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6 corrections, most recently by martyvis - Show corrections

L'ESTRANGE'S ROPE-WALK OVER MIDDLE HARBOUR      

It connot be said that Blondin is unrivaled as a rope   walker now that Mr. H. L'Estrange has so successfully com -

pleted two performances on the hempen pathway over middle Harbour. We have already reported one which took   place two or three weeks ago in tho presence of a few friends, and especially with tho object of demonstrating the bona fides of the affair. A day was fixed for a more public exhi- bition, but tho weather proving unfavourable, it was post- poned until Saturday afternoon, when it came off success- fully in the presence of thousands of spectators. Every necessary preparation had been made for tho event. Tho following steamers were engaged for tho conveyance of visitors, namely, Emu, Sapphire, Collaroy, Riama, Goolwa, Prince Alfred, Qunndong, Daisy, Hoitriki, Mystery, Phantom, Agonorin, Victoria, Violet, Manly, Omeo, Britannia, Empress of India, Leipoa, Pelican, Monaro ; and, in addition to these, several other stenmers were laid on by their owners to visit the scene of attraction with the view to make money. Before 1 o'clock several of the steamers filled up with passengers for the trip. Shortly   Afterwards a vast crowd of people gathered at the Circular Quay, which gave it quite a holiday aspect. Tho steamers were quickly crowded with passengers; and, though twenty one had been engaged, the result proved that there were   none too many. Notwithstanding the counter-attraction of

tho Exhibition and the races, fully 8000 persons must have been conveyed to Middle Harbour. This was exclusive of some thousands' at least who went by land from St. Leonards, and most of whom paid the collectors who were stationed at different points along the road. These for the most part took up a position on tho western shore of the harbour, and thence had a capital view of L'Estrange's feat. As many of the passengers by the steamers as desired to go on shore were landed on tho eastern side of the harbour ; several thousands availed themselves of the oppor- tunity, and clambered up tho precipitous and rocky slope to tho best positions from which the rope could be seen. There   were one or two publicans' booths and several refreshment stalls elected for the supply of liquors and re- freshments ; and not a few were apparently glad to refresh themselves after a toilsome scramble in the glaring sun up the sides of the hill. The heat was intense, and we could not but envy the comfortable quarters which those on tho other side of the water appeared to enjoy under the shade of the hillside. Below the harbour was literally covered with steamers and boats of all kinds, all more or less occupied by people. The Young Australian band and tho Albion brass baud played on either shore, while the band of Cooper and Bailey's International Show was on board tho Collaroy.

Everything being ready, precisely at 4 o'clock L'Estrange come out of his tent on tho eastern shore, dressed in a dark tunic and a red cap and turban. Without hesitation or delay he stepped on to the narrow rope, and, with his heavy balancing-pole, at once set out on his journey across the lofty pathway. As has been before stated, the rope is stretched across the harbour at a great altitude, the width apparently being three hundred yards. At the western end it is higher than at the eastern, and as the weight of the rope causes a dip in the centre, the western end is at a considerable incline. Starting off amidst the cheers of the spectators, L'Estrange walked fearlessly at the rate of eighty steps to a minute across the rope, until he reached a spliced part near the centre, some twenty feet in length, which he passed more deliberately. Then he stood on his right foot, with his left resting against his   right leg. This feat being safely accomplished, he dropped on to his knee, and afterwards sat down and waived his handkerchief to the crowd of spectators. Next he lay on his back along the rope. Resuming the sitting posture, he took out a small telescope and for a moment or two surveyed the onlookers, who warmly applauded his performances. Raising the balancing pole, he lifted one foot on to the rope, then the other, and continued his walk. He took a few steps backward and then proceeded up the inclined part of the rope steadily to the western shore, at the slower speed of about sixty steps a minute, the rope swaying considerably as he went. The remaining part of the distance was safely traversed, the last few steps being walked more quickly : and the intrepid performer stepped on terra firma amidst the enthusiastic cheers of the specta- tors, the inspiring strains of the bands of music, and the shrill whistling of the steamers. Within ten seconds the journey was performed in fifteen minutes, including the time spent in the performances on the centre of the rope. It should also be mentioned that as L'Estrange walked he had the sun shining brightly in his face.

Directly after the performance was over there was a rush for the steamers. The temporary wharf was kept by a body of the metropolitan police, under the direction of sub inspector Johnson, who rendered effective service in pre- venting the overcrowding of the gangways. One or two persons got a ducking, but we did not hear of any more serious accident. Before all the steamers had left, L'Estrange appeared in a six-pair gig, rowed by a crew of tho Mercantie Rowing Club from the other shore, and was enthusiastically cheered. Middle Harbour has not such a world-wide reputation as Niagara, but there is no doubt that the man who has nerve to cross the one would find no difficulty in crossing the other at an elevation from which a fall in either case would be equally fatal. L'Estrange appears to lack none of that daring or skill which has made Blondin famous throughout the world since he first crossed Niagara in 1859, and as he has the advantage of youth, he will probably prove the successor in this particular line of entertainment to the renowned Canadian. L'Estrange was born in Fitzroy, near Melbourne, Victoria, and is apparently from thirty to thirty-five years of age. He has been about two years practising the business of rope-walk- ing. Another performance is advertised to take place on Wednesday afternoon next.

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

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