Port Elizabeth of Yore: Reminiscences of the early Harbour and Town

These excerpts are the 1939 recollections of Mr. C.G.H. Skead about the early days in Port Elizabeth, its harbour and miscellaneous maritime activities. They were originally printed in 1964 over three editions of Looking Back, the Quarterly Bulletin of the PE Historical Society.

Main picture: View of Port Elizabeth from the harbour dated 1867

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Reclamation at the Harbour

The first major extension to the harbour after the construction of the Charl Malan Quay was reclamation of land on the seaward side of the Charl Malan Quay in 1938. The company which did the dredging, first built a new sea wall parallel to the old one at the distance required for the extra width that had been planned and then a dredger pumped sand from the sea bed into this space to build up a base for the new section.

Main picture: Reclamation at Victoria Quay in 1938

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Early Days of the Harbour and Shipping

These are excerpts from the notes of Mr. C.G.H. Skead on the early days in Port Elizabeth written in 1939. They provide a personal view of the various activities at the harbour and the development of shipping at that time.

These recollections take one back to a bygone era when life was simpler. Imagine still being able to swim on a splendid beach at the foot of Fleming Street. 

Main picture: North Jetty with the Station in the background

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Harbour Operations before Jetties

Until the 1870s, Port Elizabeth harbour possessed no jetties. By implication, the passengers and cargo had to be transhipped onto tiny surf boats for onward transport to the landing beaches. People were carried ashore on the shoulders of the Mfengus much to the distress of the females. In spite of this clumsy and archaic method of operation, Port Elizabeth rapidly processed more exports than its sister port, Cape Town.

 This blog is a verbatim extract from the unpublished notes of Mr. C.G.H. Skead written in 1939.

Main picture: Surf boats in Algoa Bay in the 1860s

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Enclosed Harbour Scheme in the 1930s

Even though the celebration in 1933 focused on the opening of the Charl Malan Quay, this project represented more than just the construction of one quay. Instead, it represented the conversion of the port into a proper enclosed harbour.

None of the river mouths on the Algoa Bay littoral are suitable for use as a harbour. As some stage there had even been suggestions to use the Zwartkops River but these were never advanced to the planning stage.

 Finally, the bull was taken by the horns and the jetties and anchorage converted into a proper modern harbour. 

Main picture: An aerial view of the Charl Malan Quay under construction

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Harbour prior to the Charl Malan Quay

With the expansion of industry in Port Elizabeth, the need to enlarge the port had by the 1920s become pressing and urgent. Up until then, goods and passengers had  to be loaded onto lighters at sea which then conveyed them to a tiny jetty known as North Jetty. What was proposed was to convert this jetty into a quay able to accommodate large ships alongside it. 

Main picture: Landing through the surf

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