Port Elizabeth of Yore: From Sailing Ships to Steamers & Landing Beaches to Jetties and then Quays

The transition from sailing ships to steamers and mail ships was a gradual process. The great storm of 1902 which resulted in the destruction of 21 sailing ships and 60 souls was the last hurrah of these magnificent vessels. Port Elizabeth also lagged in the construction of quays and a breakwater which only came into operation in the early 1930s.

These are the verbatim notes of C.G.H. Skead written in 1939.

Main picture:  Customs House as completed in 1891

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The First-Recorded Shark Attack

Perhaps the reason why so few shark attacks occurred during the 1800s was due to the fact that most people were unable to swim. Hence when they attempted to swim, it was in the shallow water. On the other hand drownings were commonplace as they were unaware of dangerous conditions such as rip tides and life savers were unknown.

This blog covers the shark attack on the 28th January 1886 off the South Jetty in which young William Rodwell lost his leg.

Main picture: Bathing House at the mouth of the Baakens River

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The South Jetty

Of all the jetties in Port Elizabeth, only the North Jetty possessed any cachet. Probably a reason for this situation was that the North Jetty was close to the central part of town being at the foot of Jetty Street.  

For this reason hundreds of photographs of this jetty are still extant today whereas only a dozen are available of the South Jetty and perhaps half that number of the Dom Pedro Jetty.

This blog serves to highlight what is known about this jetty

Main picture: South Jetty

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Construction of the Breakwater

Despite a breakwater being a critical component of  a harbour, Port Elizabeth was deprived of one until the 1920s. That consigned the unloading of the ships to be performed in the roadstead, an archaic practice, long since abandoned by other ports.

The initial attempt at building a breakwater in 1856 was disastrous as it became unusable due to silting after the flood in 1867. It would be fifty years before another attempt would be made to construct the breakwater.

Main picture: Breakwater with the Charl Malan Quay still under construction

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