Port Elizabeth of Yore: How Passengers were Loaded onto Ships

Without proper quays until the construction of the Charl Malan quay in 1933, several extemporised solutions were devised to cater for loading/offloading passengers both human and non-human. 

This blog is a pictorial presentation of how the challenges were addressed. 

Main picture: Passengers being lowered in basket lift

Human passengers

Initially when the 1820 Settlers arrived in Algoa Bay, the ships had to anchor in the roadstead. The passengers would then clamber down into skiffs and when close to the shore, they were carried on the shoulders of the sailors aboard the HMS Menai commanded by Moresby.

Later on this role was fulfilled by the Mfengu beach labourers. A much later innovation was the introduction of wicker baskets shown below.

Passengers being lowered in basket lift

Lady leaving after being lowered in basket lift


Passengers being lowered in basket lift


Using a basket to lift passengers from the surf boats to the quay


Example of the wicker basket used to load and offload passengers from the ships


The wicker baskets were a crude but effective method of transferring passengers from the boat to the jetty

Horses and other animals

At least humans had an option of when and whether to be offloaded whereas the animals were at the mercy of the offloaders. Aspects such as safety in these cases was not a consideration.

Offloading horses in Port Elizabeth Harbour during the Anglo Boer War

Landing Horses on Lighters onto the North Jetty during the Boer War


Horses on North Jetty

Landing Horses from Lighters onto the North Jetty during the Boer War

Loading horses at Port Elizabeth Harbour

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