The longest jetty in the Southern Hemisphere?

Posted by barbara on January 28, 2013

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So long is Port Germein's historic jetty that you can't visually grasp at a glance what's happening out the end of the wooden structure's 'vanishing point', other than that it intersects the distant waters of the gulf at low tide. 

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On a windy day, the white-capped gulf waters certainly seem a long way off from the sandy shallow flats.

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Even using a wide angle lens on an SLR camera, it is next to impossible to capture an all-in-one side on view of the jetty that does the slightest justice to this historic port's claim to fame. So long is the said jetty that in the mid afternoon view above, it is reduced to a thin black line dividing sand and sky, one that many viewers will frankly find hard to distinguish.

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How long exactly was the original 1881 jetty, at the start of which now perches the relocated light (pictured above and below)? By 1883, two years after its construction, the jetty was extended to 1680 metres, almost 1.7 kilometres, making it the longest jetty in the Southern Hemisphere.

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Why such a long jetty? In the days before reliable overland road transport, jetty length mattered big time when it to came to transporting produce, grain in the main, from isolated districts surrounding South Australia's Spencer Gulf, to markets near and far.

In the absence of navigable rivers and before overland road transport began to provide serious competition to steam boats and trains, the locals were almost entirely reliant on coastal shipping in the form of sailing vessels that transported incoming supplies and outgoing products.

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For locals and visitors alike, when the tide is out it's a long walk to wet a line or have a swim. Going by appearances, those in the know are sufficiently on top of the tides to have no qualms about driving across the tidal flats towards the jetty end and fishing opportunities.

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From this point, it still seems a long way to the end of the jetty, a testament to the enthusiasm of local fishers and holidaymakers, many of whom were clearly prepared to go the distance.

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Based on the official signage re all things legal fishing, from what we could see, it was a fair bet that the preoccupied knots of fisher folk - as in men, women and children - were busy baiting their pots with chicken drumsticks and the like in order to pull in crabs of the blue swimmer and sand variety. 

The tropical blue swimmers in particular are attracted to the extensive sandy bottom and seagrass meadows that are a feature of Spencer Gulf and other South Australian inlets.

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This family fun shot gives some idea of how far out the jetty is from the mainland of Spencer Gulf.

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The original jetty extended beyond the refurbished pier and on the day of our visit the disused wooden pylons were a refuge for a variety of birdlife including cormorants and what may be a short-tailed shearwater.

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