch was excavated in 1871, at the same time construction began on the Middle Head Battery. Personnel originally used a timber drawbridge to cross it. The walls, ditch and bridge formed a boundary around Middle Head’s fortifications, enabling soldiers to defend themselves against a land-based invasion.

    Transcript for Stop 1arrow
  • You’ve arrived at Stop 1 on this interactive walk.

    We invite you to cast your eyes to the stretch of water in front of you.

    Do you see the series of four striped markers sticking out of the water? These poles are known as cardinal marks and they indicate the location of Sow and Pigs Reef.

    You might wonder what this reef has to do with the military history of Middle Head / Gubbuh Gubbuh. But its strategic importance should not be underestimated.

    As for invading ships to safely enter the harbour, they would need to avoid the reef and therefore sail well within range of the gun emplacements at Middle Head / Gubbuh Gubbuh.

    Due to the reef’s low visibility and its location just inside the Heads, many ships and smaller boats have fallen victim to the rocky reef through the years.

    This hazard has long been a double-edged sword – while keeping Sydney safe from potential attack it posed a danger to innocent sailors on the harbour.

    To warn friendly boats, an iron beacon light was placed on the reef in 1820 – but there continued to be collisions.

    Between the 1830s and early 1900s, a series of ships carrying bright lights (known as lightships) were anchored off Sow and Pigs Reef.

    Today the reef is well marked and the risk is minimal. But smaller vessels should remain wary – with some still falling victim to the reef, even in more recent years.

    Now that you’ve pondered this perilous reef – head on over to nearby Stop 2 to discover the Outer Fort.

Enjoyed this story? Head to Stop 2!
Now that you've heard the story of Sow and Pigs, head to Stop 2 – Outer Fort. It is located a short distance from here.
arrow View Stop 2
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Thank you for trying In Defence of Sydney – An Interactive Walk of Middle Head / Gubbuh Gubbuh. Before you go, we encourage you to complete a short survey. Your feedback will help us improve the experience for others.