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Outer Harbor


One of the earliest mentions of a new Outer Harbour for Port Adelaide was in 1881 when it was very evident that the wharves of the Port were being overwhelmed by shipping. However, it would seem the most vocal supporters of the scheme were those wealthy landowners who would most benefit by the proposal. Ie. Those that owned land near the sea.

The landowner (grazier) and politician, Sir Richard Butler, was recognised for his sound, though frugal administration, for the building of the Outer Harbour, once named “Butler’s Folly”, and for the locking of the River Murray.

During his Parliamentary career, Richard Butler was Premier for a short period in 1905 and held all ministerial portfolios except Attorney General. He was Speaker of the House when he lost office in 1924. He was knighted in 1913.


The following is an extract from the Adelaide Observer 12 October 1901.


A large party of legislators, including the Premier, Hon. J. G. Jenkins, the Treasurer, Hon. R. Butler, together with representatives of the Port Adelaide, Glenelg, and Brighton Corporations, made a trip in the steamer Leveret to Marino on Wednesday afternoon to inspect the suggested site for the outer harbour. The journey to Glenelg by train occupied only 40 minutes, but perhaps the train was burdened by the weight of influence on board. The arrangements for imparting information to the visitors were most complete. Each one of the party was supplied with a chart, showing the soundings made in 1880 by Captain Stanley, then surveyor officer to the British Navy in Australian waters, and his report to the Marino Outer Harbour Committee.

The scheme provided for a breakwater about a mile in length, the first stretch running half a mile west, the second section north-west, and the third turning north-east. On the extreme point of the wall a lighthouse 20 feet in height would be constructed. The soundings showed the water close to the shore to be about 11, feet deep, and at the end of the breakwater and the landing place between 38 and 40 feet. The width of the wall at the base would be 158 feet, and at the top 20 feet.

The weather was perfect, and the sea was beautifully calm; but that was regretted by the promoters of the trip, because, they said if the sea had been rough it would have demonstrated how well Marino is sheltered. Capt. Stanley estimated the cost of the construction at about £300,000; but when that estimate was made the stone quarries had not been opened up, and, despite the statements of Mr. Lindon Bates, Marino people claim that the blue lias stone which abounds in the district could be used for the break water and reduce the cost by at least £50,000. Marino is 11 miles from Adelaide, 26 miles from Troubridge, and by sea 27 miles nearer than Port Adelaide for incoming steamers. The site was marked out with red flags, and, after it had been inspected, a return was made to Adelaide, which was reached in better time than it took to go down.

Largs Bay was another alternative option mooted to accommodate an increase in shipping. Ed.

An extract from the Adelaide Observer 2nd November 1901.

An Ocean Dock

The Treasurer, in moving the second reading of the Outer Harbour and Railway Bill, said it was one of the most important national questions which had been before Parliament for many years. The question of providing better harbour accommodation had engaged attention for a long time past; but the urgency of the case had been brought home very forcibly within the last few months. “The Register”‘ in June called attention to the fact that the Austral had been delayed many hours, and other boats had also been kept waiting, owing to rough weather.

Attempts to do the work by private enterprise having failed, it was time the state did the work, or South Australia would run the risk of becoming an outport of Victoria. The Government submitted that their proposal, to cost £440,000, met all requirements, and the work would be directly reproductive. The Government had expended over £900,000 on the Port River, and, in addition to that, private persons must have expended more than that on various improvements. A large volume of trade flowed through Port Adelaide and members ought to hesitate at doing anything that would jeopardize the Port. The Treasurer told the House the number of ships and their tonnage that had remained at the anchorage and entered Port Adelaide. Mr. Bates had pointed out that the outer harbour would not hurt Port Adelaide. In a proposal of such magnitude the Government could only look to the interests of the state as a whole, and members did not expect the Government to build an ocean dock at Arcadia or any other outport. The policy of deepening the Port River was similar to that adopted in other parts of the world.

The Government obtained the services of an eminent harbour expert, Mr. Bates, who practically supported the recommendations of Sir John Coode, and the policy always followed regarding Port Adelaide. The Government scheme took in a portion of Mr. Bates’s suggestion, and would give berthing accommodation to three steamers at one time. Capt. Webb, who had had charge of the dredges at Port Adelaide for nearly 40 years, reported that he always sought shelter in Light’s Passage, and had never known the wind to blow too hard there. The Government hoped to recoup itself considerably by reclaiming land near the harbour. They would have 150 acres worth about £1,000 per acre. In addition there was the revenue from the railway, and taking other items, including a saving on mails, into the account, the work should pay 3½ per cent, to 4 per cent, straight away, to say nothing of the indirect benefits. Mr. Butler was attentively listened to, and at the close of his remarks was warmly cheered for the businesslike manner in which he had stated his case. The debate was adjourned till Tuesday.

Work on the new “Light’s Passage” facility began in 1904 and the first stage was completed in 1908.

Outer Harbour