When it comes to tours, the Tank Stream Tour is one that only a few gain access to each year (only 160 across the day of our tour). Previously, the Sydney Living Museum and Sydney Water opened spaces via a ballot system. This year, in conjunction with the Sydney Open, tickets went on sale to the general public. They sold out faster than a One Direction tour! Mere minutes and they were gone. Thanks to my constant refreshing and stalking of the website, KidBucketList was fortunate to secure two tickets – just! The only problem? Our kids were too young to attend (they need to be at least 12). We turned it into a date night – during the day!
You’re probably wondering why I was so excited. You see, the Tank Stream Tour provides an up close look at what was the original lifeblood of the first European colony here in Australia. Now covered by skyscrapers, climbing under the city into the drain to view the original stream is a priceless experience.
The tour takes you along 60 metres of the tunnel that was built by convicts and stonemasons. We arrived right on time and were kited out in a harness, hard hat (with light) and gumboots. Our tour started with a short video that took us back in time. 10 or so minutes later and we were climbing down a ladder into the tank stream.
We were blessed to have Sydney Water’s archaeologist Yvonne Kaiser-Glass guide us on our tour. She was a font of knowledge and was able to show us all the special marks and details within the tank stream that we missed with a casual glance. We were able to see and touch the original pick marks left by convicts during the 1791 drought, stonemason signatures and albino crickets. I think my mouth hung open with fascination much of the time.
So what originally fed the stream? We learned that there was once swamp land where Hyde Park is today. It was drained back in 1850. Water also seeped through the sandstone from a spring that was in Spring Street. Unfortunately, many of the original sources have now been diverted by undercover car parks. The stream is now largely fed by storm water.
Before European settlement the Tank Stream was used by the Gadigal people. Excavations of the area have uncovered flake stone artifacts made from water-worn pebbles. Yvonne provided us with one to have a look at which was very interesting. It was used as the water supply for the European colony before becoming heavily polluted and blocked off.
On our tour I soon discovered that the Tank Stream isn’t very high. Being almost 6ft high did mean that I needed to walk with my head ducked most of the time. What’s a little discomfort when you are on a once in a life time adventure, right? Want to go? I suggest you sign up to Sydney Living Museum’s newsletter so you know just when they will go on sale (see the bottom of their homepage)
You can read more about the Tank Stream via their online brochure here.