During its prime, the SS Ayrfield was a steam cargo vessel that even saw action in World War II. But now, the ship’s decaying remnants have been reimagined as the famous Floating Forest of Homebush Bay.
The area of Homebush Bay located along Sydney’s Parramatta River has an interesting past. It was once a thriving industrial zone during the 20th century, but underwent significant land reclamation when industrial activities decreased. Unfortunately, this led to the Bay becoming a dumping site for waste, broken ships, and toxic industrial waste. Even chemical manufacturer Union Carbide produced Agent Orange at Homebush Bay during its prime, which gained notoriety during the Vietnam War. The Bay became contaminated with dioxin and other chemicals, resulting in a fishing ban being enforced in most of Sydney Harbor. Despite this history, the Floating Forest remains a prominent landmark in Homebush Bay. Marc Dalmulder took the photo credit.
Homebush Bay has undergone a remarkable makeover from a place of intense industrial activity to an area that is now a flourishing hub of commercial and residential development. The credit goes to the concerted efforts made towards revitalizing the region since the 1980s. The 2000 Olympic games in Sydney provided a major boost to the economy of the area, which has seen impressive growth ever since. To restore the natural beauty of the bay that existed before industrialization, mangrove wetlands and saltmarshes were revived. Today, Homebush Bay is a favourite destination for parks and recreational activities.
The bay is home to a bunch of shipwrecks that serve as a testament to its fascinating past. One of the most intriguing relics is the SS Ayrfield, whose rusty shell has been transformed into the renowned ‘Floating Forest’, a sought-after destination in Homebush Bay. The Ayrfield was built in 1911 by the Greenock and Grangemouth Dockyard Co. as the Corrimal and was primarily utilized for transporting goods between Sydney and Newcastle. However, during World War II, it was repurposed to provide supplies to allied troops stationed in the Pacific region.
The ship’s history is quite extensive and it even served during World War II. It was later sold to R.W. Miller in 1951 and converted into a collier, with its name being changed to Ayrfield. For more than two decades, it was utilized to transport coal from Newcastle to Miller’s terminal in Blackwattle Bay. However, after retiring the vessel in 1972, it was sent to Homebush Bay with the intention of dismantling it at the ship-breaking yard. Unfortunately, the work stopped, and the ship’s skeleton was left to decay along with other abandoned shipwrecks. Nevertheless, despite years of neglect, the Ayrfield has managed to stand out in the bay due to the resilient mangrove trees that now envelop it. The vegetation growing over the rustic hull provides a striking contrast to the peaceful environment of the bay, making it a fascinating and one-of-a-kind spectacle.
The Homebush shoreline is graced by a corroded shipwreck, which has transformed into an intriguing historic artifact. Despite being engulfed by mangrove trees and weathered by natural forces, the vessel still draws tourists to the area and is a favored subject for photographers. Its extraordinary presence has led to the creation of a designated Shipwreck Lookout. Most importantly, the Ayrfield, which has endured for more than a hundred years, serves as a touching reminder of times past and is sure to enchant future generations.