Port Elizabeth of Yore: The First Dam

The saga of how Port Elizabeth acquired an unsuitable dam on a trickle of a river as its first primary water supply in the 1860s, is explained in this blog. Sadly after a few decades the water became saline and no longer potable. Perhaps this venture was emblematic of the era where vision was limited by parsimony and where, despite the Council’s laudable motives, was doomed to failure. 

For all that, the Town Council did protect the interests of its residents by not financing the project itself. So, when bankruptcy did occur, no losses were borne by the denizens of the town. 

Main picture: Opening the value at the Frames Dam in 1863

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Happy Valley: Trip the Light Fantastic

Happy Valley was a magical place for young kids and probably still is even for the jaded visual palates of today.  In the daytime it is a pleasant stroll alongside the babbling brook that is the lower reaches of that misnomer, the Shark River, where it spills out under the bridge into Humewood Beach.  There are lily ponds, rockeries, gigantic palms and peaceful retreats in which to sit. Every few meters there is another delightful interpretation of a fairy tale or nursery rhyme scene to consider.  

Main Street: Aerial view of Happy Valley with Humewood beach on the upper right

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What happened to the Shark River in Port Elizabeth?

Today the Shark River is a non-descript stream – more of a trickle really – that tinkles its way through Happy Valley. Being no more than 15kms in length with its source in the Mount Pleasant area, yet this self-same river was once the earliest water supply of Port Elizabeth. How was this miniscule river together with the Donkin Stream next to the Donkin Reserve capable of supplying the Town’s needs? Logically the water from the Baakens River should have been the preferred source being not only closer but more reliable with a perennial water flow.  The other mystery to me is how this docile placid stream is able to increase by the extent that it does during flooding despite having such a minute catchment area.

Main picture: The Shark River on 1st September 1968 and recently. How could such a docile placid stream be transformed into such a violent raging torrent, sweeping all before it.

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