Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bridges, ferries and floods

When I started this blog two years ago, Queensland generally was in severe drought - those on the land in the country, whose livelihood depends on the crops they can grow or the animals they can produce, were feeling it really badly. Even city folk were on severe water restrictions and gardens, lawns and the family car were being neglected, and we were being urged to monitor water usage inside the home too. Circumstances were so bad that Toowoomba's dam was vitually empty, Brisbane was going to use recycled water, and a desalinator was being built on the Gold Coast. At the time we thought that the drought was permanent - ten years of worsening conditions had introduced us to a new paradigm, to steal the most overused business cliche. Memories of rain were fading; thoughts of events like the horrendous 1974 Brisbane floods were forgotten.

Inevitably, the recent Queensland floods renewed the lessons of the 1974 Brisbane floods and their aftermath, which I experienced, and also the history of the 1893 flood, which I've only read about. That one must have been calamitous indeed.

During the 2011 floods, I lost count of the number of pontoons (some with boats and jet skis still attached) that floated down the river towards Moreton Bay, and I started to think about the infrastructure damage caused by the various floods.

The original Victoria Bridge was Brisbane's first bridge, built in 1865 to link Brisbane Town with South Brisbane. It was made of wood, and it collapsed in 1867 because it had been attacked by wood worm. It was replaced by an iron structure in 1874, and operated as a toll bridge so that the government could recoup its construction costs. This is a photo taken of that bridge just after it was finished.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #46973)

This iron bridge was destroyed in the 1893 double floods that remain as the highest recorded in the Brisbane CBD. The photo below shows the remains of the bridge after its collapse.(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #91660)

A second permanent bridge was completed in 1897, and here is it on the day of the official opening. Note the archways over the pedestrian paths on each side of the bridge - one of these has been preserved, even though the bridge has again been replaced.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #22212)

The increasing population of Brisbane was responsible for the end of this bridge - it could no longer cope with the volume of traffic, including heavy trams, that crossed it each day. A new permanent bridge was built alongside, completed in 1969. The following photos were supplied by reader Mary, and were taken by her father. The two bridges operated in tandem for a brief period before the older one was destroyed.
(Photo: © H Finn, M Phillips; date unknown)
(Photo: © H Finn, M Phillips; date unknown)
In the 1974 floods, disaster was averted when a large vessel that was moored at the Kangaroo Point shipyards was perilously close to breaking free and floating out of control down the river. The Robert Miller was the largest ship ever built in the country, and had just been completed at the Evans Deakin shipyards. Such was its length that there was concern that it could wedge itself across the river, creating another barrier that would have wreaked far more havoc than had already occurred. The engine-less ship was pointed upstream by a couple of tugs, their engines running on full power for the best part of a day to prevent it from being swept away. The huge vessel is shown in the background of the photo below, in the far reach of the river.
(Photo: © qm.qld.gov.au)
In 2011, disaster was again averted when the $23 million New Farm Riverwalk broke loose under the force of the current and floated downstream. Once again, there was concern that it could jam the river, this time across the Gateway Bridge pylons, causing damage to or even the collapse of the structure. An alert tug master heard of this in a news bulletin in the early hours of the morning, and of his own volition, raced his tug out to the floating boardwalk and massaged it through the Gateway, much to the relief of Brisbane.

The floating walkway will cost a motza to replace. In addition to that, Brisbane's ferry network has been brought to a halt, crippled by severe damage to its terminals and jetties. The total repair bill for the ferry terminals and the walkway is likely to exceed $120 million.
(Photo: www.brisbanetimes.com.au)

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