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Developing trade and port histories: Outports - Victor Harbor

Victor Harbor

Victor Harbor, like Port Lincoln, was considered a likely site for the capital of the new colony of South Australia. Unlike Port Lincoln it was not blessed with a splendid natural harbour, but was an open bay sheltered by several islands.  Reports on the suitability of its bay, Encounter Bay, were offered by several experts; Captain Crozier of the Royal Navy in his ship Victor considered it very suitable, and named the harbour Victor Harbor after his ship. Captain Thomas Lipson, Colonial Harbourmaster found it a 'sheltered and good...anchorage...' and English shipmaster Captain John Hart also considered it a good anchorage, but suggested the construction of a 'breakwater or jetty'. 

These favourable reports contrasted with that of BT Finniss of Colonel Wiliam Light's survey team, and with that of Light himself, who reminded the authorities that Encounter Bay was exposed to the Southern Ocean. Two ships the South Australian and the Solway had been wrecked in the bay in 1837, and a third vessel, John Pirie was stranded, but safely refloated.

Despite the opinion of Light, the Surveyor General, Captain John Hindmarsh Governor of South Australia proclaimed Victor Harbor a port on 26 June 1838.  This action, he hoped, would reinforce opinions that Victor Harbor was the best site for the capital and chief port.

Whalers were the first to move into the bay, establishing whaling stations; Robert Campbell of Sydney established a station near where the causeway to Granite Island connects with the mainland. This station was managed by Captain John Blenkinsop. The South Australian Company established its station in the lee of the Bluff. Blenkinsop's station shipped 200 tuns (casks) of whale oil in late 1837 which were the first export from South Australia. The whaling industry here, as in Port Lincoln, did not last long, as the whales were over hunted by both deep sea and bay whalers. By 1841 it was in serious decline, and had ceased altogether by the 1860s.

The settlers took up land in 1839, but no moves were made on developing the port for sometime. The development of the paddle-steamer trade on the River Murray meant an outlet to the sea was necessary. The mouth of the river was considered unsafe. Various proposals were made, and in the end the government decided on a port at Freeman's Nob, with a tramway between it and the river port of Goolwa. There was considerable consternation in Victor Harbor with this decision, but time would prove the early belief that Port Elliot as it was named, was an unsuitable harbour - it was too exposed and a number of wrecks in the late 1850s confirmed this.

Ardrossan jetty
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Arrival of 'S.S. Morialta' at Port Lincoln.
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Australian warships at Victor Harbor
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Barque Lawhill
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Boats moored at American River
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Cargo ships at Wallaroo wharf
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Channel leading into Lake Butler
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Customs House, Port MacDonnell
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Glenelg jetty 1850
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Grain ships at Ardrossan jetty
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Jetty at Murat Bay
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Jetty Port Lincoln
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