Melbourne’s Dinosaur

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Melbourne Dinosaur 08 09 2013
Having a big ferris wheel was quite a bit city thing for a spell. I blogged about the London Eye, the Singapore Flyer and Melbourne’s Southern Star back in 2009. On Wednesday 2 October I’ll be talking about ruins at Global Heritage Fund’s annual dinner at Menlo Park in the San Francisco Bay Area. I plan to talk about new ruins as well as old ones and the Southern Star has certainly become Melbourne’s instant ruin. They’ve even added a dinosaur statue beside it, to give it an added ruins flavour.

Ah, Melbourne’s Southern Star, the biggest wheel in the southern hemisphere when it opened in 2008. On my birthday, 20 December, no less, although that was two years behind schedule. Just 40 days later it shut down, it had begun to crack up. Nearly five years later it’s still not back in operation.

Southern Cross - 26 12 2008
▲ I cycled by the wheel on 26 December 2008 and took this photo. It had been open for just 6 days and I didn’t realise it was only going to be open for 34 more days.

The original fault was blamed on the big wheel’s Japanese designers and work started on taking it apart and fixing it. A year later the partially disassembled wheel seemed to have become a permanent fixture on Melbourne skyline. It was easy to keep track of the progress because it stood right by the freeway to the airport, every time I arrived in or left Melbourne I could check that nothing had been happening.

Southern Cross - late 2009
▲ In late 2009 the gondolas had been removed, but the wheel was still complete and looked good against a stormy Melbourne skyline, photographed from the Lonely Planet office roof in Footscray.

Another year passed (2010) and another year (2011) and another year (2012). The magazine The Monthly did a story in April 2012 comparing the Southern Star to the toppled Statue of Liberty in the film Planet of the Apes. It was Melbourne’s own ruins of the future.

But suddenly things are happening, after five years of achingly slow progress (taking it apart and putting it back together), in recent weeks things seem to be racing along. Every time I drive out to the airport another of the observation bubbles has been added. Will it be open again before my next birthday, five years after the first one? I missed riding on it during that original 40 day window of opportunity, I’m not planning on missing out this time.

PS – and it’s been renamed, it’s now the Melbourne Star