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Commonwealth Government Records about Tasmania


Tasman Bridge collapse, 1975

The Tasman Bridge was built across the Derwent River between 1960 and 1964 to better manage traffic and shipping. It replaced the old floating pontoon Hobart Bridge, which had been in place since 1943. Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, officially opened it in March 1965.

Selected items relating to the Tasman Bridge
National Archives, Melbourne
Tasmania, Hobart – The Derwent Bridge (Floating Bridge) showing span lifted for shipping. [Photographer, Tasmanian Government Laboratory], 1950 M914, TASMANIA 7756
The Tasman Bridge crossing the Derwent River in Hobart, 1968–78 B941, STATES/TASMANIA/ HOBART/BRIDGES/2
States – Tasmania – Hobart – Bridges – The Tasman Bridge which spans the Derwent River at Hobart (population 151,000), 1978 B941, STATES/TASMANIA/ HOBART/BRIDGES/3
National Archives, Canberra
Pontoon Bridge across the Derwent, Hobart replaced by the Tasman Bridge, 1959 A1200, L32624
Tasman Bridge, 1965 A1500, K12653
View of the city of Hobart across the Tasman Bridge, with Mt Wellington in the background, 1971 A1200, L96129
Aerial view of the Derwent River and Tasman Bridge, Hobart, Tasmania, 1964 A1200, L48215
New [Tasman] Bridge Hobart, Tasmania, 1964 A1200, L48266
Tasman Bridge links city of Hobart with airport and suburbs on east shore, 1974 A6180, 22/10/74/31
Tasman Bridge, Hobart, 1973 A8746, KN25/5/73/1
National Archives, Sydney
Tasman Bridge Opening, Tasmania, 1965 C100, 75/7/331 M

The accident

Late on 5 January 1975, the Lake Illawarra collided with the Tasman Bridge. Spans and pylons, bearing massive weight, fell more than 30 metres down into the river. The ship sank and seven of its crew were killed. Four cars could not stop in time, toppled over into the river; five occupants were killed. Nearly three years of social, economic and emotional dislocation occurred before the bridge was repaired and re-opened in October 1977.

Lake Illawarra

The Lake Illawarra was a 7000-ton ANL steel bulk ore carrier. When it collided with the Tasman Bridge, it was carrying 10,000 tonnes of zinc concentrate and heading for the Electrolytic Zinc Company at Risdon. Human error, including late awareness of danger followed by over correction, was compounded by strong tidal currents. The Court of Marine Inquiry found that the captain had not handled the carrier in 'a proper and seamanlike manner' and suspended his master's certificate for six months.

Selected items relating to the Lake Illawarra
National Archives, Perth
Courts of Marine Inquiry – re foundering of 'Lake Illawarra' into the Tasman Bridge, 1975 K432, 1975/23
National Archives, Canberra
Removal of oil from wreck of LAKE ILLAWARRA, Tasman Bridge disaster, 1976 A1209, 1976/553 PART 1
National Archives, Melbourne
Court of Marine Inquiry 'Lake Illawarra', 1975 B1501, V1975/8
'Lake Illawarra' Casualty to Vessel & Cargo Gear, 1975 B1501, V1975/16
National Archives, Sydney
Joint Tasman Bridge Restoration Commission, Hobart, Tasmania and Engwirda Salvage Proprietary Limited, Yeronga, Queensland – contract, specifications and conditions relating to the supply and c. of the removal of oil from the SS Lake Illawarra – March 1976, 1976 P1528, Volume 6
Joint Tasman Bridge Restoration Commission, Hobart, Tasmania – contract documents for the removal of portion of the bow of the SS Lake Illawarra – contractor: United Divers Proprietary Limited – February 1978, 1978 P1528, Volume 9
Court of Marine Inquiry 30 January 1975, Foundering of the Steamship Lake Illawarra in the River Derwent, Hobart. (pages 1–10) to Court of Marine Inquiry 6 March1975, Foundering of the Steamship Lake Illawarra in the River Derwent, Hobart. (pages 854–950) C824, 6/0001–01.1 to C824, 6/0001–01.12
Court of Marine Inquiry 7 March 1975, Foundering of the Steamship Lake Illawarra in the River Derwent, Hobart. (pages 951–1004), 1975 to Court of Marine Inquiry 30 April 1975, Foundering of the Steamship Lake Illawarra in the River Derwent, Hobart, 1975 (pages 1525–1573) C824, 6/0001–02.1 to C824, 6/0001–02.8

Response from Canberra

The army and navy assisted with the emergency response to the collapse, the latter including a clearance diving team, which worked in extremely dangerous conditions for three days. Two days after the disaster, the Premier announced that the federal government had undertaken to grant up to $13 million to the state government in Tasman Bridge disaster aid. In Canberra, the Prime Minister's Department coordinated the response, while on 25 February the federal Treasurer introduced Supply Bills to finance bridge restoration, agreeing to meet the full cost incurred in repairing the bridge. Parliament passed the Tasman Bridge Restoration Act 1975 and the Tasman Bridge Restoration Act (No. 2) 1975, one embodying a state–Commonwealth agreement to restore the bridge and the second to vary some of its details. Under the agreement, an Interim Tasman Bridge Commission and then the Joint Tasman Bridge Restoration Commission (CA 4913) were formed.

Selected items relating to the Commonwealth response to the bridge collapse
National Archives, Canberra
Hobart Bridge disaster and bridge restoration, 1975–78 10 part file with 6 attachments A1209, 1976/494 PART 1
Hobart Bridge disaster and bridge restoration, 1975–78 10 part file with 6 attachments A1209, 1976/494 PART 2
Hobart Bridge disaster and bridge restoration, 1975–78 10 part file with 6 attachments A1209, 1976/494 PART 3
Hobart Bridge disaster and bridge restoration, 1975–78 10 part file with 6 attachments A1209, 1976/494 PART 4
Hobart Bridge disaster and bridge restoration, 1975–78 10 part file with 6 attachments A1209, 1976/494 PART 5
Hobart Bridge disaster and bridge restoration, 1975–78 10 part file with 6 attachments A1209, 1976/494 PART 6
Hobart Bridge disaster and bridge restoration, 1975–78 10 part file with 6 attachments A1209, 1976/494 PART 7
Hobart Bridge disaster and bridge restoration, 1975–78 10 part file with 6 attachments A1209, 1976/494 PART 8
Hobart Bridge disaster and bridge restoration, 1975–78 10 part file with 6 attachments A1209, 1976/494 PART 9
Hobart Bridge disaster and bridge restoration, 1975–78 10 part file with 6 attachments A1209, 1976/494 PART 10
Hobart Bridge disaster and bridge restoration, 1975–78 10 part file with 6 attachments A1209, 1976/494 ATTACHMENT 1
Hobart Bridge disaster and bridge restoration, 1975–78 10 part file with 6 attachments A1209, 1976/494 ATTACHMENT 2
Hobart Bridge disaster and bridge restoration, 1975–78 10 part file with 6 attachments A1209, 1976/494 ATTACHMENT 3
Hobart Bridge disaster and bridge restoration, 1975–78 10 part file with 6 attachments A1209, 1976/494 ATTACHMENT 4
Hobart Bridge disaster and bridge restoration, 1975–78 10 part file with 6 attachments A1209, 1976/494 ATTACHMENT 5
Hobart Bridge disaster and bridge restoration, 1975–78 10 part file with 6 attachments A1209, 1976/494 ATTACHMENT 6
Tasman Bridge Restoration Act (No. 2) 1975 – (An Act relating to an Agreement between Australia and Tasmania relating to a Modification of the Tasman Bridge on the Derwent River at Hobart to be carried out concurrently with the Restoration of that Bridge) A1559, 1975/108
Tasman Bridge Restoration Act 1975 – (An Act relating to an Agreement between Australia and Tasmania relating to the Restoration of the Tasman Bridge on the Derwent River at Hobart) A1559, 1975/37
Tasman Bridge (Financial Assistance) Bill 1975 – Without Submission, 1975 A5925, 3189/LEG
Tasman Bridge Restoration Bill 1975 – Without Submission, 1975 A5925, 3415/LEG
Tasman Bridge Restoration Bill (No. 2) 1975 – Without Submission, 1975 A5925, 3975/LEG
Joint Tasman Bridge Restoration Commission: Appointment of Associate Commissioner – Without Submission A13075, 6660
Joint Tasman Bridge Restoration Commission – Appointments, 1978 A10756, LC2325
Joint Tasman Bridge Restoration Commission – Appointment, remuneration Chief/Associate Commissioners, 1975–80 A1209, 1975/436
Tasman bridge collapse – liability of ANL, 1977–79 A9047, 1980/17 PART1
Tasman Bridge (Hobart) repairs – Financial arrangements, 1975 A5931, CL1360
National Archives, Sydney
[Personal papers of Prime Minister E G Whitlam] – Bill – Tasman Bridge Restoration [box 3] M522, B.21

Repairing the Tasman Bridge

It took five months for the debris to be salvaged or made safe, and for plans and methods to be finalised. The final repair plan saw the wreck left largely undisturbed, with piers abandoned or repaired, strengthened or reconstructed, and joined by a new steel box girder span and another using pre-stressed concrete.

Series created by the Interim Tasman Bridge Commission/Joint Tasman Bridge Restoration Commission, CA 4913
National Archives, Sydney
Report on alternative reconstruction methods for the Tasman Bridge by Maunsell and Partners Pty Ltd Consulting Engineers, 1975–78 C1564
Predesign report and contract documents on widening of Tasman Bridge to five lanes and associated works by Maunsell and Partners Pty Ltd., Consulting Engineers, 1975–76 C1565
Miscellaneous papers, 1975 C1566
Copies of agenda, minutes and related papers presented at meetings of the Joint Tasman Bridge Restoration Commission, (14 March) 1975–78 (June 22), 1975 C1567
Tasman Bridge Restoration, correspondence files, alpha–numeric series, 1975–82 P1526
Miscellaneous drawings, 1960–75 P1527
Contracts and Miscellaneous documents, 1975–78 P1528
Tasman Bridge audiovisual presentations, 1975–77 P1535
Miscellaneous finance records, 1975–81 P1546
Folders of press clippings, chronological series, 1975 P2360

Photographs

Image 6: The Tasman Bridge, showing the area demolished when the <em>Lake Illawarra</em> collided with the bridge, 5 January 1975

Image 6: The Tasman Bridge, showing the area demolished when the Lake Illawarra collided with the bridge, 5 January 1975
NAA: A6180, 14/1/75/40
Enlarge image - View image gallery

The bridge collapse resulted in a range of photographs from dramatic shots of cars teetering on the edge of the gap caused by the collapsed span, with wheels suspended over the side (A6180, 14/1/75/40), to the fanfare of the official opening of the replacement bridge.

Record series with good representation of the Tasman Bridge (damaged, restored)
National Archives, Melbourne
Photographs and negatives of Commonwealth building sites and works departmental activities, single number series, 1930–84 B6295
National Archives, Sydney
Photographs of Commonwealth buildings and sites in Tasmania, 1945–96 P2813
National Archives, Canberra
Photographic colour transparencies positives, daily single number series, 1971– A6135
Photographic negatives and prints, daily single number series, 1971– A6180

Bowen Bridge

One of the easily overlooked aftermaths of the Tasman Bridge collapse was the construction of a second bridge. This was the Bowen Bridge, located 10 kilometres from Hobart, at Glenorchy. It was built with Commonwealth support and opened in February 1984.

Selected photographs of the Bowen Bridge
National Archives, Canberra
The Bowen Bridge over the Derwent under construction, 1982 A6180, 21/5/82/4
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/117
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/118
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/119
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/120
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/121
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/122
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/123
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/124
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/125
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/126
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/127
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/128
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/129
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/130
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/131
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/132
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/133
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/134
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/135
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/136
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/137
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/138
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/139
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/140
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/141
Construction of the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6135, K28/10/82/142
Progress on the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6180, 29/10/82/22
Progress on the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6180, 29/10/82/23
Progress on the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6180, 29/10/82/24
Progress on the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6180, 29/10/82/25
Progress on the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6180, 29/10/82/26
Progress on the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6180, 29/10/82/27
Progress on the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6180, 29/10/82/28
Progress on the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6180, 29/10/82/29
Progress on the Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1982 A6180, 29/10/82/30
Bowen Bridge under construction, 1983 A6135, K18/8/83/11
Bowen Bridge under construction, 1983 A6135, K18/8/83/11/12
Bowen Bridge under construction, 1983 A6135, K18/8/83/11/13
Bowen Bridge under construction, 1983 A6135, K18/8/83/11/14
Bowen Bridge under construction, 1983 A6135, K18/8/83/11/15
Bowen Bridge under construction, 1983 A6135, K18/8/83/11/16
Bowen Bridge under construction, 1983 A6135, K18/8/83/11/17
Bowen Bridge under construction, 1983 A6135, K18/8/83/11/18
Prime Minister Hawke and Premier Robin Gray open Bowen Bridge, Hobart, 1984 A6180, 26/3/84/15
Aerial photographs of Bowen bridge, Hobart, Tasmania, 1985 A6135, K22/7/85/7

Other sources

The Tasman Bridge collapse generated strong academic and popular interest, the results ranging from research studies to websites containing photographs and comments. Considerable relevant material is also held by TAHO.

Selected sources on the Tasman Bridge collapse other than held by National Archives
Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, Hobart
Series recorded by the Court of Marine Inquiry into Lake Illawarra collision (TA241)
Transcript of evidence, 1975 CBE43/1
Copies of transcripts of evidence, 1975 CBE43/10
Documents relating to the inquiry, 1975 CBE43/4
Subject files, 1975 CBE43/5
Miscellaneous papers, 1975 CBE43/6
Copy of the Navigation Act 1912 – 1975 and relevant statutory rules and regulations, 1975 CBE43/3
Plans of Lake Illawarra CBE43/8
Plans of Tasman Bridge CBE43/9
Chart of Port of Hobart CBE43/7
Report and decision of court CBE43/2
Series recorded by the Mental Health Services Commission (TA14)
Office of Co–ordinator in Community Health Services – papers relating to Tasman Bridge Research Committee, 1975 (Includes minutes of meetings of Research Committee, correspondence, background papers and research notes, and two copies of Aftermath: The Tasman Bridge Collapse.) HSD294
936 ABC Hobart

Remembering Tasmania's History with Chris Wisbey

http://blogs.abc.net.au/tasmania/remembering-tasmanias-history/

30/8/2012: Tasman Bridge collapse history project #2
18/6/2012: Tasman Bridge Memories

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Chapter 3
Disasters