Thursday, 25 February 2010

Pyrmont, Waterfront Park

These three enormous rusted steel spheres have been installed in Waterfront Park, in the inner west suburb of Pyrmont. This area was once used by CSR Limited for a major sugar mill, sugar refinery and associated industries. Over the years, the company diversified operations into rum distillery, building products and eventually mining. This park is located on the site of the former CSR factory which was used for the production and storage of Caneite fibre board, a by-product from the crushing of sugar cane and Hardboard, made from eucalypt and other hardwood chips. These spheres were Digesters used to produce Hardboard. The wood chips were expanded using high pressure steam, releasing the natural lignins in the wood that turned them into fibre that were pressed into boards for use as building material. The spheres were salvaged from the factory before demolition and used as historical interpretive elements in the park.

33 comments:

  1. Thanks for the close up and the info.. They look so out of place, as if they were pieces of a spacecraft left behind.. Very apocalyptic..

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  2. Amazing spheres! It was very clever keeping them. Great shot!

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  3. This is a very interesting post - I have never seen anything like these spheres!

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  4. I agree with everyone. I love that they are so interesting and unusual. Appreciative of the information that you gave us. Saved me from having to ask! I really want to come to Austrailia!!

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  5. They look great. I'd like to have one in my back garden.

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  6. They look like huge floating mines. Rather scary things!

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  7. Terrific photo, Jim. Great research, too. I never came across either of those, being as focussed on rum as i was!!

    I love how the toes became pulpy and how the boys maybe never reached "maturity".

    Great stuff!!

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  8. These are like my couple of chimneys few days ago. It is wise to preserve spectacular devices and it is funny to integrate them in this park.

    I'll post your bench tomorrow (Feb 25).

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  9. Those are quite unusual and fun to see. They really stand out against the shoreline.

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  10. I like these, they look like giant mangoesteen :)

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  11. they certainly are a "one of a kind" installation. :)

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  12. Jacob, it's interesting that you say that because my initial thought too was that they might have been some sort of floating mine, or maybe something else related to the shipping that took place in the area. It's only when Julie suggested that they might have been rum vats, that I investigated further and found out that they actually were caneite vats.

    Thanks for your contribution Julie. You led me down the right track. Good Sydney teamwork in action. :)

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  13. Have I said I'm fan of outdoor art? Only once or twice, I can hear you say. :)

    But what I love more is when industrial objects are recycled for art.

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  14. So thats what you two were talking about. Interesting looking beasts, esp like the rusted red.

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  15. At first look I thought they were submersibles of some kind .. Still they look pretty neat

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  16. Rather interesting to see and learn that there are such large "instruments" involved while creating small pieces of sugar.

    A wonderful Thursday for you.

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  17. Robert, they were actually used after the sugar was extracted. The remaining cane was chopped up and mixed with other products in these vats. The mixture was then pressed into particle boards to be used in the building of houses, kitchen cabinets, shop fixtures etc.

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  18. Thanks for the information. This is a great post because it teaches us about your country.

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  19. I had noticed those in an earlier post and wondered what they were.

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  20. Amazing what can be used to make parks interesting these days.

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  21. How good that they were saved and given a new life!

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  22. What a revelation, that you can make particle board from sugarcane!

    So glad they saved these dramatic containers.

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  23. Wow, amazing objects, they look like giant mines used in the war to protect the channel. But, yes they were used more peaceful ... they just look great !

    Erwin.

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  24. Interesting sphere. They do seem to be blocking the view but perhaps that is just due to the angle of your shot and perhaps the view is visible from other vantage points.

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  25. Gerald, I agree that it looks like they block the view from this angle but they only take up a small part of this park. The park is actually terraced down to the water and has lots of excellent picnic spots and vantage points.

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  26. wild looking things! Very cool..thanks!

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  27. I was the last Production Manager at the Cane-ite factory. The spheres were DIGESTERS used for making HARDBOARD, and were not used for Cane-ite or Sugar refining. Cane-ite production (wet-process low density fibre-board originally made from Cane bagasse then from Pine wood chips) ceased in 1991, and did not require Digesters, being made from mainly wood pulp (made from the chips) and water (in a process very much like paper manufacture).

    However, originally the factory made both Hardboard (like Masonite or Hardiplank material – is a wet-process High density fibreboard made from eucalypt and other hardwood chips) and Cane-ite. These were made on different levels of the factory. From memory the Cane-ite was made on level 2 and the Hardboard on level 1, with the vats of “stock” (the wood pulp/water mixture) and white water (the waste water squeezed from the Cane-ite and hardboard) on the ground floor.

    The Hardboard production stopped back in the 1950’s or 60’s, well before my time (or even before I was born). Hardboard doesn’t actually have any added glues – it uses the natural lignins that are in the wood, by processing a wet mulch (“mat”) of the wood fibre under very high pressure and temperature (the process is unchanged to this day – eg up at the Masonite plant at Raymond Terrace). The role of the Spherical Digesters was crucial in releasing the lignins from the hardwood chips and in converting the chips to fibre (Most “modern” hardboard technology doesn’t use this system any more, however – see below).

    Chips were put into the Digesters, they were filled up with high pressure steam (hence the need for them to be spherical ie very strong pressure vessels) and then, suddenly, the pressure was released. This caused a massive and rapid expansion of the chips which pretty much “blew them up”, turning them into fibre and releasing the lignin into suspension in the water (that water had condensed come from the steam).

    You can tell the spheres are very old by the fact they are riveted, not welded. I think this makes them from the 1940’s or even earlier. These days, I think hardboard is made using pressurized refiners (not digesters), which mechanically grind up the wood-chips to fibre under pressure. For more information see http://www.epa.gov/ttn/chief/ap42/ch10/final/c10s0604.pdf .

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    Replies
    1. I am a new resident of Sugardock which overlooks Waterfront Park.

      I was told that the Steel Balls were found at the bottom of the harbour and that they were used to crush sugar cane in the earlier part of the 1900's. A good story for the visitors anyway.

      Thanks for the true story.

      On the date the balls were manufactured, I suggest that they are probably older than the 1940s as welding techniques had improved remarkably by the 1940s.

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  28. I was the last Production Manager at the Cane-ite factory. The spheres were DIGESTERS used for making HARDBOARD, and were not used for Cane-ite or Sugar refining. Cane-ite production (wet-process low density fibre-board originally made from Cane bagasse then from Pine wood chips) ceased in 1991, and did not require Digesters. The factory originally made both Hardboard (like Masonite) - made from eucalypt and other hardwood chips, and Cane-ite. The Hardboard production stopped back in the 1950’s or 60’s. Hardboard doesn’t have any added glues – it uses the natural lignins that are in the wood, by processing a wet mulch (“mat”) of the wood fibre under very high pressure and temperature. Chips were put into the Digesters, which were then filled up with high pressure steam, and then, suddenly, the pressure was released. This caused a massive and rapid expansion of the chips which pretty much “blew them up”, turning them into fibre and releasing the lignin into suspension. These days, I think hardboard is made using pressurized refiners (not digesters), which mechanically grind up the wood-chips to fibre under pressure. For more information see http://www.epa.gov/ttn/chief/ap42/ch10/final/c10s0604.pdf

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  29. Thanks, Juel B. I'll fix up my post with your info.

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