These remarkable Adastra
aerial photographs come from the collection of Madeline and Warren
Ide. Madeline was a photographic processor and printer with Adastra
from 1966 until 1976 while Warren was a photogrammetrist with
Adastra from 1956 until 1976. The majority of the photographs
were taken before Warren joined the company and he has no record
of why or for whom they were taken. Although Sydney Airport features
prominently in these photographs, it seems likely that the primary
subject of all but two of them was the nearby Cooks River. It
is probably no coincidence that a works programme to free up more
land for Sydney Airport by redirecting Cooks River took place
from 1947 until 1953.
The following reference comes from the website of the Canterbury
In 1946, the
Cooks River Improvement Act was passed, its primary aim
being to control flows and prevent degradation of the banks.
It gave control of the lower reaches of Cooks River (from
Tempe to Canterbury Road) to the NSW Public Works Department
for flood mitigation and river diversion works. The river
was dredged, “swamps” were reclaimed, and the banks of the
lower river were strengthened with iron sheet piling. These
works reduced dry weather flow, but, conversely, during
wet weather, they caused major flood damage. “The solutions
chosen for the river’s problems were engineering ones which
had the effect of providing a more efficient stormwater
drain for the urbanised Cooks River Valley”. Between 1947
and 1955, the Alexandra Canal and lower reaches of the river
were diverted 1.6 kilometres west of the natural outlet
to allow for the reclamation of the large mangrove and saltmarsh
basin at the mouth of Cooks River to enlarge Sydney Airport.
This area had been relatively isolated from development,
and the tidal flats “were the summer home of great numbers
of migrating waders, from their far northern breeding grounds”.
The works “embraced old works and landmarks closely associated
with the early history of Sydney’s water supply and sewerage,
including the pump-house and adjacent supply ponds for the
Botany Swamps water supply, and the sites of the one-time
Botany and Rockdale sewage farms”.
Therefore, it would seem that the sequence of photographs from 1946
to 1953 was taken for the New South Wales Public Works Department
to record the progress of the redirection of Cooks River.
It is known that Adastra had only Eagle IX cameras during the fifties
and Warren recognises the Eagle IX format in these photographs.
The Eagle IX had a nominal focal length of 6 inches and by comparing
their scale with the Sydney street directory, he was able to calculate
that they were all flown at approximately 9 000 feet.
The 1969 photograph may have been taken to record progress on the
construction of Sydney's new International Terminal which was opened
in 1970. The construction site is the light area at top left.
The reason for the 1975 photograph is less clear although it appears
to show reclamation work adjacent to the existing Runway 16/34 which
projects into Botany Bay. A parallel Runway 16L/34R now exists on
this site but it was not opened until 1992.
Warren believes that the 1969 and 1975 photographs were taken with
a Wild RC8 camera fitted with a 6 inch (152mm) lens and also flown
at 9 000 feet.
So, while these photographs may have been taken for different reasons,
they provide a very useful chronological overview of the development
of Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport.
If any reader can shed further light on these photographs, please
contact the webmaster.
Similarly, if any reader can fill any gaps in the sequence we will
be very pleased to hear from you.
Special thanks to Warren Ide for saving these historic photographs
and for sharing them with us.