Detouring to Hobart on our flight to Launceston back in 1977 was only the beginning of our adventure. It would be another eight hours before we finally arrived at our destination. The issue for us that day was the fact that the Tasman Bridge was closed. When I lived in Hobart in 1958/59 there was only a pontoon bridge across the Derwent. I didn’t like it because it swayed if the wind was strong and if the tides were high or the weather rough, waves would splash over the sides. The new bridge was opened in 1964 and though I had been to Hobart on a number of occasions (by road from Launceston) I had never driven over it.
Two years previously, on the 5th January 1975 the whole country was shocked to hear that the bulk ore carrier, the Lake Illawarra, crashed into several pylons on the Tasman Bridge and brought a large section down. Fortunately because it was a Sunday night there were few cars on the bridge. However, seven crew members died and five people in cars drove over the edge of the bridge and were killed. The toll could have been worse but for local people in small craft. In true Dunkirk style they braved the falling masonry, live wires and a torrent of water from a broken main above them and heroically saved many on board the carrier before it sank. How marvellous is the remarkable, unflinching human spirit that will brave all to save another human being.
The bridge is the main link between the airport on the east side of the Derwent River and Hobart on the west. Thirty percent of Hobartians lived on the east side. With the bridge down a fifteen minute commute turned into a fifty Kilometre, ninety minute trek via the crossing at Bridgewater. We were learning what the people of that southern city had experienced day after day for the previous two years. It took time to find a suitable bus and because of the distance it was six o’clock at night before we finally boarded.
We were given a free cup of tea and biscuit. There was no water to drink. (It would be another decade before bottled water was on the market) and next to nothing to eat at the little Kiosk which shut long before our bus arrived. The bus seemed to bounce the whole sixty kilometres up the foggy and snaking B31 to Jericho before reaching the main Highway. It was still foggy almost all of the further 130kms to Launceston but we finally arrived about nine thirty at night thankful to have arrived at last.
I did not hear anyone complain throughout the ordeal, it had been a really scary plane flight for some and a trial to wait around for others. However, I’m sure everyone realized it could have been so much worse.
Two cars stop just in time