While I have always been aware that baskets were used on occasions to transfer passengers to and from tugs, that always left the majority of the passengers with no ostensible method of transfer. After sleuthing by my brother Blaine and by means of an article in Looking Back uncovered by myself, the mystery has finally been resolved. Archaic and dangerous would be adequate descriptors of the practice employed.
Main picture: A tug ferrying passengers from North Jetty to an awaiting ship in the roadstead. Note the wicker baskets on the jetty as well as a steel rod hanging over the water.
The erection of the North Jetty was the second attempt at constructing a jetty in Algoa Bay. The first one had been unceremoniously destroyed in a ferocious gale on the 26th August 1843 when three ships were driven through it. Until the construction of the South and the Dom Pedro jetties almost 30 years later, this small extemporised jetty would serve as the focal point of the harbour.
As it turned out, this temporary jetty would fulfil the starring role as the main jetty until the Charl Malan Quay was built, some 63 years later.
Main picture: An early view of the North Jetty probably from the 1870s
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This blog is a verbatim extract from the unpublished notes of Mr.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
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