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

Chapter 7

I The First 100 Years 1788-1888

II Railways

III Motorised Vehicles

IV Aviation

V Modern Shipping

VI Innovative Small Craft

VII Conclusion

VIII Acknowledgements

IX Contributors



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The First 100 Years 1788-1888 (continued)

The composite ships emerged at about the same time as vessels with an all metal hull. These latter craft 'could be driven much harder and built to much larger dimensions because of their superior structural strength. Thus they were ideally suited to the long distance carrying trade of the 1870s and 1880s'.[53] The iron clippers were, according to Blainey, 'the sturdy work-horses of the Europe-Australia route'.[54]

The use of iron helped sailing ships to resist the challenge of steam, for an iron sailing ship was cheap to build, remained relatively watertight and had plenty of room for cargo.[55] Thus new sailing ship lines came into being, whose names became household words and who dominated Australia's international trade -the ill-fated Loch Line of Clipper Packets from Glasgow, A. J. Carmichael's Golden Fleece Clippers named after the heroes of The Iliad, The Dale Line, The Thames and Mersey Lines and others.

At the same time as the clippers were racing before the wind, the steamer was slowly making its mark in Australia's history of transport. The coastal trading fleets had been quite quick to adopt a small number of steamers, but it was only in the 1890s that they came to dominate the international trade. Once again the technology was imported from Europe. The early auxiliary steamships, such as The Great Britain and Lady Jocelyn, with their crude cumbersome engines and boilers were slowly replaced by more energy efficient craft. The steamers increased in size and speed, incorporated the new iron screw propeller, and were soon made entirely of iron. The most famous lines in the Australian trade were undoubtedly the P & 0 Company and The Orient Line.

The evolution of transport in Australia's first decades has not been remarkable for technical innovation. As we have seen, in the first century of maritime history, the practice was to import new inventions rather than pioneer them. Land transport tended to follow along similar lines. Unlike the sea, however, the Australian landscape was something entirely new, and demanded a degree of initiative and resourcefulness.

From the beginning transport and communications were important to the settlers. The construction of roads in the trackless wilderness around Port Jackson constituted the first problem. Governor Phillip's initial grandiose plans for wide airy streets were quickly abandoned by the struggling colonists as impractical, but development was rapid as the difficulties of terrain were mastered and methods of construction improved.[56]

The roads of the colonies were used by a variety of vehicles. In the early days of settlement there were few draught animals, and most people travelled from one place to another on foot. With few horses or bullocks, one form of transport was the use of convicts. At the settlement at Port Arthur in Tasmania, no animals, even when they were available, were put to work. Convicts were a much more plentiful form of draught animal, and so they were employed to carry goods and haul carts. Chained together in groups of sometimes up to 70 men, convicts carted stones, timber, and all manner of food stuffs. Early sketches for example, show convicts hauling loads of hay, grain, and wool on solid two-wheeled drays through the streets of Sydney. In Tasmania, between Long Bay and Norfolk Bay, a convict tramway was established. A four and a half mile stretch of rail was laid down for the transport of stores and officials. Four-wheel open carts ran along the lines propelled exclusively by convicts. The use of convicts as draught animals demonstrates the resourceful, if inhumane, use of the available forms of energy, as well as a reluctance to pioneer new methods.[57]

People in Bright Sparcs - Blainey, G.; Inglis, Andrea

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© 1988 Print Edition page 454, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher