Tamarama Engraving Site
A cliff-top engraving site on the Tamarama-Bondi cliff path, showing a sea-ray, or perhaps a whale or basking shark. A spectacular site, but sadly re-grooved by the Waverley Council.

Facts & Figures

Latitude 33.89924° S

Longitude 151.27547° E

UBD ref 257P7


It's amazing how many people pass by on the popular Bondi-Tamarama cliff walk without even glancing at the superb engraving there. Sadly, it was re-grooved some years ago by Waverley Council, but still retains a wonderful atmosphere.

The engraving is often described as a "whale", but curiously, it has gills, which are seen in the drawing by McCarthy even before it was re-grooved. So perhaps it's more likely to be a sea-ray, or a basking shark.

The diagram by McCarthy, made before it was re-grooved, shows two tails, only one of which is visible now, and also a small fish next to it, which appears to have weathered away.

Photographer Peter Solness has produced a beautiful illuminated image of this engraving which was shown in Sydney Morning Herald on 7 Sept 2007, but which cannot yet be reproduced here for copyright reasons.

A nearby plaque (on the path back to Tamarama) tells the following story asociated with this engraving:


The Arrival of the Dharawal

At the start of time, all the people were animals that lived in another land and the best means of travel was by water. Some of the animals decided that it was time to go live in another country to find better hunting grounds.

Whale, who was bigger than everyone else, owned the only canoe big enough to carry them all. Whale was not a friendly one and would not lend the canoe, so they got Starfish, Whale’s only friend, to help by doing something with him so they could sneak the canoe away.

One day Starfish said to Whale “You’ve got lots of mulas, let me clean them for you” and so Whale agreed.

They went to a sunny place on the rocks lying in the sun. Whale soon fell asleep and the other animals slipped away in his canoe. Koala, being the strongest, was the main rower.

But Whale woke up and was very angry with his friend Starfish and they had a fight. Starfish hit the whale on the top of the head and put a hole in it.

Whale won the fight, beating poor starfish and throwing him to the bottom of the rock pool where we find him today. Whale then chased the other animals, swimming as fast as he could, spurting water out of the hole in his head. They reached land in what is now known as Port Kembla.

Brolga then stamped a hole in the boat and it sunk. It can be seen at low tide in the harbour.

Whale is still seen going up and down the coast today looking for his canoe, spurting water from the hole in his head.

As related by Beryl Timbery Beller, Dharawal elder.



To get there

Park at Tamarama Beach, and after enjoying an excellent light lunch or snack at the cafe, follow the cliff path past the surf club towards Bondi. As you round the largest headland (about 500m from Tamarama Beach), which is McKenzie's Point, the engraving is on the right, right next to the path.


For more information

Attenbrow, 2002, "Sydney's Aboriginal Past", p.170.

For full information on books (publisher, ISBN, etc) see the "Further Reading" page.


Image Gallery

Click on thumbnail on left to see full-sized image

Plan of the site, before it was re-grooved, adapted from Campbell (1899)


Detail of the head, showing eyes and gills

Overall view of the site, from the head end

Scale and orientation. The pole is 1 metre long, aligned to magnetic North (to the left).

View from the park above

The small fish within the main engraving


All material on this page © Ray Norris 2007 except where otherwise indicated.
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