1883 Divers Removing the Falls


A photograph of the Yarra from 1883, showing divers preparing to drill into the Falls, to allow placement of explosives. (Click here to see a photo from 1858 of the Falls.

In 1879 Sir John Coode determined that a number of changes were necessary to the flow of the Yarra River, in order to prevent a repetition of the disastrous floods of 1863 and 1878. One of his recommendations was the removal of "The Falls". Melbourne Harbour Trust were responsible for the removal of the falls, and this photo shows two of the five divers who were boring holes into the rocky falls, so that dynamite would be used to blow the rocks up. The drilling operations attracted large numbers of curious spectators who watched the divers descend and ascend each day.

The Falls were an ancient basalt ridge (roughly located where Queens Bridge is today) that created a low barrier across the river, that usually stopped the seawater from mixing with the freshwater coming down the Yarra. This was important to the founding of the Settlement in 1835 as it provided the European settlers with fresh water, except when there were extremely high tides or floods. There were a number of attempts to raise the height of the ridge in order to contain the fresh water, but floods and strong tidal surges eventually broke the artificial walls away. 

The original inhabitants of the area, the indigenous people, used the Falls as a way of crossing from one side of the river to the other, and also as a natural fishing spot. 

The Falls prevented vessels from proceeding up and down the river, and once the Yan Yean supply of fresh water began to reach Melbourne in 1857 the Falls no longer served any purpose for the city. There was a wooden bridge built across the Falls in 1860, but it proved inadequate as the city grew, and the bridge was removed along with the Falls themselves in 1883, and Queen's Bridge - which replaced it - was completed in 1889.  

John Batman's only son - 8yo John Charles - drowned after slipping into the water while crossing the Falls in 1845.

All text © HotPress

Photograph by J. W. Lindt.

Notes from the State Library of Victoria tell us that "Photographer's number inscribed in image: 186."

This is a digitally retouched reproduction of the original held by the State Library of Victoria. All prints are reproduced without the HOTPRESS watermarks.

Our team of conservators have worked on a high resolution digital image in order to remove blemishes and artifacts such as stains, mould, scratches and damage caused by the handling of the original. We strive to provide authentic representations of the original work that are suitable for enlargements that retain the tones and character of the original.

Collections: Melbourne 1880-1900, Yarra

Related Items