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Sydney Harbour Bridge 75th anniversary (Bridge Blogging!)

by canberra boy Tue Mar 20th, 2007 at 07:28:39 AM EST

It's some time since I've seen any bridge blogging here at EuroTrib, so here's something to titillate the engineers.

Today is the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the longest steel arch bridge in the world. The Bridge was conceived and built amidst controversial politics, and its closure to vehicles all day yesterday to allow some 250,000 walkers to cross must be closely connected with the New South Wales (NSW) State election next Saturday. Photos taken yesterday below the fold.

From the diaries -- Whataboutbob


The Sydney Harbour Bridge is truly an icon, and has come to represent Sydney in much the same way that the Eiffel Tower is a symbol of Paris.

The idea for a harbour crossing in Sydney initially focussed on a tunnel, and then a cantilever bridge design, before settling on an arch design when tenders were called following World War 1.  The popular belief is that the design was based on that of the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle, but the Tyne Bridge was in fact designed later (although completed earlier).  The 'look' of Sydney's Bridge was actually taken from the Hell Gate Bridge in New York.

Construction of the Bridge by the NSW State Government was achieved with substantial borrowing from Britain.  In response to the Depression, the controversial NSW Premier Jack Lang proposed amongst other measures to suspend loan payments, provoking a crisis in relations with Australia's national Government as well as with the UK.  Lang's official opening of the Bridge on 19 March 1932 was upstaged by a man on horseback (a member of the fascist 'New Guard') who slashed the ribbon with a sword.

Wikipedia presents a reasonable history of the Bridge, and there are some photos of construction work here.

Moving forward to today, or at least yesterday, the NSW State Government staged a huge 75th anniversary celebration for the Bridge, which included closing the Bridge to vehicles from 4am to 11pm to allow a mass walk from north to south across the Bridge.  The anniversary date must have been a very helpful coincidence for a Government facing an election next Saturday, as it allowed them to stir up pride and sentiment about this much-loved icon.

Our family drove to Sydney for the weekend, partly to walk across the bridge.

Here you can see walkers on the northern approaches to the Bridge.  Note how everyone is wearing fluorescent yellow/green caps, handed out for free at the start of the walk.  I suspect they were paid for by the Government facing re-election!  There are some traces of red smoke to the right of the Bridge, left by parachutists with smoke flares who had just dropped from sight:

This photo was taken from the road deck of the bridge, looking up into the arch:

This one looks back from a slight rise on the southern (CBD) approaches, showing the sea of fluorescent caps.  The Bridge is very wide, carrying 8 vehicle lanes, two train lines, and a pedestrian/cycle lane.  The tide of pedestrians continued like this from 10am to 8pm:

And to finish the photographs, here is a view from the Harbour to the east of the Bridge.  It was a heavily overcast day, thankfully preventing walkers from getting sunburnt.  Note that the arch doesn't actually touch the pylons at the end - this is something you don't notice except when viewing the Bridge exactly side-on.  The pylons were apparently built for aesthetic rather than structural reasons:


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My apologies that I can not respond to comments immediately:  it is the middle of the night and I have to go to bed!
by canberra boy (canberraboy1 at gmail dot com) on Mon Mar 19th, 2007 at 09:49:38 AM EST
Bridge blogging! Great!
And I've been there!

As seen from a plane about to land in Sydney:



In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Mar 19th, 2007 at 10:44:43 AM EST
Me too. And as I recall, I was passing through Sydney en route to Auckland at the time you were there.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Mar 19th, 2007 at 11:57:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember looking at your travel blog, Jerome.  Always interesting to see your own country from a visitor's perspective!
by canberra boy (canberraboy1 at gmail dot com) on Mon Mar 19th, 2007 at 03:35:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not only is Sydney and the Bridge beautiful, my wife and I sort of fell in love with - of all places - yep Canberra and environs.  Still considering filing for immigrant visas.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Mon Mar 19th, 2007 at 01:06:47 PM EST
Canberra is very different to most cities, given that it is very new (started in 1920s), carefully planned, clean and well-resourced.  Australians like to say that it is a city with no soul, but it is very liveable if you have a car.  It is also regarded as a great place to have a young family, given the excellent facilities.
by canberra boy (canberraboy1 at gmail dot com) on Mon Mar 19th, 2007 at 03:34:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We spent about 3 weeks in Canberra in 2001 or 2002 and about a week in Sydney.  We travelled by train between Sydney and Canberra and then rented a car in Canberra and drove around a bit (to beautiful Kangaroo Valley, etc).  I think the thing we appreciated more than any other (except for the friendliness of everyone we met) was the absence of crowding.  More than three cars together in Canberra would be considered a minor traffic jam, and the roads between towns were truely open and scenic.  More than one person outside of Sydney told us that Sydney was too crowded for their liking.  While the city and harbour are spectacular, and certainly not crowded by US or European standards, we had to agree that we preferred the small town/city atmosphere of Canberra also.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 10:27:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is an image from the bridge:

The best view must be from Nicole Kidman's waterfront mansion.

This must be the definite book on the bridge:

by das monde on Tue Mar 20th, 2007 at 08:26:52 AM EST
Welcome back around, Canberra Boy...and bringing the return of Bridge Blogging!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Tue Mar 20th, 2007 at 08:51:51 AM EST
Wonderful pictures, and thanks for the links! But I have to nitpick this:

the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the longest steel arch bridge in the world.

Already when built, its big architectural rival, the Bayonne Bridge in New York was a metre longer (and finished a year earlier). Then the New River Gorge Bridge in the US, with road on top of the steel arch, was the longest steel arch bridge for a quarter century from 1977. Then since 2003, the Lupu Bridge in Shanghai is longest with its 550 metre span:

...(also see great construction photo selection), and soon it will be eclipsed by the 552-m-span Chaotianmen Bridge in Chongqing, also China:



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Mar 20th, 2007 at 04:46:29 PM EST
I'll have to concede I relied on an Australian chauvinist media source.  At 509m for the arch, it is clearly not the longest steel arch, but it seems (see the Wikipedia entry) it is the widest and possibly tallest.

I like the quote attributed to James A Michener (previous link):

To get on in Australia, you must make two observations. Say, "You have the most beautiful bridge in the world" and "They tell me you trounced England again in the cricket." The first statement will be a lie. Sydney Bridge [sic] is big, utilitarian and the symbol of Australia, like the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower. But it is very ugly. No Australian will admit this.


Photo by Diliff, Wikipedia.   Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license.

by canberra boy (canberraboy1 at gmail dot com) on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 07:20:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fun quote, but ugly? Though if I had to cast a vote for most beautiful, it would be for the Forth Bridge near Edinburgh/Scotland, I have to disagree with Mr. Michener, I find the Sydney Harbour Bridge rather nice, too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 04:25:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When it's not covered with what looks like sticking plaster, that is!

I was gazing upon it from a nice pub at South Queensferry two days ago called the "Two Bridges" cos of its siutaion between the two bridges: fish and chips much recommended.

Still, my understanding is that once they've put a new long-life coating on it, the Forth Bridge won't require the continuous and Sisyphean painting it has always had...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Mar 24th, 2007 at 09:48:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
'Tis not a lie, 'tis only misleading. The Hampton Bridge over the Kangaroo river is a most lovely little thing.

... though it would be prettier still without the modern necessity of keeping the cars from driving off either side with those ugly guard rails.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Mar 24th, 2007 at 03:50:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You hand me going over to look at the Hell Gate bridge, which I finally realized, I have been on.  That bridge is WAY up in the air!  An odd feeling when you are riding on the train.  Not good if you are at all acrophobic.  

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 12:09:30 AM EST
While I also find the Sydney Harbour Bridge attractive, the nearby, recently completed Anzac Bridge is prettier.
by core halo on Fri Mar 23rd, 2007 at 01:15:11 AM EST


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