The Tasman Bridge is a substantial feature of the city of Hobart in Tasmania. The concrete bridge spans the Derwent River, linking the CBD with Clarence and the Eastern Shore region. A view of the attractive bridge is highly regarded in terms of real estate values. But the Tasman Bridge also has a special place in history following the collapse disaster of Sunday 5 January 1975.
Tasman Bridge Collapse
Like many Australians, I saw photos and remember Tasmanian news reports following the collapse. ABC TV featured a story about the Tasman Bridge disaster on an episode of Can We Help. They spoke to the occupants of the green Monaro that was photographed teetering over the edge of the gaping hole left in the road that night.
Frank and Sylvia Manly and their family were extremely lucky that fateful night. Four other cars travelling on the bridge did not manage to stop in time, and their five occupants plunged over the edge into the Derwent River. Seven crewman from the ship responsible for the downfall of the Tasmanian Bridge also lost their lives.
The Lake Illawarra, a 7000-ton bulk carrier loaded with zinc ore concentrate, was attempting to navigate through the shipping span at about 9:30pm. Unfortunately, the captain had a momentary lapse in concentration. That human error was compounded by tidal currents and caused the vessel to smash into one of the huge pylons. Two piers and over 120 metres of the bridge road came crashing down. The wreckage of the ship still remains at the bottom of the Derwent River where it sank in 1975.
Despite reading and hearing about this major Tasmanian event, it was actually a cruise on the luxury catamaran Peppermint Bay that brought the episode in history to life. As you glide under the Tasman Bridge and gaze up at the huge concrete structure, you get a real sense of the enormity of the tragedy. Thankfully, as our tour guide pointed out, a compulsory pilot service has now been introduced for all ships passing under the bridge.
The current Tasman Bridge cost about $44 million to replace and was reopened to traffic in Hobart Tasmania in October 1977.
Further Reading: Tasman Bridge Disaster
A report written for the Australian Journal of Emergency Management by Rod McGee and Lynn Young to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Tasman Bridge Collapse contains a great deal of information about the history of the bridge and facts about the disaster.
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