Monday, December 26, 2011

Crossing the bridge: Phillip Island

After living on King Island (located on the western side of Bass Strait, midway between Tasmania and Victoria) where the only way on and off the island is by plane, the fact that Phillip Island has a bridge is a big plus.

Built in 1969, at a cost of 3.25 million, this 650 m long concrete and steel structure spans a stretch of water known as the Eastern Passage.

George Bass discovered this passage in 1798. The channel, which is closer to San Remo than Phillip Island, is 7 to 8 m deep at low water, but up to 18 m at its deepest point. The water tends to rush through the passage, at a speed of 9 knots.

But back to the bridge. As it has only two lanes (extending to three very narrow lanes during major events such as the Motorcycle Grand Prix) traffic builds up over the Christmas and New Year holiday period. Several poorly designed roundabouts, as well as the bridge, mean that the 65,000 people driving onto the island yesterday and today often experience major hold-ups of traffic. Boxing Day is usually the worst day, traffic-wise.

A couple of years ago we had a near head-on collision midway across the bridge, when a man driving towards us had a seizure and swerved onto our side of the road. It was a terrifying moment and it was only Doug's quick reaction that saved us. Consequently, we are now always on high alert when crossing the bridge.

Even so, I love the bridge and its symbolism of entering a special place -- an emerald green island surrounded by glittering blue sea.

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