To be completely accurate, while just about everyone refers to the great sprawling waterway that is the centerpiece of Sydney as Sydney Harbour, the entire harbor is actually named Port Jackson. Port Jackson is made up of North Harbour, Middle Harbour, and Sydney Harbour. But if you book a Sydney Harbour cruise, you’ll likely be seeing most of Port Jackson.
Sydney Heads are the great cliffs that flank either side of the relatively narrow opening to Port Jackson—wide enough for traffic but narrow enough for a remarkable level of protection from ocean storms. North Head and South Head are on opposite sides of the passage. The first time I saw the Heads, I was approaching by land. I stopped at The Gap on South Head. This is an imposing cliff that faces the ocean here at the edge of Australia. The site of a few shipwrecks and a number of suicides, The Gap (shown below, left) is a popular spot for tourists to get photos of Sydney, the Heads, and the rugged face the continent turns toward the South Pacific.
I must say I was struck by the vista of the ocean from the spot. Of course, it was a splendid day, and the clouds were reflected in the deep, blue water, so it was incredibly beautiful and delighted my heart. But at the same time, I was struck by the emptiness and seeming endlessness of it. I can hardly imagine how people crossing the sea by ship, in the days when ships were only about 90 feet long and powered by sails, and there were no GPS devices and even longitude was a new and untested concept, could gaze at it for months on end without despairing. One must have been very certain of one’s purpose or skills or both to keep going when there was nothing to mark distance except math and changing stars. Remarkable people, those early explorers.