Good on ya! – Sydney Bridge Climb

This afternoon, our small, fearless subgroup climbed up the Sydney Bridge. What, for me at least, was going to give us another vantage point on the breathtaking Sydney Harbour became an education on human ingenuity.

The three of us were impressed by the amount of preparation before the climb– waivers, a breathalyzer, metal detector and removal of anything that could fall and strike moving cars below. I was excited about climb, the the height is nothing to scoff at. Seeing the seriousness of the safety precautions, our nerves melted away.

After donning jumpsuits, harnesses, handkerchiefs, and caps, and practicing our climbing technique, we set foot on our 3 hour journey. We assumed the emphasis would be on the climb, but we were pleasantly surprised at the lecture we got while we walked.

A few facts:

  • At its highest point, the bridge is 50 meters high, roughly 164 feet
  • The bridge has 6 million rivets, and all of the original ones are still in place, thanks to the work of an inspector who checked each and every one.
  • There are two flags at the top of the bridge: the Australian and New South Wales flags. Each cost roughly $2,000 and is the height of a double decker bus.
  • At one point, discussions were had about building a new bridge because it would be more economical than upkeep. It was decided to to do the latter because of how important this original bridge is for tourism and a regional identity.
  • 16 people fell off the bridge and died during construction due to the force of impact hitting the water. In the 1930s, there were no harnesses or any semblance of the precautions we took today. Only one person fell off and survived because he threw his tool belt into the water to break it up, and entered the water with his body straight as a board. The impact was enough to push his shoes up his thigh, and the sole of one shoe was lodged into his heel. After surgery and a couple of weeks of recover, the dedicated worker returned to work.

We marveled at how safe we felt throughout our trek. When we were done, we felt exhausted but full from the fresh air, the sun, the views, and the history. The whole group starts our day tomorrow with a tour of the Sydney Opera House, visible from the picture below.

<<——- at (or very close to) the bridge’s apex


Barbara Thelamour

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Arrival in Sydney

We are thrilled to have arrived in Sydney, our first destination in Australia! We have spent a fascinating year reading about many aspects of Australian culture, under the theme of “Isolation and Connection: Australia in the Globalizing World.” Australia has been a rich subject of inquiry because of its image as an isolated location and nation that is nevertheless deeply connected to the contemporary globalized world through its history of colonialism as well as its current economic and political significance in the region. Australia’s position as a kind of experiment in nation-building, given its past as a settler colony and geographic remoteness from the “Western” world, has offered a spectacular field for study of concepts of nationhood, belonging, and cultural and environmental citizenship.

Our exploration has run from the early migration of indigenous peoples, through Australia’s history of modern colonization and nationalization, to narratives of immigration, assimilation, and white nationalism, leading us to investigate various concepts of Australian nationhood and proposals for the future construction of Australian national identity. We’ve looked specifically at the history and conditions for Aboriginals and multiethnic populations—often finding discomfiting resonances with U.S. national history—including the tragedy of the “Stolen Generation,” disparities in medical conditions, the problems of youth in the criminal justice system, the relationship between minority religions and social cohesion, and representations of minority populations in cinema. We’ve considered the continent’s unique biodiversity, as well as the current threats of climate change in practical terms and as they affect personal and national identity.

Our reading and conversations have opened our eyes to a part of the world about which many of us have had little to no knowledge before this year. We are eager now to test what we have learned against the impressions and practical realities of Australia, both cosmopolitan and in the outback.

We arrived this morning after a long journey and began to get a sense of the city, starting with the iconic Opera House across the bay. We strolled through the Royal Botanic Gardens nearby, to which we will return. We were struck by the large, boldly nonchalant white ibises we saw throughout the grounds; evidently they are also called trash turkeys. We could see why, as we watched them scuffle over crumbs left on café tables. It is a telling sign of alterations to the ecosystem that apparently they live in large numbers in the city but their population has declined in the wild.



We also took in Sydney’s aquarium, where we were treated to many species of sea life from Australia’s waters, ranging from large dugongs, related to the manatee, to spectacularly graceful rays, as well as seahorses, jellyfish, and anemones.

We look forward to the coming days.

Deb Shostak

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