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Developing trade and port histories: Outports - Victor Harbor continued

Victor Harbor continued 

In 1861 the decision was made to extend the tramway to Victor Harbor and to develop the harbour in the lee of Granite Island. Prior to this period the cutters and ketches which had serviced the community had beached at low tide to facilitate loading and unloading; then in 1854 a small jetty was built beneath the Bluff. In 1857 Captain Bloomfield Douglas, Colonial Harbourmaster was commissioned to do an accurate survey, noting the best places for moorings to be placed.

By 1862 something better was wanted and a report was made on the requirements for a jetty and other cargo handling facilities. Work began in July 1862 for a jetty and pier. There were difficulties and delays as work proceeded across the bay due to the limestone reef. The contractor Mr Gouge declared himself bankrupt, but the government insisted on the work going ahead. The jetty was completed by June 1864 and the tramway extension to Victor Harbor was opened on 4 August. This time the port was defined by the eastward side of Granite Island, the jetty itself and a stretch of the mainland:  it was named Port Victor. The jetty was named the Victoria Pier:  it was described as 'entirely constructed of colonial gum. The pier consists of 89 bays each 20 ft. long, making a total length of 1,780 ft. Each bay is supported by 3 piles at each end.....The erection of the pier took nearly two years and cost about 8,800 pounds. The railway continues up to the end of the jetty where cranes are to be placed for loading and unloading cargo.' Extensions to this jetty were completed in 1875. It was continued across to Granite Island becoming the current causeway, and continued along the eastern side of the island to a wharf, which in time became known as the Working Jetty. This still did not solve the problems at Port Victor as larger vessels could not tie up to the Working Jetty. Goods still needed to be lightered out to these ships at their anchorage. The jetty was used predominantly by the smaller coasting vessels.

Again improvements of the port facilities were called for. Despite the establishment of the port of Morgan on the Northwest Bend of the River Murray, with a direct railway line from there to Port Adelaide which took a good proportion of the river trade away from Goolwa and Victor Harbor, there were still sufficient goods coming from the lower reaches of the river and from the adjacent districts, to warrant further extensions at Victor Harbor. The possibility of a canal from Goolwa to Victor Harbor was discussed, but discarded. By 1881 a breakwater and inside this a screw pile jetty had been constructed.  The granite for the breakwater was blasted from Granite Island in seven blasts totalling 192,000 tons. For the screw pile jetty, holes were blasted into the limestone, and the special piles were then screwed down further into the rock. The blast holes were then filled with concrete. These latest harbour works were among the largest undertaken by the government to that time and cost 122,171 pounds. The first vessel to use the new jetty was SS Penola, on 3 November 1881. She loaded 260 bales of wool in five hours, a clear indication of the value of the facilities. Shortly after the horse tramway was converted to a steam railway.

However Victor Harbor, the port, had reached its peak, and after this date entered a steady decline. The railways from Morgan and Milang which delivered the paddle-steamers' cargo directly to the wharves at Port Adelaide, increasingly took trade away from the port. Cargo did still enter and leave the port - it was not yet waning. The Western Australian gold rush in the 1890s required timber for mine props, and Broken Hill Proprietary Ltd also used local timber. Telegraph poles and railway sleepers were exported, more telegraph poles were imported and large cylinders for the bridge under construction at Murray Bridge were brought from Port Adelaide, taken to Goolwa by railway and then by paddle-steamer to the bridge works. Between 1868-1919, 2314 ships loaded cargo at Port Victor; of these 177 were overseas vessels. 

The railway had other advantages for Victor Harbor. It brought tourists and holiday makers. It would become the state's premier holiday resort, particularly for the summer season and a number of grand mansions, and boarding houses were built.

The port's name, Port Victor, was changed back to Victor Harbor in 1921. There would no longer be the need for confusion with Port Victoria on Yorke Peninsula.  It also reflected that there was no longer a distinction between Victor Harbor, and Port Victor.

Victor Harbor still had a last fling as a harbour however. In 1923 several ships from the Royal Australian Navy visited, and in March 1924 the British battleship HMS Hood, together with six other Royal Navy vessels anchored in Encounter Bay; '....irrefutable proof of the national excellence of Victor Harbor as a deep seaport.' There was a further flurry in the 1930s when Royal Australian Navy vessels visited. But Victor's days as a working port were over. The final blow was when the lifeboat and rocket equipment were removed in 1935 as part of an overall running down of South Australia's lifesaving services.

Further reading:

Strempel, AA and Tolley, JC The story of Victor Harbor Victor Harbor Council, 1965

Page, Michael  Victor Harbor:  from pioneer port to seaside resort.  Victor Harbor, District Council of Victor Harbor, 1987.

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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