5.25am: Melbourne University tram terminal. A tram was late.
The tram was packed to the capacity, and the tram driver kept on announcing "keep the doorway clear!", to the disgruntlement of the passengers. As if we were able to follow that instruction.
This was where everyone was heading to - the Shrine of Remembrance, located just south of Melbourne city centre. In the darkness, a 35,000-strong crowd gathered at the Shrine to commemorate the dead. As reported by The Age:
The hymn Be Still, My Soul was played by a military band and sung by a choir. It was followed by God Save the Queen, the Australian national anthem during the two world wars of the 20th century, and the present national anthem.
I was awed by the number of people, old and young alike, standing in solemn respect at 6am. Here, a little girl was seen lighting a candle.
As dawn unfurled its splendour, the dawn service came to an end and people went in to the shrine to lay a wreath.
I didn't go into the shrine, and this picture should show you why. It's not often you see that many people at 6.30am.
So, instead, I went to the eternal flame, a permanent fixture outside the Shrine. It was also thronged by people and cameras.
Some kids and teens kept on throwing coins towards the flame, and it irked an elderly who yelled out loud, "Please refrain from throwing coins. This is a sacred flame, not your fancy wishing well!". This stopped the coin-throwing for a while. One minute later, people continued throwing coins, to the consternation of the annoyed bloke. Poor guy.
ANZAC day is a meaningful day as it honours the dead who fought for the freedom of their posterity. Listed on this monument are some of the countries the Australian army fought in. You can see the word "Malaya" on it.
The day may not be very relevant to me as an international student, but witnessing the dawn service has been a very unique, or as they said, a "very Australian" experience for me. May we all remember the veterans, dead or alive, who served and sacrificed themselves in war.
Other pictures available in my flickr album: ANZAC Day Dawn Service 2008.
Read more about ANZAC Day in Wikipedia.
Technical note: It's almost impossible to shoot before dawn. Even ISO 1600 and f/2.8 couldn't help much with the low light, especially in picture number 3 and 4 where I had to expose for 1/5 second even with the ISO and aperture above. After the break of dawn though, things got a bit easier but I still needed to crank up to ISO 800 and f/2.8 most of the time. What an experience for low-light, tripod-less photography.