Identifying a ship in Sydney Harbour

Identifying a ship in Sydney Harbour

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I am trying to identify the ship in this picture in order to date the photograph. The writing on the back says it is "Aquatania" (sic) but when I search for that name on the internet the Aquitania has four funnels and this one only has two.

Having a date for that picture might be helpful, but my best guess is that is a picture of the RMS Mauretania, taken in the spring of 1940 while she was in Sydney harbor (along with the 3-funnel Queen Mary) to pick up troops for deployment to the Middle East. The paint scheme is fairly distinctive, as the all-gray was a wartime paint job. During peacetime she had a black and white paint job to help her stand out, whereas you can only see one tone of color in this photo.

Here's a photo of her underway with the wartime paint job.

Here's a website that goes into a nice bit of detail about her trip to Sydney harbor along with the Queen Mary (a 3-funnel ship). Incredibly, there's even a video showing both of them during their wartime duty, some of it shot in Sydney I believe.

Another possibility is the Queen Elizabeth, which looked very much like the Mauretania on the outside, and was also used as a troopship during the war.

Harbour life: tracing early Sydney’s watery history

Grace Karskens does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


UNSW provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.

The Conversation UK receives funding from these organisations

Never mind the bush and the outback – Sydneysiders were a maritime people from the start.

For proof, browse through the Working Harbour collection, 10,000 images of Sydney’s maritime history recently donated by the collector and historian Graeme Andrews to the City of Sydney archives. Search for the phrase “Graeme Andrews” and you’ll find a brilliant portal to Sydney’s maritime past.

The Island Princess with Nicholsons Promise in 1975. Graeme Andrews 'Working Harbour' Collection, City of Sydney Archives

The collection connects us to a very old history. Sydney’s Indigenous inhabitants, the Eora, were saltwater people, as much at home on the waters of harbour and rivers as on dry land. Children grew up partly in bark canoes called nowies and learned to fish from their earliest years, the girls with lines and shell hooks, the boys with shell-tipped spears.

A houseboat called Dreamland, moored at Cowan Creek, 1910. Graeme Andrews 'Working Harbour' Collection, City of Sydney Archives

The early colonial settlers of the 1800s were also waterbound and waterborne – everyone in Sydney-town got around in boats in those years. Most of the early explorations were by water too, via Parramatta River, Pittwater, Broken Bay, and the mighty Hawkesbury River, when settlers finally found its mouth on an exploratory expedition in June 1789.

Cabarita Gardens, a well-patronised harbourside picnic ground. Graeme Andrews 'Working Harbour' Collection, City of Sydney Archives

All the houses in the town faced out over the water towards the Heads that form the entrance to Sydney Harbour. South Head was the town’s eye, watching the ocean for the first sight of a sail. When the signal came from the flagstaff, the entire town would erupt in joy.

Australia’s first city grew limpet-like around the long headlands and deep bays, as wharves, slips and stores and then noxious industries such as abbatoirs encrusted the shorelines.

Well-loaded, the ferry North Head nears Fort Denison. Graeme Andrews 'Working Harbour' Collection, City of Sydney Archives

The waterside industries sprouted whole suburbs, such as the inner west districts of Balmain and Pyrmont, and Mortlake further west. Right up until the 1880s, around 80% of Sydney’s people lived within walking distance of Sydney Harbour.

The Harbour Bridge under construction, 1928. Graeme Andrews 'Working Harbour' Collection, City of Sydney Archives

Sure, the wealthy and privileged built their romantic villas on the heights, but ordinary folk had access to the waters too, for work, rest and play.

People always had to cross from shore to shore, so the ferries were an intrinsic part of Sydney, from the first ex-convict boatmen to the mighty fleet of double-ended ferries which carried up to 47 million passengers a year before the Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened in 1932.

Today, most Sydney people travel by car, and they live too far from the harbour for it to be part of their everyday life – except at festival-time, when hundreds of thousands gather on the foreshores and the fireworks light up a million upturned faces.

A ferry interior, 1980. Graeme Andrews 'Working Harbour' Collection, City of Sydney Archives

Yet the ferries still ply the waters, and Sydneysiders hold them in great affection. They featured in song, such as folk singer Bernard Boland’s Rose Bay Ferry with its doctors and accountants yearning to head out to the open sea instead of their city offices.

The Manly ferry was immortalised in the 1966 film They’re a Weird Mob, during the scene in which a loudmouthed Aussie drunk insults a cultured Italian family in the best old vaudevillian style (he ends up overboard, of course).

The tugboat St Giles. Graeme Andrews 'Working Harbour' Collection: 81045, City of Sydney Archives

Maybe affection for ferries is a global human trait. US transcendentalist and poet Walt Whitman was passionate about ferries too. For him, they were “inimitable, streaming, never-failing, living poems”. Anyone who has ever watched the lighted ferries streaming into Circular Quay performing their moonlight boat ballet will know this poetry, the living poetry of a harbour city.

The Working Harbour collection donated to the council indefatigably records this deep maritime history, legacy and culture. Graeme Andrews contributes his own life-time knowledge too, with names, places, dates and priceless observations.

Who but a sailor with long accustomed eye could write of the tugboat St Giles that she is “riding so high in the water she must be nearly out of coals”?

In the photo below, taken during the Queen’s visit in 1954, two lines of excited small boats form a guard of honour for Her Majesty in front of Government House. You can almost see the flags fluttering and feel the tension, taut as a bowline:

An honour guard of small boats for a visit by Queen Elizabeth II, Government House at rear. May 1954. Graeme Andrews 'Working Harbour' Collection, City of Sydney Archives

A first world war photograph of ships moored off the Quarantine Station at North Head is a poignant reflection of that suspended time:

Manly Gas works and quarantine anchorage, first world war. Graeme Andrews 'Working Harbour' Collection, City of Sydney Archives

As the collier and ferry chug about their everyday business, the big ships are waiting to clear quarantine before passengers can finally disembark. But if ships were found to be carrying disease, their passengers were detained at the Quarantine Station at North Head. Some died there, in view of the city they never reached.

Ferries, tugs and launches turn up repeatedly, like faces and names in a family photo album: Andrews knows them all and many other Sydneysiders will too.

There’s something about the lovely shape of old boats it’s enough just to look at them, as with this 1969 shot of the Christina at Woy Woy Bay:

Christina, Woy Woy Bay, 1969. Graeme Andrews 'Working Harbour' Collection, City of Sydney Archives

But these images touch on something more intangible too, something connected with the spirit of place that ties past and present together.

Henry Lawson conjured this spirit in his poem Sydney-Side before the hardships of the 1890s depression soured Sydney for him:

Oh, there never dawned a morning, in the long and lonely days
But I thought I saw the ferries streaming out across the bays –
And as fresh and fair in fancy did the picture rise again
As the sunrise flushed the city from Woollahra to Balmain

And the sunny water frothing round the liners black and red,
And the coastal schooners working by the loom of Bradley’s Head
With the whistles and the sirens that re-echo far and wide
All the life and light and beauty that belong to Sydney side.

The Working Harbour collection means that 10,000 images of all that life and light and beauty now belong to everyone.

In the late afternoon of 31 May 1942 three Japanese submarines, I-22, I-24 and I-27, sitting about seven nautical miles (13 kilometres) out from Sydney Harbour , each launched a Type A midget submarine for an attack on shipping in Sydney Harbour . The night before, I-24 had launched a small floatplane that flew over the harbour, its crew spotting a prize target - an American heavy cruiser, the USS Chicago . The Japanese hoped to sink this warship and perhaps others anchored in the harbour.

Japanese Midget submarine which took part in the unsuccessful attack in Sydney Harbour, 31 May 1942


USS Chicago off the Mare Island Navy Yard after her last overhaul, 20 December 1942

After launching the three two-man midget submarines, the three mother submarines moved to a new position off Port Hacking to await the return of the six submariners sent into the harbour. They would wait there until 3 June.

All three midget submarines made it into the harbour. Electronic detection equipment picked up the signature of the first (from I-24) late that evening but it was thought to be either a ferry or another vessel on the surface passing by. Later, a Maritime Services Board watchman spotted an object caught in an anti-submarine net. After investigation, naval patrol boats reported it was a submarine and the general alarm was raised just before 10.30 pm . Soon afterwards, the midget submarine's crew, Lieutenant Kenshi Chuma and Petty Officer Takeshi Ohmori, realising they were trapped, blew up their craft and themselves.

Before midnight , alert sailors on the deck of USS Chicago spotted another midget submarine. They turned a searchlight on it and opened fire but it escaped. Later, gunners on the corvette HMAS Geelong also fired on a suspicious object believed to be the submarine.

The response to the attack was marred by confusion. Vision was limited and ferries continued to run as the midget submarines were hunted. At about 12.30 am there was an explosion on the naval depot ship HMAS Kuttabul , a converted harbour ferry, which was moored at Garden Island as an accommodation vessel. The crew of the midget submarine from I-24 had fired at the USS Chicago but missed, the torpedo striking the Kuttabul instead. Nineteen Australian and two British sailors on the Kuttabul died, the only Allied deaths resulting from the attack, and survivors were pulled from the sinking vessel.

The three survivors from the HMAS Kuttabul next to the former berth of the Kuttabul on June 1. From left is Neil Roberts, Colin Whitfield (RNZN) and Bill Williams.

Japanese Midget submarine No. 21 being raised by the bows from the harbour by a floating crane during a salvage operation

A second torpedo fired by the same midget submarine ran aground on rocks on the eastern side of Garden Island , failing to explode. Having fired both their torpedoes, the crew made for the harbour entrance but they disappeared, their midget submarine perhaps running out of fuel before reaching the submarines' rendezvous point.

The third midget submarine from I-22 failed to make it far into the harbour. Spotted in Taylors Bay and attacked with depth charges by naval harbour patrol vessels, Lieutenant Keiu Matsuo and Petty Officer Masao Tsuzuku, shot themselves.

The mother submarines departed the area after it became obvious that their midget submarines would not be returning. The submarine I-24 is believed to have been responsible for a number of attacks on merchant ships as well as shelling Sydney Harbour a week later.

Group portrait of Midget Submarine trainees in training in Kure , Japan

Identified front left is Lieutenant (Lt) Keiu Matsuo and rear left is Lieutenant Kinshi Chuma both commanders of Midget Submarines launched from carrier submarines I-22 and I-27, in the attack on SydneyHarbour on 31 May 1942 . Lt Chuma's submarine was caught in the boom net and blown up by its crew of two. Both of the officers were among the four bodies subsequently recovered.

The bodies of the four Japanese crewmen from the midget submarines launched by I-22 and I-27 were recovered when these two midget submarines were raised. They were cremated at Sydney 's Eastern Suburbs Crematorium with full naval honours. Rear Admiral Muirhead-Gould, in charge of Sydney Harbour defences, along with the Swiss Consul-General and members of the press, attended the service. The admiral's decision to accord the enemy a military funeral was criticised by many Australians but he defended his decision to honour the submariners' bravery. He also hoped that showing respect for the dead men might help to improve the conditions of the many Australians in Japanese prisoner of war camps.


1943. Canberra , ACT. WRANS from HMAS Harman Naval Wireless Station pose beside a Japanese midget submarine on display outside the Australian War Memorial.

In 1968, Lt Matsuo's mother traveled to Australia to visit the spot where her son had died. During her visit she scattered cherry blossoms in the water where her son's midget submarine had been located and later she presented a number of gifts to the Australian War Memorial.

Prime Minister John Curtin allowed the Japanese Ambassador, Tatsuo Kawai, to take the ashes of the 4 submariners back to Japan after their cremation. Tatsuo Kawai arrived at Yokohama pier in October 1942 aboard the Kamakura Maru with the ashes of the four sailors in four white boxes. These four boxes had been placed on a large altar in front of a flag of the Rising Sun on board the Kamakura Maru during the journey to Japan .

On Sunday 12 November 2006 at about 9am , seven scuba divers met at Long Reef Beach north of Sydney for another fun day of scuba diving. They decided to head for a spot they had marked four months earlier. Their fish finder had noted something interesting on the sea floor. The seas had been too rough that earlier day to investigate, so they had decided to leave it to a calmer day. So on the morning of the 12 November 2006 , they used their GPS to revisit the spot as that day was very calm.

The object was in 70 metres of water, so after doing all their calculations they determined that they could only stay at the sea floor for about 12 minutes. They would require two decompression stops on the way back to the surface. The went down to the bottom and saw a large object covered in fishing net. They maneuvered to one end of the object and saw propellers sticking out of the sand. They started to realise what the object was. Paul Baggott swam back to the middle of the object and saw what looked like a conning tower. With much excitement, he then moved towards what he now believed to be the front of a submarine, to confirm his assumption by looking for torpedo tubes. His assumption was confirmed!!

The approximate location of the M24 is several kilometres off the coast and somewhere between Long Reef and Barrenjoey Headland. The Google Earth link below is only a rough indication of the general area.

The divers all met with the Director of the Naval Heritage Collection, Commander Shane Moore who has since confirmed that they had indeed located the missing M24 Japanese Midget Submarine. Commander Moore shared his knowledge of M24 and its submariners with the divers. He told them that Japanese tourists have often arrived at Garden Island to lay a wreath at the Conning Tower memorial near Woolloomooloo in Sydney .

60 Minutes produced a segment on the diver's discovery which went to air on 26 November 2006 .

The divers all share a concern for the ongoing conservation of the wreck of the submarine. They are keeping the exact location a secret to avoid scavengers desecrating the wreck. It is likely that it still contains the remains of the two Japanese sailors:-

Lieutenant Katsuhisa Ban
Ensign Mamoru Ashibe

Ban and Ashibe were not initially selected for the attack on Sydney Harbour . They were on the standby list. Following an accidental explosion on the mother submarine I-24 about two weeks before the attack, they were placed on the mission.

Discussion between the Australian and Japanese governments will no doubt continue for some time before a decision is made on the fate of the wreckage of Japanese midget submarine M24.

Mr Mark Edwell holds his latest museum piece a WW2 Japanese Gyroscope believed to be from one of the Japanese Midget Submarines that attacked Sydney Harbour on 31 May 1942 .

In early June of 2007 my friend and fellow historian Mr Mark Edwell bought a Japanese WW2 Gyroscope. This Gyroscope came from a Merchant Seaman who told the story of how it was recovered from one of the Midget Submarines that came into Sydney Harbour during WW2, the Gyroscope sat in a private house on the central coast of NSW for the last 35 years.

The Australian War Memorial made several attempts to purchase this item and they confirmed that it is indeed the Gyroscope from a torpedo of a Japanese Midget Submarine. While it is only a story and can not be confirmed, the Merchant Seaman stated to the previous owner that it was in fact recovered from the M24 and they were responsible for the sinking of the craft.

The only evidence that supports this theory is that the Gyroscope is contained within a wooden box that has no signs of water damage that you would expect if it had been taken from the raised midget submarines from Sydney Harbour .

Japanese 140-millimetre naval shell, one of ten fired by a Japanese submarine on 8 June 1942

This shell failed to detonate and was recovered from Manion Avenue, next to the Woollahra Golf Links. It had damaged the top story of the Grantham Flats, occupied by Ernest Hirsch and his family. The shell smashed through his mother's bedroom, passed across her floor and through another two internal walls before stopping on the stairs. Hirsch and his family had fled the impending violence in Nazi Germany five years earlier, deciding to settle in "peaceful" Sydney .

Air raid warden Harry Woodward bravely carried the shell to the golf links, where it was defused by a navy demolition team.

On the 8 th June 1942, the Japanese submarine I-24 was cruising at periscope depth 9 miles south west of the Macquarie light near Sydney. Just after Midnight she surfaced and pointed her deck gun towards Sydney. The Commander (Hanabusa) gave a target indication to his gunnery officer (Yusaburo Morita). The orders were to take aim directly at the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Moving north west towards the coast, Yusaburo fired a volley from his deck gun. Ten shells were fired within 4 minutes. All of which came rained down on the suburbs of Woollahra, Rose Bay and Bellevue Hill.

Ernest Hirsch poses near shell damage on his home

By the time I-24 had finished firing, the searchlights on the shore had been turned on. The coastal batteries were ready to fire around 10 seconds after the Japanese fired their last shell.

Only one of the Japanese shells actually exploded. The Japanese probably used armour-piercing rounds designed to punch through steel plated ships, although they had similar instances with other shells not detonating.

One of the I-24's Salvos hit and penetrated a double brick wall of Grantham Flats, located on the corner of Manion Avenue and Iluka Streets in Rose Bay . A resident (Mr Ernest Hirsch) and his family lived in Grantham Flats. Ernest Hirsch was awoken by the shell came crashing across the floor of his mother's room and passed through another two internal walls, finally coming to rest on the stairs. Lucky enough for the residents the shell had failed to explode. Ernest's mother ended up covered in debris. Escaping unharmed with Ernest suffering a fractured foot when he was buried under a pile of broken masonry. Ernest's wife and 18 month old son were in another room and were not injured.

Home damaged in Sydney 's eastern suburbs by shelling from Japanese submarine

The unexploded shell was carried by Harry Woodward and two others to a nearby park where they temporarily buried it. The Navy demolition team recovered it later for detonation.

Other shell's landed in Bradley Avenue , Bellevue Hill and destroyed the back rooms of Mrs. M. McEachern house. It also damaged the house next door. Once again the shell did not explode. Mrs. McEachern was in bed at the time but not asleep. She heard a shell whistle by and then a thud. She heard two more shells whistle. The third and final shell was the one that hit her house.

Another shell hit the gutter outside a small two storey grocery store run by Mr & Mrs. S. J. & Alice Richards on the corner of Small and Fletcher Streets, Woolahra. It shattered all the windows in the building. Alice and her 2 children hid under the bed. When they eventually came down stairs they found their shop was wrecked.

Other shells fell at: 9 Bunyula Road Bellevue Hill , 68 Streatfield Road Bellevue Hill
67 Balfour Road Rose Bay , 1 Simpson Street Bondi , Olola Avenue Vaucluse
Yallambee Flats, 33 Plumer Road Rose Bay.

The only shell that exploded was the one that fell outside Yallambee Flats. It demolished part of a house. A woman sleeping on an enclosed verandah was slightly injured by flying glass. About 12 women lived in the flats. The warning sirens eventually sounded about 10 minutes after the last shell had been fired.

USS Chicago off the Mare Island Navy Yard after her last overhaul, 20 December 1942

Historic Replica Boats

Child of Bounty is a replica of a Royal Naval launch cl781. She was built in 1982 by TC Watson of Whangarei, New Zealand, for a re-enactment of Captain Bligh’s 4’000 nautical mile voyage from Tonga to Timor after the mutiny on the Bounty in 1783.
The largest ship’s boat on a naval ship in 1788 was commonly called the longboat. However by that date many were built with a deep broad hull and were known officially as ‘launches’.

Child of Bounty was donated to the Sydney Heritage Fleet by Captain Ware in 1984.

Length: 7.06m (23ft 2in)
Beam: 2.13m (7ft)
Depth: 0.89m (2ft 11in)

My Jolly Boat, a replica of a jollyboat from before 1787

My Jolly Boat, a replica jollyboat from about 1787

A replica of a First Fleet yawl or jollyboat, developed from plans of the period before 1787.
She was built in 1987 to re-enact the first European landing by Lieut. Ralph Clark at Woodford Bay on the Lane Cove River on the 14th February 1790.
This was the type of small boat pressed into service in the Colony after 1793 as a passenger boat or private ferry for the trip up the river to the colony of Rosehill.
My Jolly Boat was donated to the Sydney Heritage Fleet by the Lane Cove Council in 1989.

Length: 4.67m (15ft 4in)
Beam: 1.52m (5ft)
Depth: 0.81m (2ft 8in)

Tom Thumb II, a replica of Bass and Flinders’ second Tom Thumb

Replica yawl Tom Thumb II

Built in 1987 for the Bicentenary Celebrations by Mr K. Gervens, the yawl Tom Thumb II was created as an authentic replica of the second Tom Thumb used by the explorers Bass and Flinders.
In 1988 she was employed to perform a re-enactment of their second (1796) voyage of exploration. She sailed with a crew of three on a return voyage from Sydney to Lake Illawarra.

The boat was built to a size specification suggested by K.McRae Bowden in his biography of George Bass and great care was taken to use materials and construction methods appropriate to the Colony at the time of Bass and Flinders.

Inside of Tom Thumb II Note: the water casks under the centre thwart, and the rifle to starboard

By order of the Governor of the day, boat builders in the infant Colony in Sydney Cove were forbidden to build boats more than 14 feet long. This was to discourage boats being considered by convicts as a means of escape by sea. Tom Thumb II is an authentic replica of the type of small yawl built in the Colony after 1793 as Passage Boats (the first private ferries).

Tom Thumb II was donated to the Sydney Heritage Fleet in 1988 by Paul Smith.

Construction: Clinker built with steamed frames and copper fittings.

Materials: Australian Cedar planks on Spotted Gum frame, Ti Tree grown knees, Flooded Gum mast.

Rigging: Single mast with linen Lug-sail. ?Propulsion: 2 oars plus sweep and sail.

Length: 4.37m (14ft 4in)
Beam: 1.70m (5ft 7in)
Depth: 0.76m (2ft 6in)

Licensing Edit

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Sydney Harbour Ferries

For costs and availability of obtaining any of these photos without watermark, as an electronic file, as a print from the original negative (where available) or as some other format, contact the Maritime Records and Research Centre’s Curator on 02 9298 3850 or email:[email protected], quoting the full file name and giving details of format wanted.

Copyright for the majority of these images from the collection is vested in the Sydney Heritage Fleet. For the remaining images every attempt has been made to ensure correct attribution. If any originator of an image notes an error the Sydney Heritage Fleet would welcome any notification and will remove that image or modify its attribution.

Click on any image to enlarge

BALGOWLAH @ Manly,postcard.
BALGOWLAH, fill-in, Oct 29 1950. Davidson File 50.
BARAGOOLA @ Manly, Oct 21 1950.Davidson File 55.

BARAGOOLA and MANLY(III)1968. Proof135-10A.
BARAGOOLA berthing 1973, 2. GKA.
BARAGOOLA berths early morning. 1980.

BARAGOOLA berths, G.A.Master, 1980. 3341.
BARAGOOLA in Sydney,1982.Proof 679-9.
BARAGOOLA launch day, File 1073-31. copy.

BARAGOOLA leaves Manly.Oct 29,1950.Davidson File 50.
BARAGOOLA passes DragonKA151. 1980.Proof 559-11.
BARAGOOLA, 1973.GA0860.

BARAGOOLA, lower deck with passengers, 1982.
BELLUBERA @ Manly, Nov. 1955. File 3.

BELLUBERA and SOUTH STEYNE @ Kurraba Pt.Aug 1956.File 3.
BINNGARRA launch,postcard Gwenferry Coll.
BINNGARRA, Dufty copy, detail.

BLUE FIN,1991.File 1104-28.
BRIGHTON PS.File 480-29.copy.
BRIGHTON,hulk,Port Stephens,1986.Neg 904-26.

BRIGHTSIDE cargo, File 480-30.copy.
BURRA BRA with tug.

COLLAROY @ Overseas Terminal,1988.Neg 988a-22.
COLLAROY @ Tomago. April 1988. Proof 980-9a.
COLLAROY aground Manly, Feb.26, 2001.Bob Fildes

COLLAROY and CRYSTAL HARMONY.2000.File 1355-15
COLLAROY berthing,1999.File 1326-2
COMMODORE 1878-1931, as built.GA0967.

CURL CURL (II),1988.Neg 988a-31.
CURL CURL 1928.Dufty GKA Coll. 2003.
CURL CURL and YUNNAN, Dec 5, 1950.Davidson File 50.

CURL CURL, hulk @ Strides shipbreakers, c.1968.
CURL CURL, with flashes, Sep 19,1950. Davidson File 51.
DEE WHY sinking, May 1976.

DEE WHY (I), sinking 1976.
DEE WHY (II) c.1980.
DEE WHY (II), arrival, 1970. Proof 120-21.

DEE WHY (II),and crane TITAN.
DEE WHY and SYDNEY COVE, April 18,1966.File 500-18.copy.
DEE WHY leaves Manly March 3, 1940.

DEE WHY,engine plate,file 198-30.copy.
DEE WHY,engine plate,file 198-30.copy.
EMERALD STAR and Hegarty family.1942.File 1073-8. copy.

EMERALD STAR wheelhouse,1979. Proof 516-14.
EMERALD STAR, interior. c.1980
EMERALD STAR, launch, 1942.

ESTELLE (STAR), c1930.
ETTALONG arrives. Hegarty.File 1077-19. copy.
EVELYN STAR, @ Lavender Bay Wharf. 1968.

FAIRLIGHT (II), passes Gladesville Bridge, 1973. Proof 49-8.

FAIRLIGHT (II),@ manly,1982.Proof 694-29.
FAIRLIGHT PS, remains Tangalooma, 1990.Graeme Broxam.

FAIRLIGHT, 1970s.GA0854.
FRESHWATER (new) berths, Dec.1982. Proof 722-8.
FRESHWATER berths Manly, 1983. Proof 728-9.

FRESHWATER, aground Manly, Mar 10,1983.
FRESHWATER, build.1981.Proof 645-19a.
KAILOA 1902.Dufty GKA Coll. 2004.

KALANG AB97. Rabaul. D.Hanna. file 294-4. copy.
KALANG in Rabaul, File 294-9. copy.
KALANG, as car ferry Sydney,c.1927

KALANG, conversion 1935. GA0998.
KALANG, conversion June 21,1935. GA0999.
KAMERUKA @ Cremorne Pt. Wharf. 1968.GA1039a.

KAMERUKA berthing Mosman Bay 1962.
KAMERUKA berths, 1980.Proof 556-28.
KAMERUKA making up time, 1950s.

KAMERUKA remains Ap.1986.Neg 879-2.
KAMERUKA, 1980. Proof 570-29A.
KAMERUKA, lower deck, 1980. proof 570-28A.

KAMIRI.SS Postcard
KAMIRI.SS. laid-up, 1950s.
KANANGRA SS, c.1930s

KANANGRA SS. Mosman Bay, 1950s.
KANANGRA, Mosman Bay, 1980. Proof 571-xx.
KANGAROO 1890-1926.

KANGAROO,Sydney 1899.
KANIMBLA @ Kirribilli Wharf. Postcard.
KANIMBLA.SS. renamed KURRA BA, 1937.

KARINGAL near Musgrave St. c.1950s.
KARRABEE Camber Wharf smash 2. 1970.
KARRABEE SS, Dufty Photo. c.1930

KARRABEE, April 16, 1962. GA0840.
KARRABEE, arrives Old Cremorne. 1960s
KARRABEE, sunk in Quay,1984.Neg 814-23a.

KING EDWARD, in Quay, mid 1920s.
KIRRIBILLI (II), 1900-1933.
KOOKOOBURRA @ Quarantine Wharf.c.1935.File 994-34. copy.

KOOLEEN, Feb.1973.
KOOLEEN, c.1957
KOOLEEN, on Sydney Slipway,c.1960s

KOOLEEN, wheelhouse, 1980
KOOMPARTOO.SS. as Concert Boat, with high wheelhouses,c.1937
KOOROONGABBA @ Jeffrey St. c.1930.File 643-10a.copy.

KOREE, 1920s.
KOSCIUSKO April 29,1966.File 500-29.Copy.
Kremer.Capt.Merv,berths FRESHWATERSydney,1983.Proof 728-15.

KUBU SS. (and SUNRISE STAR), c.1950s
KUMULLA in Lavender Bay,c.1930.
KURING-GAI, File 598-22. copy.

KURNELL, ex ferry, ex tug, MSB.1982. Proof 666-11.
KURNELL, Hegartys, c.1938. file 1076-13
KURRABA @ Old Cremorne,c.1900. File 844-3. copy.

KURRABA, Quay. 1899-1933
KUTTABUL c.1930. Box Brownie pic.
KUTTABUL,SS. c.1936. 517-31a

LADY CHELMSFORD SS. @ Fig Tree base. (post card).
LADY CHELMSFORD, late 1940s.

LADY CHELMSFORD, on Yarra River, 1998.
LADY CUTLER, berths Quay, 1980

LADY CUTLER, early a.m.1980.Proof 576-27A.
LADY CUTLER, helm. 1968. Proof 123-2.
LADY DENMAN, laid up 1979. Proof 513-14A.

LADY DENMAN. MV. c.1976-7.
LADY DENMAN. SS. BNF Co. Dufty Coll.

LADY EDELINE in ferry dock, 1980. 567-23.

LADY EDELINE, April 12,1962.GA0871.
LADY EDELINE, in Quay, with Andrews family, June 2, 1979
LADY EDELINE. SS. Dufty Collection.

LADY FERGUSON on Tombstone, Rookwood, q.v. 1991.File 1109-10
LADY HAMPDEN and [email protected] boat race.

LADY HERRON, 1980. Proof 559-35.
LADY HERRON, in Quay, May 1980.
LADY HERRON, Jan 2007.

LADY MARY (THE),postcard.
LADY McKELL, Great Ferry race, Jan.20,1985.
LADY NAPIER, c.1900.

LADY NORTHCOTT @ Manly Wharf. 1980.Proof 569-18A.
LADY NORTHCOTT berths Manly,1975.Proof235-22A.
LADY NORTHCOTT, 1980.Proof 555-27.

LADY NORTHCOTT, 1980.Proof 562-22.
LADY NORTHCOTT, original colour, 1974.
LADY NORTHCOTT,@ Manly,1980.Proof 562-xx.

LADY NORTHCOTT,@ Mosman bay, 1990.File 1083-26.
LADY SCOTT SS,@ Riverview. File 1125-16. copy.
LADY SCOTT.SS. on Lane Cove. River.c.1920

LADY STREET @ Old Cremorne Wharf,1990. File 1079-27.
LADY STREET @ Old Cremorne Wharf,1990.File 1072-30.

LADY WOODWARD berths, 1991.File 1123-4.
LADY WOODWARD, inbound, 1986.
LONG REEF, crosses Sydney Heads.

MANLY (II), postcard, copy.

MANLY (III), going astern, 1968
MANLY (IV), helm, 1984.Proof 817-2.
MANLY (IV), in Quay, 1988.

MANLY (IV),1984.Neg 815-25.
MANLY, (III), hydrofoil, 1965.
MANLY, Dec 1988.File 1007-33.

MSB4169x detail. KAMERUKA in Circ.Quay,July 9,1924.
MT.PLEASANT. Hegarty. File 1077-20. copy.
NARRABEEN (II),file 145-18.copy.

NARRABEEN PS. (I), leaving Manly.
NARRABEEN, near miss, 1989.File 1015-6.
NORTH HEAD @ Manly,early morn.1984.Neg 811-17.

NORTH HEAD in Codock,c.1975
NORTH HEAD, ist trials May 5,1951. Davidson File 52.
PALM BEACH @ Manly 1975, Proof 235-18A.

PELICAN, c.1938.
PHANTOM, Sydney Cove.c. 188x.

PROFOUND, Nicholsons,ex ETTALONG STAR, q.v. c.1955.
QUEENSCLIFF, crosses Heads, Oct.1983. File. 759..
QUEENSCLIFF,1990.File 1053-32.

QUEENSCLIFF,leave manly, Dec 30, 2005.
SEA EAGLE, 1991.File 1118-36.
SEA EAGLE. Nov.2005.

SIR DAVID MARTIN and MANLY.Jan 1 1991.File 1098-35.
SORRENTO and LITHGOW @ Hegartys. Nov 14,1950. File 24.

SOUTH STEYNE and FRESHWATER(near),1991.File 1101-28.
SOUTH STEYNE fire damage, 1974. Proof 68-23.

SOUTH STEYNE in Fitzroy Dock, c.1970.
SOUTH STEYNE, rough day at the Heads.
SOUTH STEYNE,W'loo,Mar.1988.Neg 969-16.

SOUTH STEYNE. 1969. proof 139-2.
SUNRISE STAR in Lavender Bay. 1980s.
SUNRISE STAR, in Quay, June 18, 1954.

SYDNEY, 1990.File 1079-13.
SYDNEY,1991.File 1102-16.
TWIN STAR, 1981. file. 636-20.

TWIN STAR, July 1987.Neg 932a-11.-1
TWIN STAR,1987.Neg 928-2.

The bizarre hidden shipwrecks of Sydney Harbour where nature has taken over

A DECADE after the Pasha Bulker ran aground, even more bizarre rusting hulks lie forgotten in a hidden corner of Sydney Harbour.

Ghost ships of Homebush Bay.

Ghost ships of Homebush Bay

The wreck of the SS Ayrfield in Homebush Bay. Picture: Scott Stramyk Source:Supplied

TEN years ago this month, the container ship Pasha Bulker ran aground on Newcastle’s Nobbys Beach instantly becoming a tourist landmark.

For a few weeks in winter 2007, the addition of a stranded 77,000 tonne hulk saw Newcastle rival the landmarks of Sydney Harbour.

But just a few kilometres west of the Opera House, in a quiet corner of the harbour, lie a group of ships that could rival the Pasha Bulker in terms of their sheer spectacle. Yet few Sydneysiders know about these strange sights, silently resting in plain sight.

These rusting wrecks, lying in the shallows, have seen their innards completely colonised by trees. Where railings and ropes once ruled, now branches and bark have taken root shooting skywards creating a giant green dome over the slowly disappearing shell.

While most wrecks are hidden deep under the ocean, the remains of the SS Ayrfield — and its neighbours — are completely visible from land and the hundreds of homes just metres away.

The wreck of the SS Ayrfield in Homebush Bay. Picture: Scott Stramyk Source:Supplied

Described as eerie by some, this meeting of man and nature is fast becoming a mini tourist attraction.

The wreck of the SS Ayrfield is one of at least seven dotted close to the heavily wooded banks of Homebush Bay. In some photos the strange ships can seem far from civilisation, but they actually lie within earshot of the roars from Sydney’s Olympic stadium. A huge Ikea is just across the water.

This bay has become a graveyard of once illustrious vessels which, like the Marie Celeste, are now abandoned at sea.

“It’s something forged in heat and sparks that nature has taken back over. Something man-made and something natural coexisting together,” Maritime Archaeologist Stirling Smith from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage tells

“The wrecks are a visually spectacular hidden treasure. We were lucky when the Olympics were built because they protected all this area and redeveloped it but without impacting on the natural heritage or the shipwrecks.”

Mangroves have taken over the rusting hull of the SS Ayrfield. Picture: Joshua Hulm Source:Supplied

Drone image of shipwreck SS Ayrfield. Picture: Joshua Hulm Source:Supplied

The corroding hulks have become a favourite for photographers. Scott Stramyk is part of the Canon Collective and has held photography workshops focused on the wrecks of Homebush Bay and, in particular, the Ayrfield.

“There are some angles that make it look like there’s nothing around,” Mr Stramyk says.

“We posted a sunset image of the Ayrfield online and people thought it must be in some remote part of tropical Queensland, yet it’s just in the back end of Sydney by some apartments.”

At certain times of day the soundless wrecks take on an altogether different atmosphere, like a flotilla of ghost ships approaching the shore.

“It can be really eerie, especially at night if you have the fog floating over the mangroves,” she tells

The Ayrfield’s journey began in 1911 in a dockyard in Grangemouth, Scotland. Arriving in Sydney a year later, it was originally called the Corrimal and during the Second World War it would transport supplies to US troops in the Pacific.

The wrecks of HMAS Karangi and SS Heroic ships which have been left in the mud flats left from the ship breaking days which started in 1966. Source:News Limited

When the war ended it was renamed and became a collier on the “sixty miler” run transporting coal from Newcastle to Sydney.

“It came to Homebush Bay in 1972. Back then this was an industrial area, and a bit of a backwater not on the main channel of the Parramatta River, so it was a nice quiet place which no one called home to strip the vessels,” says Mr Smith.

“There were slipways they could bring vessels up to, strip them of their parts and then take them away to be scrapped or melted down.

“Some ships were reduced to absolutely nothing, some to just the keel in and many are resting underwater.”

HMAS Karangi was the Australian-built boom-defence vessel and helped defend Darwin Harbour in the Second World War. Source:News Limited

That would have been the fate for the Ayrfield and the other wrecks, including the SS Heroic, HMAS Karangi and a collection of barges. But fate intervened.

“In 1972, the scrap metal prices were staring to decline so they started closing down the companies,” he says.

The remaining vessels were left to rot where they were in a part of the harbour no one, certainly not a tourist, cared about.

Many of the ships lie just a few metres from mangroves that crept over to the vessels.

“They’re very sheltered here, they’re not being battered by surf, so it’s a nice spot for the mangroves to grow. There’s mud inside the hull and they’ve taken advantage of it and they are absolutely thriving,” says Mr Smith.

This so called “dumb barge” had no engine and was only ever towed. It sits surrounded by trees on the shore of Homebush Bay. Source:News Limited

New residential developments now fringe the shore overlooking the Ayrfield which has helped more people to learn of the existence of the wrecks. A few years ago a Japanese TV crew filmed a segment of a game show with the ship as a backdrop. They nicknamed the ship the �ro”, says Mr Smith, due to its distinctive foliage.

However, his favourite wreck is the HMAS Karingi, a little further down the bay.

It too has trees growing through it, but in a different style. “I wouldn’t call that one an afro, maybe a buzz cut because it’s a bit shorter,” he says.

“It has an amazing history. It was in Darwin Harbour during the Japanese bombing raid in WWII and the British nuclear tests at the Montebello Islands in Western Australia and then it was bought here, stripped and left.”

Other ships lie hidden in the midst of the mangroves, inches from shore, destined to sail no more.

It’s not just boats cables, cranes and winches are also dotted around, breaking apart and sinking into the mud.

Sunset is the best time to snap the SS Ayrfield. Picture: Benedict Brook.

Mr Stramyk says winter was the perfect time to photograph the wrecks. The sun low in the sky and the lack of haze brings a crispness to shots. At sunset, the rust on the hulls is lit up a fiery orange against the bright green of the mangroves.

“It’s so abstract to what you normally see around Sydney. It creates a nice juxtaposition of the ruin of the ship and the trees growing through it, coming out of its guts.”

Mr Smith warns wreck fans not to wade out to the deteriorating vessels, the metal of which is sharp in places including under the water line.

But he’s pleased they are becoming better known. “They’re unique in that they are so visible to so many people.”

He doesn’t mind that they are slowly crumbling.

𠇎ventually they will start to collapse and when they do we’ll start seeing different parts of the ship.”

Decades into the future, the Ayrfield and its silent neighbours, will indeed finally rust away. Then, all that will remain will be the mangroves that once sheltered within these mighty seafaring skeletons.

200 years of Sydney - a collection of historic photos

From a tiny trading port to a bustling metropolis with towering skyscrapers: Historic photos of Sydney reveal the secrets behind some of the harbour city’s most iconic landmarks over 200 years.

  • Vintage photos of Sydney’s harbour region show how the city has changed over 200 years
  • As the first area of the harbour city settled, it provides a stark contrast of now and then
  • Sydney boomed as a trading port in the 1800s but by Federation was ravaged by plague
  • Neighbourhood has since changed radically as modern skyline took shape in late 1900s

Some of the first significant building built on in Miller’s Point, one of Sydney’s oldest neighbourhoods, in this 1822 sketch of Argyle Place

Modern Sydney is a bustling metropolis of five million people living and working in skyscrapers and commuting to the office by train – but it wasn’t always like this.

For decades after the First Fleet landed in what is now Circular Quay, the town was a small trading port until the 1851 gold rush saw its population swell from 35,000 to 200,000 in just 20 years.

One of Sydney’s oldest and best preserved areas, Miller’s Point, tells the story of the city’s transformation, reflected in eye-opening photos through the ages.

Now a desired historical location flooded with tourists, it was one a working class settlement home to workers on the nearby wharves, hauling in grain, wool, and other commodities.

Streets were carved out of thick stone, often with convict labour, most prominently the Argyle Cut, a 20-year project starting in 1843 which tunnelled through to connect the neighbourhood to The Rocks.

Victorian-style houses sprung up along dirt streets that were later paved and the city’s tram system snaked into the area, connecting it more easily with the rest of Sydney.

Miller’s Point saw a boom in the maritime trade with workers from around the world arriving for employment on the wharves as the gold rush brought more visitors and more commerce.

Many of the area’s best landmarks like the Lord Nelson Hotel and the Hero of Waterloo pubs were built in this time, along with some houses that survived the changes to come.

Overlooking it all was the Sydney Observatory, built on a hill behind Argyle Street in 1858 giving panoramic views of the neighbourhood, Sydney Harbour, and the rest of the city.

Most of this view, particularly to the south, is now obscured by new houses and more recently office towers and apartment blocks – but the Sydney Harbour Bridge is clearly visible.

Trade began to slow down by the turn of the century and the area was hit hard by the plague in the 20th Century’s first month, leaving 106 people dead.

The area was also outdated and unsanitary due to haphazard building and the government decided to clean it up by buying all the homes and commercial buildings.

New wharves and warehouses were built for the wool trade, and dozens of homes demolished to build new ones to make room for new streets again cut out of the cliffs.

Hundreds of workmen’s flats – many of which still stand today – were constructed in terrace style to house workers and their families that laid the foundation for the area’s public housing culture.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge was constructed in 1932, after many more buildings were knocked down, and the whole area changed with streets realigned.

Miller’s Point was only spared widespread demolition in the 1970s after union and community action that stopped plans to raze it and build office towers, though much south of the Observatory was lost.

Finally, the wharves along Walsh Bay were in the past few years demolished to build the new Barangaroo precinct – just one more evolution of Sydney’s ever-changing landscape.

A painting by Frederick Terry of 1850s Argyle Place, at this point an open space but with recognisable landmarks like the Lord Nelson Hotel far on the left, and the Garrison Church on the right

Argyle Place is now separated from Argyle Street with a park between them, with the Garrison Church (on camera to the right) still standing as it was

The view to the north from Observatory Hill looked far different in 1864 to what it does today, with many of the streets not built, reclaimed land or carved from rock and tall ships docking at a mish-mash of private wharves. Lower Fort Street extends to the right from Argyle Street

A radically different panorama from the Observatory shows a sophisticated pleasure marina, the bustling North Sydney skyline and the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Some things never change as a group is seen enjoying the serenity, and the view, on the side of the hill

A view to the west in 1864 looking over to what his now Darling Harbour, with most of the wharves yet to be built and much of the land still beneath the water. The street running in front is Kent Street and the Lord Nelson is on the far right

Due to dramatic changes in the area, the view of Kent Street is impossible to see as the hill drops into a cliff and numerous houses block the view, but the harbour is still visible in this distance

The 1864 southern view from Observatory Hill is not even visible today with towers, the Cahill Freeway and other buildings blocking the way. Back then it gave a breathtaking view of the burgeoning city in its boom years

Many building sprung up in this 1874 view of the corner of Kent and Argyle streets since the previous one a decade earlier

Again the view is obscured by new buildings and the contour of the land, with Hotel Palisade in the distance the tallest building

Argyle Place changed significant in the decade before 1875, the streets being separated, the park established, and new buildings springing up

Trees obscure many of the changes made to the square including numerous new townhouses replacing the tall rows of 140 years earlier

Two men, one wearing a distinguised top hat with a cane, stand on Lower Fort Street in the 1870s facing south with the Observatory in the background and an old post box at the front

Lower Fort Street has drastically changed in the past 140 years since the previous photo, almost completely unrecognisable except fopr the Observatory in the distance. It’s dominated by terrace housing built in the 20th Century

Circular Quay was very different in the 1870s with tall ships replacing massive cruise liners and landmarks like the Opera House and barely any buildings where the high-rise CBD now stands

An 1880 shot of Lower Fort Street from above Argyle place including the Garrison Church on the far right. The water line was much closer to the street than before it was later reclaimed to extend the wharves

This early 1900s shot of Lower Fort Street shows an area gripped by poverty and the after effects of the plague. Children play unattended and horse-drawn carriages serve as the main transportation

Lower Fort Street today has drastically changed with most buildings except for the Hero of Waterloo knocked down and replaced with newer ones, leaving it unrecognisable

The Argyle Cut, a 20-year project starting in 1843, tunnelled through to connect the neighbourhood to The Rocks. Pictured in 1901, it looks relatively similar to today

Little has changed for this section of Argyle Street leading up to the Cut, except the frequent parking of modern cars

The Hero of Waterloo hotel on the corner of Lower Fort and Windmill (right) streets in 1901. It was one of Sydney’s first pubs, built in 1843

Hero of Waterloo changed little in the next 44 years, as did most of the surrounding architecture – except for the paved roads and car parked on the bottom right

Hero of Waterloo today has changed somewhat in the inside, but still retains its old-world feel as the area, particularly Lower Fort Street, has changed around it

Shops built on the western end of Argyle Street, now about a block from Palisade Hotel, appeared to originally be a general store and newsagent

The shops still stand 110 years later but changed hands many times – with a new bar due to open later in 2018

Old houses on Windmill Street in the first decade of the 20th Century illustrate how the area became outdated and unsanitary due to haphazard building. The plague hit hard in the first month of 1900 and gave the government a reason to take over

Windmill Street today stands as an example of early 1900s government rejuvenation attempts in the working class neighbourhood. The old houses were demolished and replaced with workman’s flats like these

This damaged old photo from the early 1900s shows new construction on High Street, overlooking Walsh Bay and its wharves off camera to the right. This street was carved out of the cliff to provide public housing for local workers

Main Street looks remarkably similar more than 100 years later with many of the same buildings, including the workman’s flats, still intact and the cliff just as steep as ever

Taking a longer view, however, though Main Street is much the same, surrounding streets have filled in with new houses and the view is suddenly dominated by the towering skyline

A closer look at the distinctive workman’s flats on High Street in the early 1900s. Hundreds were constructed on new streets or on the ruins of earlier housing that was demolished and formed the basis of the neighbourhood’s old working class identity

The same buildings stand today, some still used as public housing in an area rapidly being transformed into a haven for the more well-heeled, enticed by its history

A yacht sails across Darling Harbour in the early 1900s as early steam ships dock beside their wooden predecessors at docks in Walsh Bay, with the Observatory in the background

Modern marina in Darling Harbour where the working docks have long since been replaced by moorings for private pleasure craft and numerous tourist-oriented buildings constructed

The former Hit or Miss Hotel on Windmill Street, next door to the recently-constructed Stevens Buildings and down the road from Hero of Waterloo. A grand party assembled at the front shows the fashion of the early 1900s

These buildings are some of the very few that survived the demolitions of the early to mid 1900s as old houses were torn down to make way for public housing. Hit or Miss is no longer a hotel with its awning ripped down

People wait patiently, some reading newspapers, at the Miller’s Point tram terminus in 1910, on the western edge of the park separating Argyle Street and Argyle Place

The tram terminus as now just a street corner after Sydney’s tram network was closed down in 1961 and the tracks were buried by new road construction in 1979-80. The same houses as in the 1910 photo remain intact though many are currently being gutted for renovation

A view of Circular Quay in 1915 is one of the most striking differences to today. No Harbour Bridge, skyscrapers or Opera House, the area is dominated by grand old buildings lining the quay, many of which are no more

A radically different Miller’s Point and the CBD and Circular Quay behind is also significant in showing the burgeoning cruise ship economy with massive vessels arriving in Sydney packed with tourists, and a terminal next to it

A view of Miller’s Point in 1915 showing the reverse view to photos shot from the Observatory, which is visible on the hill. Some of the new government wharves and wool stores may be visible, as they replaced the outdated and unsafe private ones. There is also signs of vertical building on Sydney’s skyline

Huge changes to Miller’s Point are visible here with dozens of high-rise buildings in the background, the docks completely overhauled, and the Harbour Bridge on ramp on the far left. Observatory Hill looks mostly untouched

It’s not clear exactly when in the early 1900s this shot of Circular Quay was taken, but it shows the well-developed docks and grand buildings of the time before modern office buildings and the Harbour Bridge

The modern look of Circular Quay, from 2010, shows the CBD crowded with skyscrapers and a completely revamped Circular Quay featuring few of its original buildings

Circular Quay in the early 1900s was much different to its modern looks with rows of old style buildings such as the Mort & Co wool shed on the far left, which was constructed in 1869. It was sadly demolished in 1959 to make way for the AMP building. Many others were knocked down for office buildings or the Cahill Freeway

Few old buildings are left near Circular Quay with Morts & Co one of many knocked down to build office towers like the AMP building and the Cahill Expressway and Circular Quay train station newer constructions underneath

One of the biggest changes to Miller’s Point was the constrcution of the Harbour Bridge in 1923-32. Hundreds of houses were demolished but the neighbourhood was connected to the north shore. This 1930 photo shows construction underway near Lower Fort Street with the Garrison Church in the foreground

A similar view looking down Lower Fort Street in the present day shows the bridge fully built and dominating the skyline along with North Sydney office towers and apartment blocks

A view from the other side of the harbour shows construction on both sides at once, along with the fort on Macquarie Point that would decades later be replaced by the Opera House

A similar view shows the Opera House dominating the radically changed point 80 years later and a skyline dotted with towers

One of a series of photos celebrating the opening of the bridge in 1932. It shows a panorama of the city with steam ships dotting the harbour and the smoke stacks of industry, but still few if any towers across the city

The bridge stands proudly in the present day, now joined by the Opera House and suburbs swelling in size as Sydney’s population grew from 1.2 million to 5 million from 1932 to now

A vintage shot of the Harbour Bridge from Downshire Lane in 1952, complete with a classic bodied car from the time, the wooden fence separating the street from the cliff

Downshire Lane is now spruced up with trees on the western side and the wooden fence replaced with a sturdier cement one. The bridge is visible in the distance through the trees

Argyle Place changed little between the early 1900s and this photo from the park in 1960. Cars sat on the street and the houses were all given a uniform coat of pinkish paint

The same building are standing on Argyle Place but have seen better days with rusted roofs and peeling paint, and many construction and ‘for sale’ signs show the area is being extensively renovated by investors and developers

Argyle Street and Place in 1986 shows the terrace houses with more neutral colours and the budding North Sydney office hub taking shape with a few office towers and apartment building popping up

Source: Nic White, “From a tiny trading port to a bustling metropolis with towering skyscrapers: Historic photos of Sydney reveal the secrets behind some of the harbour city’s most iconic landmarks over 200 years”, Daily Mail Australia, February 4, 2018

Facts and History of Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge connects Sydney central business district (CBD) and the North Shore across the Sydney Harbor. It was designed by British firm Dorman Long and Co Ltd of Middlesbrough. It is completed in 1932.

Since 1815, there were ideas to build the bridge in the Sydney Harbor. Because of different reasons (economic, politic and design) it took some 100 years for ideas to bear fruit. J.J.C. Bradfield, "Chief Engineer of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Metropolitan Railway Construction" since 1912, liked the idea that a future Sydney Harbour Bridge should be cantilever bridge and in 1916, NSW Legislative Assembly approved such a construction but Legislative Council disagreed because it was of opinion that money should go into war effort.

After the World War I, bridge again looked like a good idea and Bradfield 1921 traveled abroad to investigate tenders. When he returned, he brought with himself another idea - arch design could work too. He and officers of the NSW Department of Public Works based their general design on Hell Gate Bridge from New York City. On 24 March 1924 contract was awarded to English firm Dorman Long and Co Ltd, of Middlesbrough because they already had similar experience with arch Tyne Bridge that they built. Arch bridge was chosen because it was cheaper and stronger than other proposed solutions. Building of the bridge happened roughly at the same time as construction of the underground railway system in Sydney so the bridge was conceived in a way that it can accommodate railway traffic too. Bridge was designed to have six lanes for road traffic, two for railroad and one for pedestrian.

Bradfield managed the building of the bridge (because of the great influence he had on the development of the bridge, he is considered its “father”). Ceremony of the beginning of the works, so-called "turning of the first sod", was held on 28 July 1923. First part of the work was constructing of the approaches, preparing of the foundations for support of the arch and construction of the abutment towers. Arch construction began on 26 October 1928. Both sides of the arch were built at the same time but southern was built a little ahead of the northern in case some errors appear and to improve the alignment. Two halves of the arches met on 19 August 1930 and were able to support themselves. From that moment roadway and other parts were constructed from the center to outside. Deck was completed in June 1931. Power, gas, water and telephone lines were laid at the same time. First test steam locomotive crossed the bridge without problems on 19 January 1932. Bridge was opened on 19 March 1932. Its total length is 1.149 meters, width 49 meters and total weight of steel in the bridge is 52.800 tones. Total cost of the bridge was AU£6.25 million which is a sum that was not paid off until 1988.

Beside for intended practical purposes, Sydney Harbour Bridge is used as a tourist attraction. Its south-east pylon is favorite place of tourists and some of them partake in legal bridge climbing.


These days, now that convict hangings and wartime torpedoes are a distant memory, you can catch the hourly ferry from Circular Quay to Fort Denison and not worry about bumping into a rotting corpse when you hop off. Explore the fortress’ museum, Martello tower, gun powder store and artillery in your own time or on a tour organised through the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service Guides. Don’t miss the daily cannon firing at 1pm, a tradition established between 1906 to 1942 to help sailors set their ship’s clocks accurately. Just make sure to pack lunch unless you want to pinch your own gut — the resident cafe and restaurant closed in June 2017.

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