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THE BLACK SWAN.
Western Australia's First Dredge. To the Editor.
Sir, — In 'The. West Australian' of the 29th ult. the selling of the dredge Fre mantle for scrapping was announced. It was stated that the dredge Premier, which
is a suction dredge, was the first pur chased by the West Australian Govern ment in 1893 and that the dredge Fre mantle was the first bucket dredge pur chased in 1894. This is not correct, as the first bucket dredge bought by the Government arrived here in sections in 1869 and was put together where TUley's boat shed now is at North Fremantle by a man named Christian, who came out with her for that purpose. Her length was 90ft. and beam 24ft. Her engine was 12 h.p. but worked up to 32 with the assistance of a large flywheel. The makers of the engine were Maudslay, Son and Field. Her draught was 3ft. 9in. forward and 4ft. 6in. aft. Her bucket ladder carried 18 buckets and could dredge to about 9ft. The bucket ladder ran through the centre of the vessel. The was a big drawback to her, as she re quired 4ft. of water to start work in. She was first put in service in 1872 and was worked by convict labour. My father, Mr. H. Passmore, was appointed in charge of her. The first work she did was to dredge a' channel from near the Marrows to William-street jetty to allow the steamer and cargo boats to get to the jetty. She then dredged a channel from William-street jetty to Barrack-street, then known as King Cole's jetty. She was used at Fremantle on several occa sions to remove sand banks formed in the bay inside the bar and in the channel of the passenger steamer Lady Stirling and other boats getting to the river jetty at the end of Pier-street. In the seven ties the silt dredged from the channels In Perth water was used to commence the reclamation of the foreshore now known as the Esplanade; the commencement was made just below the Weld Club. She also landed a large quantity of shell on William-street jetty for the then chair man of the Perth Council (Mr. O. Ran dell), who first used it for the formation of footpaths in Perth. Later on, after having been idle some time, she was lent to a contractor, Mr. J. Elsegood, to con tinue the reclamation, but he soon gave up the contract, as I think the money ran out. She then lay in Perth waters for several years. In 1887 when they desired to use her again' they found that her bottom had rusted through in several places. Mr. Wright, who was then Director of Public Works, got Mr. H. Passmore to inspect and report on her condition, which he did and drew up a scheme and estimate to remove the iron bottom and replace It with jarrah, and also to reconstruct her to make her more serviceable so that her buckets would work through her bow. This would enable her to make depth of water to float herself when having to dredge shallow water. His report was adopted and he was put in charge to carry out the reconstruction. He laid down a slip where TUley's boatshed is to day. . There he reconstructed her, lengthened her bucket ladder and In creased her buckets from 18 to 22, which enabled her to dredge to 15ft She was finished in 1888, launched and christened the Black Swan. Before this she had only been known as the Govern ment dredge. She then started work on a scheme drawn up by the Director of Public Works (Mr. Wright) to remove a portion of the bar at the mouth of the river and narrow the mouth down to secure a scour to keep it clear. In 1890 the Government bought from Mr. Wlshart, a contractor, the machinery of a Priestman grab dredge to assist in the work. A pontoon to carry it was built where the North Wharf now stands. This dredge did yeoman work for the Govern ment and is still in commission on the reclamation of Perth water and is now known as Priestman Dredge C. In 1892 when Mr. C. Y. O'Connor was commencing the harbour woVks he had the dredge Black Swan sent to Muddy Beach, on the Canning River, as he did not like working with free labour on the harbour works. She worked there with convict labour for four years, cutting a channel 50ft. wide by 5ft. deep, from E liter's Point to some distance above Clontarf Orphanage. It was about two miles in length, piled and fastened on one side and the silt deposited behind it The whole of the piles and timber re auired was obtained^ in the bush nearby. It was, I believer one of the cheapest jobs the Government have done. It cost about £1,000. After finishing this she was removed to Perth water in 1896 and manned by free labour. After various Jobs she started a channel from Barrack street to Mends-street, 50ft. wide by 5ft. deep. Before this was finished two shifts had to be put on to enable it to be finished so that our late King and Queen Mary, then the Duke and Duchess of York, could go to the zoo by ferry. She then dredged a channel from Barrack street to Coode-street, 50ft. by 5ft. In 1900 she again dredged Mends-street channel, widening it to 80ft and 6ft. deep and later on completed the reclamation of Union Jack Square, the Esplanade, and a good portion of the reclamation east of Barrack-street. When the works was closed down in 1911 she was taken, with other plant used on the work, outside the North Mole and sunk. I have been in formed that although they set off a charge of dynamite on her bottom, she would not sink and they had to send men out to bore holes in her bottom. Although the other dredges used in Fremantle harbour were larger and more powerful, the old Black Swan did a lot of cheap and useful work In the old days. Though some neople said she was old and obsolete the Black Swan never had a chance to show what she could do, as there never was enough Dlant to take the silt she could raise away from her. People cannot take away from her the title of haVlng been the pioneer dredge of the West Australian Government — Yours, etc., GEO. H. PASSMORE.