Ken Warby and SPIRIT OF AUSTRALIA: Still the world record holder, 40 years later

<em>Spirit of Australia</em> driven by Ken Warby on Blowering Dam, 1977. ANMM Collection ANMS1163[291], reproduced courtesy of Graeme Andrews.

Spirit of Australia driven by Ken Warby on Blowering Dam, 1977. ANMM Collection ANMS1163[291], reproduced courtesy of Graeme Andrews.

On 20 November 1977, Ken Warby set the world water speed record, piloting his wooden jet-powered boat, Spirit of Australia, into the history books. Warby’s home-made wooden hydroplane reached speeds of 464.44 km/h, breaking the previous ten-year-old record of 458.98 km/h held by American Lee Taylor. The current record of 511.11 km/h (317.68 mi/h) was recorded by Warby on the 8th of October 1978, but, Warby first claimed the water speed record 40 years ago today.

But where Lee Taylor’s record attempt had cost close to $1 million in 1967, Warby had built his hydroplane in a suburban backyard…with a military-surplus jet engine that cost $65!

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Sydney Harbour Bridge turns 80

Today, the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge celebrates its 80th birthday!

Officially opened on 19 March 1932, the construction of this major engineering feat commenced in 1923. ‘The giant coat-hanger’, as it is affectionately known, took 1,300 men to build it, using six million rivets and 53,000 tonnes of steel.

Below are some images from our collection that document the construction of the bridge. Click on the images for more information from our eMuseum.

MV Port Alma of London with Sydney Habour Bridge underconstruction in background

MV Port Alma of London. Sydney Harbour 23 February 1930. Photographer: Frederick Garner Wilkinson

Parrakoola of Goteborg with Sydney Harbour Bridge under construction in background

Parrakoola of Goteborg. Sydney 20 April 1930. Photographer: Frederick Garner Wilkinson

Dutch cruiser HNLMS Java with Sydney Harbour Bridge under construction in backround

Postcard of Dutch cruiser HNLMS Java. Sydney 1930.

Postcard of SS Pakeha with Sydney Harbour Bridge under construction.

Postcard of SS Pakeha. Sydney 25 December 1930.

Rowboat on Sydney Harbour with Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background

Rowboat on Sydney Harbour. Early 20th century. Photographer: William James Hall

For those with a keen interest, we have a great book available  in our online store called Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge, written by John Nicholson.

Book cover of Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge by John Nicholson