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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
i Containerisation
ii Mineral Ports
iii Oil and Gas Ports
iv Other Bulk Cargoes
v Dredging

VIII Roads

IX Heavy Foundations

X Bridges

XI Sewerage

XII Water Engineering

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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Ports And Harbours

During the early development of Australia, sea transport provided the vital link, not only with the outside world but also between the isolated settlements around the coastline. In general the settlements were established at natural harbours or river estuaries and as ships were small, virtually no engineering was required to establish an acceptable port, other than the possible marking of an entrance channel and the provision of small timber jetties. Even at Sydney (Port Jackson) itself, the first significant, though small, berth was the privately owned Campbell's Wharf in Sydney Cove and this was not constructed until 1802.

The first engineering project of any distinction in the port was in 1837, when Governor Gibbs directed the Colonial Engineer, Captain George Barney R.E., to re-model the entire head of Sydney Cove because of the need to accommodate the ever-increasing shipping using the port. The design of the wharfage was based on reclaiming the head of the Cove and retaining this by a semi-circular sandstone wall.

Between 1804 and 1836 sites were chosen for the seaport capitals of Hobart, Brisbane, Perth/Fremantle, Adelaide and Melbourne but until the 1850s only very primitive berthing facilities existed, usually in the form of timber or stone jetties.

Gold was discovered in New South Wales in 1851, the consequences of which were to accelerate the economic and social development of Australia. From 1851-1861 the population of Australia increased from 405,000 to 1,154,000. This dramatic increase in population, along with the growth of exports such as wool, tallow, skins, salt beef, copper, silver and lead ore, generated a significant increase in overseas and local shipping, severely straining the facilities and resources of the major city ports. Further, as ships became larger, navigation channels required deepening, and more berths and transit sheds were required particularly at river ports such as Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Newcastle.

At Sydney the number of ships visiting the port annually had increased to 709 in 1850 compared with 29 in 1800. To meet this demand jetties were built in Darling Harbour, Pyrmont and Woolloomoolo Bay, using the standard design of timber piles, headstocks, girders and decking. At Fremantle, because of the lack of protection for shipping at the offshore jetties in Cockburn Sound, the construction of an inner harbour in the Swan River was commenced in 1892. In addition to the provision of wharfage in the river, this project required the blasting and dredging of the rock bar at the entrance, as well as the provision of two substantial entrance breakwaters. At about the same time trade and shipping at both Port Kembla and Port Adelaide increased to the stage where at both ports a protected deeper harbour was needed. The present day rubble-mound breakwater at Port Kembla was begun in 1900 and at Adelaide the breakwaters for the outer harbour were begun in 1903.

During the first half of this century, Australian overseas, interstate and intrastate import and export trade increased to the extent that at its peak some 52 ports had stevedoring capability. With the growth of trade came an increased number of ships and it was necessary for most ports to expand by providing more berths, deeper and wider navigation channels, larger transit sheds and improved cargo handling equipment. The design of the berths and other facilities was, however, based on the then conventional shipping practice of using ships' gear or, if available, 3-5 tonne wharf cranes, for loading and unloading cargo.

People in Bright Sparcs - Barney, George; Wallace, J. M.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 338 - 339, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher