Tasman bridge view from Rose Bay near Hobart, Tasmania Australia

When the Bridge Fell

Oct 19

Not everyone gets the facts right, when they tell the story. What they do know is on a terrible day in 1975 a freighter hit the Tasman Bridge. Large sections of it fell away and twelve people died.

There was an extraordinary community response, but there was a long-term problem. In a city built on intimate connections between people, the commute between the eastern and western shores went from a few minutes to an hour and a half.

Instead of importing a solution, Bob Clifford of the Sullivans Cove Ferry Company found a way to take more than nine million people across the Derwent. He learned so much, in the process, that he began designing faster ferries. Incat was born. In a few years, the world had its first wave-piercing catamaran.

In our interviews you talked about how it feels, when you’re visiting Japan and Ireland, to see Incat ships.

You told similar stories of the first Greens party in the world, rock lobster farming, the first humidicrib to support premature babies, Colony 47, Antarctic and marine research, the humble record changer, a pioneering attitude toward gambling and casinos, and the first synagogue, theatre, and brewery in Australia. Of course, there’s MONA.

You might not own a pair of Blunnies, but you know that a coachbuilder named John arrived here in the 19th Century with his wife Eliza and began designing and manufacturing boots on Liverpool Street. And even if you have no idea what permaculture means, you know the idea came to life here, and that the world is healthier for it.

Over time, we have developed a culture of invention. It’s too expensive to import solutions, every time we want or need something. Many of you see Hobart as a workshop: a compact community to test and launch new ideas. The University of Tasmania’s new STEM centre in the CBD can be a part of this.

We can talk about Hobart abstractly, with adjectives. We heard a lot of them in our interviews. But we don’t want to be defensive and we don’t want to boast. One of the best ways to talk about and think about this place is by focusing on what we have created and given to the world.

What are your favourite Hobart inventions? What’s a problem you could solve with your talents, resources, and networks?