Johnstons Bay (left centre), Glebe Island (top centre) and White Bay (right)
White and Johnstons BaysWhite and Johnsons Bays are part of a chain of bays which branch off the head of Sydney Harbour to the west of The Rocks/Millers Point peninsula. The growth of Sydney in the 19th century, combined with the lack of space for the development of shipping facilities on Sydney Cove, forced shipping companies to look east of Sydney Cove and exploit the extensive deep waters of White, Johnstons, Rozelle and Blackwattle Bays and Darling Harbour.
White Bay is named after John White, the naval surgeon aboard the First Fleet to Australia in 1788. Since the nineteenth century the bay has been used for water-based transport and industrial activities. In conjunction with adjacent Glebe Island it has been a multipurpose port, owned and controlled by the Government of New South Wales since 1901. It caters for container handling, break bulk cargo (timber, paper, motor vehicles and steel) and dry bulk cargoes (cement, sugar, gypsum, aggregates, etc.). White Bay is home to a 3-berth Cruise Ship terminal, which opened in 2013.
The derelict White Bay Power Station dominates the landscape. On the eastern side stands the magnificent ANZAC Bridge, which was completed in 1996 and is the main arterial link between the inner west and Sydney city. Below the bridge lies its predecessor, the Glebe Island Bridge, which opened in 1903.
Glebe Island, which is surrounded by White, Johnstons, and Rozelle Bays, was a major port facility in Sydney Harbour and, in association with the adjacent White Bay facility, was the primary receiving venue for imported cars and dry bulk goods in the region until 2008.. Whilst retaining its original title as an island, it has long been infilled to the shoreline of the suburb of Rozelle and connected by the Glebe Island Bridge (and its replacement the ANZAC Bridge) to Pyrmont.
The rocky outcrop known as Glebe Island was originally accessible from the Balmain shoreline only at low tide, until a causeway was laid in the 1840s. Surveyor William Wells created a subdivision for the Balmain end of the island in 1841, with four intended streets and six sections containing a total of 86 lots. The subdivision did not eventuate. From 1912, the Sydney Harbour Trust planned broadside wharfage at Balmain East and along the shores of White Bay, including Glebe Island. By 1915 Robert Saunders, the Pyrmont quarry master, had been commissioned to level Glebe Island to make it suitable for wharves. Saunders's firm dumped a great quantity of excavated ballast at the eastern end of the island for wharfage. Many cubic feet of quality dimension stone, however, were carefully cut away and almost certainly used for construction projects. Some 250 of Saunders's men were still working on the island in 1920.
Glebe Island was an early success for the Harbour trust. Wharves were built on three sides of the levelled rocky outcrop from 1912. The reconstructed fourth side was attached to the Rozelle shoreline as part of the extensive reclamation of Rozelle Bay and White Bay which had begun in the 1890s. Glebe Island became the site of a grain elevator and tall concrete silos, operated from 1921 by the Grain Elevators Board of NSW. The 1958 Australian Encyclopaedia records that the bulk wheat terminal had a capacity of 7,500,000 bushels (202,500 tonnes). During World War II much of the island was commandeered for the main United States army depot in Sydney. Bulk handling of grain continued until 1990 when the wheat terminal was transferred to Port Kembla and the wharfage remodelled for containerised cargo. Some silos were demolished, while from 1991 Australian Cement (now Cement Australia) used 16 of them as a bulk cement terminal. These are now heritage-listed.
Johnstons Bay, which sits between Glebe Island and Pyrmont, and the creek of the same name which flows into Rozelle Bay, recalls one of colonial Sydney's most notorious characters, Lieutenant Colonel George Johnston (1764-1823). It was Johnston who assumed the lieutenant-governorship and arrested Governor William Bligh on 26th January 1808 in what became known as the Rum Rebellion. A First Fleeter, Johnston was granted 100 acres (40 ha), Annandale Farm at Petersham in 1793, and a further 602 acres (244 ha) at Annandale and Bankstown in 1801.