Thursday, 20 February 2014

Watching a Demolition

So it's not everyday you get to witness the demolition of a 200 metre tall smoke stack in your hometown. But today I had the privilege and it was quite a spectacle. Everyone who wasn't at work at the time and even those at work flocked to many sites, hilltops and the mountains to watch the stack come down. I watched it from a far off vantage point, up at a look-out on the mountain escarpment.

The stack is what remains of a copper ore processing facility and was built in 1965 which was the height of industrial activity in Port Kembla, mostly dominated by a large steel plant. All throughout it's life the region has dealt with pollution concerns. In fact, in a brilliantly naive decision, the facility was built next to a public school. The solution once awareness was greater to install toxin monitors and alarms. The generation who saw it built and who had a hand in it's construction are still around. While most are proud of the great industrious work they did, it is hard to ignore the 40 year contribution of pollution in the region. As I was growing up in the 80's and 90's there were constantly news articles about pollution and acid rain in the region. The surrounding region would be covered by a film of fine metallic dust high in lead and other toxins.
The plant finally closed in 2003 and the facility has remained dormant since. Application for demoltion was sought in 2010 and demolition was postponed until asbestos could be safely removed before demolition.

It was amazing that everyone was out to see the event. I heard that all the nearby beaches and coastline was full of onlookers. Even my vantage point, a small tucked away look-out, was full of other like-minded people. There were retirees, couples and families all out to see this great event.

The aspect that astounded me most is how long it took to fall. I could have sworn the initial explosion (noticed by sight) happened 4 or 5 seconds before a noticeable lean in the stack. It came down very slowly and only left a small dust plume. I was probably about 10 km away from the tower and the sounds of the explosions had a significant delay which was quite hilarious in it's own right. A little lesson in relativity.

There were several helicopters and planes filming the event and here is footage taken by Channel 7 Sydney:


  1. How will anyone find their way around the Illawarra without the stack to guide them? It was like a lighthouse for lost people.

  2. Is that how Port Kembla ended up like that? ;)

    Navigating in the Illawarra is simpler than that. Mountains: west, ocean:east. Extrapolate the rest.