April 18th, 2014
The Sydney Harbour Bridge, also affectionately known as the ‘Coathanger’, was opened on March 19th 1932 by Premier Jack Lang, after six years of construction. Made of steel the bridge contains 6 million hand driven rivets. The surface area that requires painting is equal to about the surface area of 60 sports fields. The Bridge has huge hinges to absorb the expansion caused by the hot Sydney sun. You will see them on either side of the bridge at the footings of the Pylons.
You can have a close hand look while you are in Sydney by visiting the South Eastern Pylon. It is a walking trip and recommended for the fit only. It is a longish walk to get to the base of the Pylon and then there are 200 steps to the top. Entry for adults is now $8.50 (23 June 2003), kids between 8 and 12 years three dollars and under 8 years its free. (Prices valid until 30 November 2003).
The views and photo opportunities are fantastic. (If you can make it, we’ve got to say it is tough). There is a great display on how the thing was built. It has a similar place in Sydney history to the Statue of Liberty in New York as far as many migrants to Australia go. In sight of the bridge you knew you had made it.
The displaced peoples of Europe who came to Australia in the days of the grand ships can get very misty when you ask them what they felt when they saw this grand old arch on their arrival in Sydney from the aftermath of World War Two as they sailed up Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour). The old Bridge has been replaced as “the” landmark of Sydney by the bold architecture of the Opera House.
But a grand old bridge it is, and one you will remember whenever you think of Sydney after your visit.
When it opened it cost a car six pence to cross. A horse and rider was 3 pence. These days a return trip (for some reason the only kind) costs two dollars twenty (gst). Horses and riders are banned, that’s the changing times. You can walk across free and you are allowed to bicycle in a special lane.
Sydney Harbour Bridge is the world’s largest (but not longest as thats the New River Gorge in the USA) steel arch bridge, and, in its beautiful harbour location, has become a renowned international symbol of Australia.
Its total length including approach spans is 1149 metres and its arch span is 503 metres. The top of the arch is 134 metres above sea level and the clearance for shipping under the deck is a spacious 49 metres. The total steelwork weighs 52,800 tonnes, including 39,000 tonnes in the arch. The 49 metre wide deck makes Sydney Harbour Bridge the widest Longspan Bridge in the world.
It’s taken me a long time to get this entry completed because I just spent about five days in San Francisco. I’ll have those blog entries up sooner than later, I promise.
This was my last day in Australia so I wanted to make it count. I heard rumor (and also saw some videos from baseball players) that people could climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge. I’m deathly afraid of heights and I have a fear of falling off high places as well. So when I first heard these rumors the whole thing was out of the question for me. I wasn’t about to climb four hundred and thirty something feet on a bridge in Australia.
When I left my hotel for the day I stopped at the Westfield Tower and rode the elevator all the way up to the top. It was a spectacular sight…
…and you can read all about the details of this day on this entry. When I got done looking at Sydney Australia from that vantage point, I headed out to do some more sight-seeing and eventually found myself at the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
For those of you who ever visit Sydney Australia, this is something you’ll certainly at least want to look into. It’s pretty expensive to climb the bridge but on a good day it’s worth every single penny spent. From start to finish the climb took about three hours. Here’s the entrance:
Not only do you get complete 100% safety training and a chance to climb some ladders before going up, but you also get a great tour guide and a thorough history lesson on the bridge and the surrounding area of Sydney. I thought it was going to be a quick 45 minute climb-up-the-bridge-and climb-back-down sort of thing. Nope. The tour guide was awesome and he told us how the bridge was made, why it was made and the details of the different jobs that helped create the bridge.
He told us this one story of how the rivets were made. One guy grabs the rivet with tongs and places it in a cooker on the bridge while another guy waits. This guy is called the “catcher”. Once the rivet is red hot, the guy with the tongs pulls the rivet out of the cooker and tosses it to the catcher. The catcher then catches the red hot rivet in a bucket of sand and then grabs it with his set up tongs. He then climbs into the bridge through an access panel and hammers the rivet into place. The tour guide told us that there were hundreds of thousands of rivets at the bottom of the river due to the catcher missing red hot rivets. Wow.
At one time actor and comedian Paul Hogan was a rigger on the bridge before finding fame and fortune.
In June 1976, the one-billionth vehicle crossed the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The first 500 million crossings took over 33 years while the second 500 million took less than 11 years.
In 1932, the annual average daily traffic volume (in both directions) was about 10,900.
In 1943, with a wartime shortage of vehicles and petrol rationing, there was a drop in traffic to about 8,600 vehicles a day.
A total of 13 deaths happened from men falling off the bridge while being created and only one man survived a fall. Turns out the guy who fell off the bridge was an expert high diver and when he realized he was falling, his instincts kicked it and he was able to dive feet first into the river below and only break a couple of ribs. There were tons of stories like this that the tour guide had.
We weren’t allowed to take anything up during the climb like cameras or chewing gum or any other loose items. They were very strict about this and we received a quick pat down, we passed through a metal detector and they waved a metal detector wand over us prior to heading out. It was about the equivalent of passing through a TSA checkpoint.
So here are a few pictures that were taken of me by the tour guide once up on the bridge…
…that’s the entire group after we reached the top. See the old guy in the first row, second person in? That man immigrated to Australia the year before the bridge was built into completion and he’s 80 years old. The day of the climb was his birthday and his daughter climbed with him for his birthday present. How awesome is that? I’m in the second row, first person on the left.
This next picture if of me as we were heading back down:
So you’re probably wondering why we have headphones and why we are wearing those silly blue jump suits. The headphones were for so the tour guide could talk to us and tell us stuff while we climbed around on the bridge. And the blue jump suits is what we changed into prior to climbing the bridge. We all had to take off as much clothing as we were comfortable with and then change into them. They had no pockets and then we wore a belt with a four foot strap that was secured to the bridge as we climbed so in case we fell, we would not fall completely off the bridge. It was 100% safe to climb. So needless to say my fear of falling was put to rest while climbing around on the bridge.
This is probably my most favorite picture. It has a great shot of the Sydney Opera House in the background. Yes, it was windy and it started to rain on us just as we were reaching the top so we had to put on our authentic Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb rain gear. Despite a clear sunny day, it was still pretty awesome to be up there. The worst part about the climb as climbing three 25-step ladders to reach the platform to actually climb up the bridge. They were vertical, it was wet and like I said; I hate heights. But once I made it onto the platform to start walking up the bridge, it wasn’t so bad.
Another great picture with the Opera House in the background.
And after we got back down to ground zero, we changed out of our jump suits, drank some water, sat down for a little bit, returned all of our gear that they loaned out to us, we got one of these:
Boom, baby! My Climber Certificate!
I realize my blog entries went from “day one” to “day two” and then jumped to “day eight”. Simple explanation. Day three and four were spent at the Sydney Cricket Grounds watching baseball (and you can read all about that by clicking this link) and five, six and day seven were spent just kind of kicking around town and not doing much. So it really wasn’t blog worthy. I have a ton of pictures though and I might do an extra blog entry kind of like how I did when I visited Japan a couple of years ago.
Hopefully I can get my San Francisco trip blogged about within the next couple of weeks before I start going to a lot of Mariners games.