The Tasman Bridge Disaster

The iconic (for Tasmania) Tasman Bridge is the main connection between the Eastern and Western Shores and a significant landmark of Hobart. I cross over the Tasman Bridge each weekday on my journey to work and back (aboard my motorised two-wheeler rather than by pedal power). I have cycled across it a handful of times, but I don’t really like to as the shared path on each side is super narrow and it always seems to be a sharp crosswind whipping up or down the Derwent River!

The bridge is most famous for the “Tasman Bridge Disaster” of 1975 when a large cargo ship collided with some of the central pillars, causing the bridge to collapse in the centre. Luckily it was a quiet Sunday night, but the accident still caused the deaths of twelve people. It also cut the main link between the Eastern and Western Shores causing many social issues (crime rose by 40% on the Eastern Shore after the accident).

Four cars drove over the gap that night, plunging into the Derwent River. Two cars stopped with their front wheels dangling dangerously over the edge! The timeless photo of Frank and Silvia Manley’s Holden HQ Monaro (an iconic Aussie muscle car) teetering on the edge is a piece of Tasmanian history.

As they drove home that night, somehow Frank managed to react in time to stop only inches away from death. With the front wheels hanging and the car grounded by the transmission case, both Frank and Silvia climbed from their vehicle and helped save the lives of other motorists by flagging them down before emergency services arrived. Frank still owns the car to this day! He put it in storage soon after the event and only brings it out for exhibitions and museum showings.

My pre-work pedal sometimes take me under the Hobart side of the bridge as the Interrcity Cycleway snakes it’s way along the riverside. I was in need of a relaxing recovery spin one morning last week, so on my way back I took the opportunity to snap off a quick photo for this challenge. It was a gloriously nippy Autumn morning! Oh and these days whenever a large ship needs to traverse under the bridge, they stop traffic for the duration just in case.

The sound of a perfectly lubed chain whirring through a fresh drivetrain, slick summer tyres humming across the blacktop as you spin, otherwise silently over country roads early in the morning.

6 response to "The Tasman Bridge Disaster"

  1. By: Tony Cullimore Posted: May 14, 2018

    I used to bushwalk with a Hobart lawyer who lived on the Eastern Shore at that time. He cycled to work in Hobart over the Bailey Bridge that was installed at Dowsing Point. There were long queues of cars (the bridge allowed one lane in each direction) and he could cycle past the frustrated drivers – and received a suitable reaction from them!

    • By: tempocyclist Posted: May 16, 2018

      It must have been a tough time – life in Hobart and surrounds would have been very different back then anyway and a lot tougher in general even without the main connection being destroyed. It would mean a long detour to work for me and many more people these days, but nothing like it would have been then.

  2. By: Bill Stone Posted: May 15, 2018

    Nice bridge, and good history lesson. Like Janet, I was immediately reminded of the collapse of a section of the roadway on our Bay Bridge in the ’89 Loma Prieta earthquake.

  3. By: Scooter Posted: May 21, 2018

    Very interesting article. I’ve never heard of this one. The first thing that came to my mind though was Galloping Gertie, the Tacoma Narrow Bridge that collapsed in 1940: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/tnbhistory/connections/connections3.htm. At the time it collapsed, it was the third largest suspension bridge in the world. I remember watching films of this in my childhood, when I lived near Tacoma and we drove across the replacement for the bridge. And, of course, it was a topic in a civil engineering course back in college.

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