Sunday, October 17, 2010

The iconic Brisbane Story Bridge.

The Brisbane Story Bridge, spanning the Brisbane River is one of the best known landmarks of Brisbane, the capital of Queensland Australia. When we drove over this bridge for the first time in 1958, on our way from Victoria to far North Queensland, we didn’t even know the name of it – it was just another bridge we had to cross. It had never occurred to me then that I would ever climb this bridge.
We flew to Brisbane in September to attend the wedding of one of our granddaughters. Our daughter, Sonja, in Brisbane rang me prior to our trip south, to ask me if I would be interested in climbing the “Brisbane Story Bridge” with her as a father’s day gift. I had no hesitation in saying, "Yes," but I asked her, "Are you sure that I will be up to it?" You know that I have just turned 80 years of age? "You are up to it," was her prompt reply; she had done the climb before and knew what was involved. Picture: Werner and Sonja Click on pictures to enlarge. The reason we got the "bristles" up was not because of fear of the height, but because of the wind at the top of the bridge.
We selected the twilight tour, which we considered to be the best of both worlds – going up in daylight and getting back down after two and a half hours at Night. The climb took place on the 15th of September 2010. We were lucky with the weather; it was a typical beautiful Queensland day with a blue sky and sunshine, and the only worry for me was the cold wind since I’m an inhabitant of Cairns in tropical North Queensland. However this little discomfort was greatly compensated by the beautiful
sight that was unfolding in front of my eyes, and a panorama of 360 degrees at the top. This was a remarkable “adventure” and a wonderful experience that I’ll never forget. I can highly recommend it to anyone visiting Brisbane, who feels fit enough, to do a Story Bridge climb. The climb involves going up the southern arm to a viewing platform at the top, then down the cantilever arm, then down to the centre of the bridge, then across it, and up again and down again, and finally stepping off the last step, which was number 1132. Following are some interesting facts about the bridge. Click on picture to enlarge.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Brisbane Story Bridge, two of our older landmark bridges, which would have to be considered as absolutely outstanding engineering feats for Australia at that time. (The Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened in March 1932.) The construction of both bridges started from opposite sides and the two halves came together in the middle over the water. - Werner* * * * * * *
The Brisbane Story Bridge.The Story Bridge, opened in July 1940, was named after John Douglas Story - a public servant, and currently has 6 lanes of traffic, plus a footpath and bikeway either side. These days the bridge links Fortitude Valley with Kangaroo Point. At a distance of 777 metres long, it is a steel cantilever bridge. Apart from its historical significance, there’s the great pub that takes its name, which is almost under its span.

The 80 metre high climb above the Brisbane River takes two and a half hours and includes commentary from your climb leader on the history of the bridge, Brisbane and local landmarks. The breath-taking views stretch from the Glass House Mountains in the north, out to Brisbane's Moreton Bay and Islands and across the Scenic Rim down to the Gold Coast region.

a Dawn Climb on a Saturday morning. Watch the sun appear over Moreton Bay and light up the city. The still of the Brisbane River and the glowing city buildings make this an awesome experience. The 360° degree views on a Day Climb take in the mountain ranges to the islands with the bustling city and meandering river below. Experience the transition between day and night by watching the sun set over the city on a popular Twilight Climb. Take a Night Climb and see the city reflections. Watch out for the full moon days as this can be particularly spectacular.

Construction of the bridge began in 1935 and it was opened on the 6th of July, 1940 by the then Governor of Queensland, Sir Leslie Orme Wilson. The bridge is named after John Douglas Story, an influential public servant and vice-chancellor of the University of Queensland. Brisbane’s Story Bridge opened for operation on July 6, 1940. This date came five years after construction commenced and fourteen years after initial recommendations for a river crossing in the Kangaroo Point vicinity. Essentially, the Story Bridge was one of the then governments’ three major public works projects, creating years of employment for many men during the Great Depression. The Story Bridge is the largest steel bridge designed, fabricated and constructed in Australia by Australians. Click on picture to enlarge.

Historical Facts. Construction took five years, one year longer than planned. Queenslander, Dr John Bradfield was Consulting Engineer. His design team prepared 600 working drawings. The Story Bridge project cost £1,492,000.(Pounds) Seven years later, the State Government sold the Story Bridge to the Brisbane City Council for £750,000. (Pounds) Sadly, four men lost their lives during construction.

Bridge Specifications. The Bridge is 1,072 metres long from the southern to northern anchor piers. The river span is 282 metres long. The Bridge’s summit is 74 metres to ground, similar in height to a 22-story building. The width of the Bridge is 24 metres, including footpaths. The river clearance at low tide is 35 metres, or 10-stories.

Construction Facts. 39,100 cubic metres were excavated for foundations. 41,250 cubic metres of concrete used 12,000 tonnes of structural steel used 1,650 tonnes of reinforcing steel used 1,500,000 rivets were used to construct the bridge. Maintenance Currently the bridge is repainted every 7 years using 17,500 litres of paint There is approximately 105,000 square metres of painted steel surfaces.

Working under pressure. One of the most amazing features of Story Bridge lies hidden under Captain Burke Park at Kangaroo Point. The southern main pier, the arched concrete structure closest to the river at Kangaroo Point, supports the weight of the southern half of the bridge. Foundations for that pier, which at the time was one of the largest in the world, reach 40 m below the park. Open excavation to that depth was not an option because water seeping through the silt and sand would have filled the hole to river level. Work on this and the four smaller piers to the south was accomplished with an ingenious pneumatic caisson technique, utilising an upright hollow reinforced concrete cylinder with an air lock at the top and a steel blade around the circumference at the bottom.

Workers inside the cylinder would excavate the silt and sand, which would be pumped outside, while the weight of the cylinder would cause the blade to work its way down. In order to prevent water entering from the river, the air inside the cylinder was pressurised. At the start of their shift, up to 10 workers would enter the air lock from the top, close the hatch, and wait as compressors pumped air into the lock. Once the air lock pressure reached that of the working chamber below, the workers would exit via another hatch and climb down a ladder to the workface. At the end of their regulated time in the working chamber, the workers would re-enter the air lock for a period of decompression before exiting. At the deepest part of the excavation, a working chamber pressure of almost four atmospheres (four times normal sea level pressure) was required. This pressure necessitated a compression time for workers of 11 minutes and a decompression time of one hour and 43 minutes. After a cup of hot coffee and a shower, both of which the contractor was obliged to supply, a worker would return to the caisson for the second half of his shift.

The health risk for caisson workers was the bends, the same condition that threatens scuba divers. Under increasing pressure, nitrogen, which makes up 79% of air, dissolves to an increasing level in blood and body tissues. If the dissolved nitrogen is allowed to come out of solution slowly in a decompression chamber, no harm is done to the worker. If, however, the pressure drops too quickly, for example if a caisson worker exits the chamber without proper decompression, the dissolved nitrogen forms bubbles in the blood and tissues, much like what happens with champagne when the cork is removed. Too rapid decompression can cause cramps, dizziness, vomiting, convulsions and paralysis. With a total of 11,000 decompressions over the year of caisson work, there were 65 cases of the bends, all of which were treated successfully in a special on-site air lock hospital.

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My thought for today. - Werner
What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. - J. Sidlow Baxter


Jackie said...

I found your posting about our Story Bridge very interesting. We see this icon on postcards and even as a backdrop on WIN news, but unfortunately too few people know about the statistics and the interesting story about it. As a teacher in regional Queensland and a born Queenslander, I will certainly bring this story to the attention of my pupils. We should be proud of what we had achieved as a young country with a small population, and I concur with your sentiments that building this bridge at that time was an amazing technical feat.

Ken said...

I drive regularly over the Story Bridge and see it as a background on Win News, but I never knew about its interesting statistics and history. Thanks for this informative posting. I am now seriously thinking of doing a Story Bridge climb.

Martin Maurer said...

I greatly enjoyed reading your posting about the Brisbane Story Bridge climb! It's awesome what you can still do at 80. I wish I will be as fit as you when I reach that age.