This week, The Past Present is heading South, to Port Kembla. There are very few photos in the collection by an unknown photographer (taken circa 1936) which focus on this important industrial hub, but this photo showing the breakwater is a wonderful glimpse into the past.
Port Kembla was originally known as Red Point and the land around the area was first granted to David Allen in 1817. At this time the land was used for farming, and the estate was actually called Illawarra Farm, but by 1883 the focus of the area had changed. Coal had been discovered at Mt Kembla, and a port was established at Red Point to allow the coal to be shipped. A tramway was constructed from the mine itself to the jetty in the port to allow efficient transport of the coal between the mountain mine and the sea port. It was probably the association with the Mt Kembla mine which caused the name of the area to change to Port Kembla, and the earliest reference to this name was in 1892.
As time went by, Port Kembla became a more industrial hub and in the late 1890s the Mount Lyall Company built a coke works at Port Kembla itself. Soon it was proposed that an artificial harbour be built for the port and the Port Kembla Harbour Act was passed in December 1898, allowing two breakwaters to be constructed. These would provide protection for the ships using the port, but building the breakwaters would be a monumental effort – for every foot of breakwater 100 tons of rock was required.