marcus westbury

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Amazing video of the demolition of Newcastle’s BHP Steelworks

September 27th, 2009 by marcus

Wandering around 798 — the industrial scale arts and cultural district of Beijing — yesterday, my old friend Shannon Bufton asked whatever happened to the former BHP site in Newcastle. Then i happened across this video via facebook today courtesy of Bob Cook who worked at the BHP for many years and is now a councillor on Newcastle City Council. It answers the question in a most powerful way.

Perhaps Tribute to Men & Women of Steel is only emotional for those of us who grew up in the shadow of the BHP steelworks but i really felt it when i saw this.

Bob has some other great videos at the Newcastle Industrial Heritage Association site.

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7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Stilgherrian Sep 28, 2009 at 6:43 am

    One thing which always strikes me about stories and images of industrial decline is the sheer physical scale of everything. That must surely contribute to the powerful emotions people feel when it all comes to an end.

    Steelmaking in particular is about carving rock out of the very Earth itself, melting it in primal fire and forging it into new things — and in the great age of steam they were things like steam locomotives, again filled with primal fire and hissing and breathing like a dragon.

    Now the grand creations of our world are things like the massive infrastructure of Google data centres and optical fibre cables — but they’re almost invisible. Will we feel the same primal emotions when a data centre is turned off?

  • 2 marcus Sep 28, 2009 at 7:05 am

    No, probably not.

    Actually my friend Dan Hill of City of Sound http://www.cityofsound.com is a guy you should chat with about some of this stuff. His interest cross eclecticly between architecture, IT, urban planning etc and one his recurring themes is that you can’t actually see what cities do anymore. An office buildings is an office building is an office building so much ot the distinctiveness of places and the connections between what they make and how they feel are broken.

    He is very into mixing architecture and data visualisation as a means to deal with this — i’m not 100% sure that always works but it’s a good start — but it’s a really interesting question.

    As for the scale of the old BHP site — it was enormous. I still find it’s absence a strange hole in the skyline of Newcastle. I still find myself sitting by the harbour and pining for the huge plumes of fire that used to shoot into the night. I mean, it was probably killing us but man it looked good.

  • 3 Stilgherrian Sep 28, 2009 at 8:29 am

    Thanks for the linkage, Marcus.

    As it happens, I’ve occasionally toyed with the idea of a TV/video program somehow conveying the awe and scale of the modern information age — not about the technology per se but how it’s connecting humans — using various visualisations to help people get their heads around it. Now those thoughts are back in my head. Hmmm…

  • 4 Dave Sag Sep 28, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    That was beautiful. When solar power is just that little bit cheaper we can look forward to seeing similar video of some old coal-fired power stations crashing down too. Now that would be a wonderful sight.

  • [...] have set the city backwards. Newcastle was once home to Australia’s largest steelworks (see here for a awesome but sad video of it being blown ¬†up) and industries like shipbuilding that there isn’t a lot of left in Australia anymore. Its [...]

  • 6 Roland 27704 May 2, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    I did a tour of the works in June ’99 and used four rolls of slide film without an eyebrow raised. Driving past the site, especially at night when they were flaring off coke ovens or blast furnace gas was impressive even for one with a great contempt of “The Company”. It was a place that generated great emotions, as you were inside a great machine with massive forces, the main motor at #2 Bloom Mill was 250,000 hp, flicking twin 1 metre plus diameter shafts around back and fourth as if they were match sticks.

  • 7 Brian Carter Jul 19, 2012 at 7:31 am

    I grew up part of my childhood on the Central Coast and knew of the Steel Works, I even toured the Aluminium smelter at Tomago. Now it is nice to say how great it is that we are not producing as much green house gasses now due to the demise of the smelter industry here, but think about this… We want steel and aluminium and some one has to produce it, so personally I would have preferred it here with regulation on the amount of pollution they are permitted than in a developing country where it is not really regulated at all.

    Carbon tax is a golden goose if only the government would see and use it as such for the good of all Australians. We now have a carbon tax, countries we import from, most if any, do not have acarbon tax. If we want to level the playing field without upsetting Free Trade Agreements maybe the government should USE the carbon tax to level said playing field. It cost a lot of money to be a developed country, OH&S costs money… I personally believe we should place carbon tax on imported goods, that way it would level the playing field and allow local made products to compete (note I did not say dominate) with the imported products. Work out how much carbon would be produced if it were made here, add the carbon of the freight etc, then double or tripple the number.
    Suddenly you have a win for the budget of the government of the day and a win for manufacturing here. Also it would encourage the place of origin of our imported goods to implement a carbon tax and hence HELP level the playing field.

    What will we tell our children and grand children why we stopped being a self sufficient country and started to rely on others, not to mention allowed the government to see what was once the peoples infrastructure, selling it to Australians and overseas… I hate the double dipping, they buid things with our taxes only to sell them to claim a surplus and bonuses.