Des Stubbs was one of the first men to climb to the top of the Port Kembla stack in 1964. If he had his way, even at 76 years of age, he would have been the last one to climb it too.
“The view from the top is unreal. On a clear day, when the sun is shining first thing in the morning, you can see all the way up to Mascot airport and watch the planes taking off,” he said.
Mr Stubbs has had a near 50-year association with the industrial icon – first as a labourer in the ERS electricians’ shop and later as a linesman fixing electricity wires damaged by lightning strikes. During that time he had climbed the stack “hundreds of times”, he said.
'I could get up to the top then back down again, in 20 minutes'
He reckons the ascent, involving clambering up rickety ladders snaking around nearly 200 metres of reinforced concrete, became second nature after a while.
“I could get up to the top then back down again, in 20 minutes,” he said, plainly still proud after the passing decades.
“We would go up to the top and watch the fireworks on New Year’s Eve. You can see for miles from up there.”
With his work as a linesman, he regularly climbed up and down the stack, monitoring and repairing electricity wires after thunderstorms – even though the tower was something of a lightning rod. Climbing up, torch in hand, he was one of the brave souls to watch over the stack that watched over the Illawarra.
Even after leaving the electricians’ shop in 2003 – “I was the last one out of there too” – he didn’t leave the stack totally behind.
His wife Wendy said they bought their house in Albion Park because of its view of the stack across the lake.
“I’ll be watching it go down on Thursday. I’ll be sad to see it go, but we’ll be watching it from our front door,” he laughed.
“I wanted to put my name down to push the button to bring it down. The stack had its problems, but I was one of the first to climb up and I wanted to be the last one to climb down too.”