Tanker Jetty is a curved jetty in Esperance Bay which was originally known as Esperance Deepwater Wharf . The 347 m wooden structure was built by the Public Works Department and the WA Government Railways between January 1934 and February 1935 to serve the shipping needs of the Esperance region .
Brief History of Tanker Jetty
The bay of Esperance was named by Admiral D’Entrecasteaux in 1792 in honour of the ship “L’Esperance” which anchored there on the 9th of December 1792 to make repairs to the ship. The area was mostly frequented by sealers and whalers who lived in rough camps along the beaches to process their catch. Ships would come in to retrieve the blubber and dry seals skins from these small camps.
The area had long been considered worthless for agriculture until the 1860s, when the Dempsters leased land from the government to farm sheep and horses. More farmers followed. In 1893 gold was discovered and people soon traveled to the goldfields in search of their fortune.
The Dempsters built the first jetty in the area opposite their homestead on Dempster Head which served all the settlers in the area. Another , more substantial jetty was built in 1890 by the Hampton Plains Company and was called the Newtown jetty and was serviced by rail.
In 1895 the first public jetty in Esperance Bay was constructed by the Public Works Department following the discovery of gold. Many a keen prospector arrived at Esperance via ship as it was the closest port to the Eastern goldfields of Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie.
When Fremantle built their deep water port in 1897, it lead to the decline of Albany as the major port in the colony. This also affected Esperance. However, in 1910 the state government opened up land for farming and soon grain production took over from the pastoral industry. Pressure was soon placed on the government by farmers to provide better facilities to export their product. Plans for a new jetty were drawn up by the Public Works Department in 1933 by the Engineer in charge of Harbours and Rivers , John Stevenson Young, with an estimated cost of £120,000.
The first pile for the Jetty was ceremoniously driven in by Alex McCallum on the 29th of January, 1934. During its construction Western Australia was suffering from an economic depression and work was very scarce. In response the Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation requested that the neediest workers be employed on the project.
The jetty was completed in April, 1935 and was opened by the State Minister for Mines , Walter Selby Munsie. The jetty was 1140ft by 38ft and the depth of the water at the outer berth was 37ft 6 inches.
From 1935 to 1965 the Tanker Jetty was used in the export of wheat, salt, copper concentrate and other minerals. The jetty also was used to unload bulk fuel which was then transported to the Goldfields. Pipelines ran along the length of the jetty. A railway line also ran along the jetty enabling grain and primary produce to be loaded directly onto the ships.
The jetty’s decline came in 1975 when a new jetty was constructed at Taylor street which serve the growing commercial fishing fleets. When more facilities were constructed the Tanker Jetty lost its viability as a commercial endeavour. The last tanker to unload bulk fuel from the jetty was the “BP Enterprise” in 1977.
By 1985 the jetty had fallen into serious disrepair that 67 outer piles had completely worn through and 87 were between 50-75% worn. As a result for safety reasons the head of the jetty was separated from the main jetty a break of about 200m (approx 7 piers).
In 1988, after community members became concerned about the lack of interest by government bodies to preserve the jetty, they formed the Save the Tanker Jetty Association. First on the agenda was to build an artificial reef at the end of the jetty where the debris from the pylons had destroyed the marine life habitat. This was completed through the help of volunteers from the Esperance Dive Club. Busy bees were also organised to help maintain the jetty. Volunteers would fix new straps to hand rails, bang in any loose nails and paint the hand rails.
The citizens of Esperance have raised over $165,000 to help with the preservation of the jetty, with the State Government contributing a further $150,000. However there is a continuing need for donations to help in the maintenance. There is a bronze statue of Sammy the Seal at the start of Tankers Jetty where people can donate money .
Sammy The Seal
One of the most popular residents of the Tanker Jetty is Sammy the sea lion aka Fat Furry Seal. He and entourage can be found sunning on the shore near the jetty or frolicking in the waters waiting for a kind fisherman or woman to throw them a fish or two. Read more about Sammy the Seal