The following is a part extract from the Portonian December 2015.
A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE OLD AND NEW PORTS, WRITTEN TO MARK THE 175TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE OPENING OF ‘THE NEW PORT’
by Brian Samuels
The name Port Adelaide is commonly used to refer to both the town and the harbour/port. Hence in this discussion it will be important to be clear about which is being referred to.
The settlement at the original landing place on what was then called the Port Creek was never large enough to be called a town. Ron Parsons suggests that its ‘foundation day’ was 6 January 1837, the day the Colony’s Harbour Master Captain Thomas Lipson and his family travelled from the Buffalo in its barge to take up residence there (p13). That settlement was superseded by the town of Port Adelaide on its current site in 1840.
On the other hand, when on 25 May 1837 Governor Hindmarsh proclaimed a large portion of the Port Creek estuary ‘a legal port’ and named it ‘Port Adelaide’ the boundaries were defined and several areas of land and water given names. The legal port stretched from near Snapper Point at the top of Lefevre’s Peninsula to a statute mile above the then landing place.
The First Landing Place (‘Port Misery’)
South Australia’s first official European settlers arrived in Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island, on the Duke of York on 27 July 1836. Surveyor-General Colonel William Light arrived just over three weeks later in command of the Rapid and had sole authority to decide on the location for the Capital. In December of that year he chose the present site of Adelaide, with the Port Creek (now River) as its harbour. If an adequate supply of fresh water had been available in 1836 there is every chance the River would have had the Colony’s capital sited on its banks.
Light selected a temporary landing place on the Creek which subsequently earnt the title ‘Port Misery’ due to the primitive landing conditions. He preferred a site at the North Arm of the River, but acknowledged that the new colony could not afford to build a road to it.
The site was chosen for its accessibility, being the nearest to firm ground, where the mangrove belt was thinnest. During the first year a canal was cut through the mangroves to the foot of the sandhills and a small staging constructed. An 1840 ‘Plan of the Old and New Ports’ shows the canal ending at the intersection of the modern Old Port Rd and Webb St.
The closest full-sized vessels could safely anchor was near the site of the modern Jervois Bridge. At high tide passengers and cargo could be brought up the canal in small rowing boats. At low tide not even small boats could reach it so passengers had to wade or be piggy-backed ashore. It served the infant colony from 1837 to 1840, when it was replaced by a landing place with proper wharves further downstream – the genesis of Port Adelaide on its present site.