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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 removal of the discriminatory duties against colonial oil in the 1820s heralded the beginning of the great era in colonial whaling and accelerated the growth of the emerging ship building industry. Whereas in 1827 Sydney could boast only five small locally owned whalers, by 1835 she was said to have 76 ships involved in deep-sea fishing.[16] Similarly, by 1849 Hobart had 37 such vessels with a thousand men on board and a catch worth 1,000,000.[17] Ranging in size from 250-400 tons, these vessels were bigger and more robust than the earlier craft.

For two decades Australian sailing ships were sent out to farm the rich whaling grounds of the southern coast. 'There were years in which two thirds of the tonnage of Australian shipping was engaged in whaling'[18] and even as late as 1833 whaling was still New South Wales' most valuable export industry. Along with the growing economy, whaling had an enormous effect on coastal shipping. Not only did whaling teach young Australian seamen their trade it also provided the opportunity to explore unchartered bays along the coast, and at the same time promoted the growth of the local shipbuilding industry. Between 1822 and 1840, for example, 139 vessels with a total of 6,447 tons were built in New South Wales, and in 1849 nearly 40 ships were launched, totalling 1,834 tons.[19] Many ships owners sent their ships whaling for a portion of the year and then worked them as carriers along the coast. By the 1840s this busy coastal trade reached from Moreton Bay in the north to Adelaide in the west and with less regularity to Perth in the far west.

Almost without exception the ketches cutters and barques which worked along the Australian coastline, the river ferries which plied between ports and the whaling fleet, conformed to the standards of British and European maritime tradition. Settlement in a new land had not provoked new and startling innovations, perhaps because the time-approved methods were applicable to Australia. The challenges posed by the Australian seas were as John Bach has claimed, 'essentially the same as those in Britain and Europe'.[20]

The complete domination of Australia's coastal waters by sailing ships very quickly came under threat. Technology in Europe had been going forward in leaps and bounds at the time of Australia's settlement. Less than nine months after the landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove, the first British steamship sailed on a Scottish lake.[21] In 1821 the Sophia Jane arrived in Australia, having come under her own steam from England. She was a 256 ton schooner rigged paddle wheeler, and until 1846 she ran on the Hunter river trade route. Her arrival in the colonies represented the introduction of a revolutionary new form of transport. Steamships, although still fitted with sails, did not depend upon the fickle winds that buffeted the Australian coastline, and providing they were sufficiently fuelled, they were fast and relatively reliable. The colonies were quick to import this new technology and added steamships to the coastal fleet and river trade. In the same year that the Sophia Jane arrived, William the Fourth was built on the William river, a tributary of the Hunter river. She was joined in 1837 by the 428 ton English steamer James Watt. An elegant vessel, she was capable of sleeping 69 passengers, and was placed on the Sydney Hobart run, and then transferred to the trading route north of Sydney.[22] The 50 horse power Tamar, The Australia, The Maitland and The Ceres (also built locally on the William river) had all appeared on the river or coastal trades and the demand for reliable steam vessels continued to grow. In 1839 The Hunter River Steam Navigation Company, Australia's first successful steamship company, was established. It had three imported pioneer steamers, the sister paddle ships: Rose, Thistle and Shamrock. They were small vessels, of only 200 tons but their small proportions enabled them to safely navigate shallow rivers and, indeed, sail right up the Yarra to the city.[23]

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Hunter River Steam Navigation Company

People in Bright Sparcs - Bach, John; Blainey, G.; Inglis, Andrea; Pemberton, B.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 448 - 449, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher