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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 6

I Construction During The Settlement Years

II The Use Of Timber As A Structural Material

III Structural Steel

IV Concrete Technology

V Housing

VI Industrialised Pre-cast Concrete Housing

VII Ports And Harbours

VIII Roads

IX Heavy Foundations

X Bridges

XI Sewerage

XII Water Engineering
i Pipelines
ii Tunnels
iii Dams
iv Power Stations

XIII Railways

XIV Major Buildings

XV Airports

XVI Thermal Power Stations

XVII Materials Handling

XVIII Oil Industry

XIX The Snowy Mountains Scheme

XX The Sydney Opera House

XXI The Sydney Harbour Bridge

XXII Hamersley Iron

XXIII North West Shelf

Sources and References


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Many of the early dams in Australia were of concrete. This was because the economics of earth-moving as an alternative were unfavourable at the time and because the technology of earth and rock-fill embankments was not properly understood. When earth dams were built they usually relied on a core wall of concrete or timber for their watertightness.

Concrete dams of the arch type require narrow valleys and sound foundations. These conditions are seldom found in Australia, so arch dams are not very common. Some notable arch dams have, however, been built, including Tumut Pond Dam (86 m high) in the Snowy Mountains and the Gordon Dam (140 m high) in Tasmania.

A series of four gravity-type concrete dams were built in the upper Nepean catchment near Sydney, commencing with the Cataract Dam in 1907. These dams were of the cyclopean masonry type, that is, large blocks of rock were embedded in the concrete in order to economise in the use of cement. The largest concrete gravity dam in Australia is the Warragamba Dam near Sydney, with a height of 137 m and a total volume of concrete of 1,242,000 m3. The Burdekin Falls Dam in Queensland was begun in 1984 and will contain about 620,000 m3 of concrete.

A further recent development in dam building is to use low cement content gravels known as rollcrete and to place and compact this material with earth-moving plants in thin layers without joints. A dam of this type was recently completed at Copper-lode Falls in Queensland.

Earth and rockfill dams have become more popular since 1945, thanks to the development of large earth-moving equipment. The Eucumbene Dam (116 m high) in the Snowy Mountains was completed in 1958. Since then there have been the Talbingo Dam (162 m high) in 1972, Dartmouth Dam (180 m high) in 1979 (Fig. 41), and Thompson Dam (165 m high) in 1983. These dams are among the highest earth core, rockfill dams in the world.

Figure 41

41 Dartmouth Dam, Victoria -at 180 metres, the highest dam in Australia

Another type of dam which has gained much popularity in Australia and elsewhere in recent years is the concrete-faced, rock-fill dam. The successful development of this type of dam owes much to the experience of the Hydro Electric Commission of Tasmania (HEC) (Fig. 42). In 1966 no completely successful concrete-faced dam over 80 m high was in operation in the world and the HEC set out to determine the design and construction practices required to minimise the leakage problems which had been experienced in previous dams of this type. The Cethana Dam (110 m high) completed in 1971 was highly successful, with a total leakage of only 35 litres/s.

Figure 42

42 Concrete face slabs of Murchison Dam, Tasmania

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Hydro Electric Commission of Tasmania

People in Bright Sparcs - Price, Douglas G.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 371 - 372, Online Edition 2000
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