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Illustrated Guide to Christchurch and Neighbourhood

Harbour Works

Harbour Works.

The history of the Lyttelton Harbour Works may be said to have commenced in 1863. True, there were before then the Government Jetty, an extension of the one 150 feet long originally built by Captain Thomas before the arrival of the first settlers, suitable for moderate vessels in fair weather, and the wharf originally constructed by Tribe, used by lighters and small coasters; but harbour works, in the proper sense of the term, there were none, ships having to lie out in the stream, loading and discharging as best they could by means of lighters.

In 1863, the want of shipping accommodation at Lyttelton being felt to be a serious drawback to the province, a commission was appointed by the Provincial Government to enquire into and report—

1st.Upon the proper site for the construction of a wharf of a durable character for unloading in all weathers the largest ships then frequenting the port, admitting of easy access to the railway.
2nd.Upon the best means of providing wharfage accommodation sufficient for the immediate traffic of the port, and especially for the steamers then frequenting it.
3rd.To offer any further suggestions which might be thought desirable.
page 149

After meeting almost daily for about two months and taking a mass of evidence, the Commission reported, recommending, chiefly, a breakwater extending from Officers' Point, with quays, and a breastwork connecting it with the railway tunnel. This report was sent home and submitted to Robert Stephenson, who approved of it. The breakwater was commenced by prison labour without any mechanical appliances beyond shovels and wheel-barrows, and for nine years it crept but slowly on, till at length the contract for its construction, at a cost of £150,000, was let to Messrs Hawkins and Martindale, and the work was pushed on vigorously. In 1876, Provincial institutions were abolished, and in 1877 the Lyttelton Harbour Board was called into existence by Act of the General Assembly, when all the further necessary works were entered upon. Since then, £300,000 have been spent on them. They include two breakwaters, extending from Officers' and Naval Points, enclosing a water area of about 109 acres. They are both formed of rubble stone, faced on the outer slopes with huge blocks of stone. The one from Officers' Point is 2010 feet long, with a width of 40 feet on the top and an elevation of six feet above high water spring tides, with a timber breastwork built along its inner face for nearly its entire length. The other is 1400 feet in length. The depth of water inside the breakwaters varies from 19 up to 25 feet at low tides. The inner harbour is still being further deepened by dredging, so that vessels drawing 25 feet may be berthed inside the moles at any time of the tide. Vessels up to 5000 tons can now be safely berthed at some of the wharves.

The berthage space within the inner harbour, which is capable of extension, is 10,160 feet, capable of berthing, without double-banking, 20 ocean ships and steamers, 20 barques and brigs, 8 intercolonial steamers, and 30 schooners, &c.

A special wharf, with shed accommodation, is being built for ocean steamers. In the meantime, berths are provided at two of the jetties for these steamers, with a depth of 25 feet at low spring tides.

Special berthage space is provided for men-of-war. Six or seven can shortly be berthed at the moorings inside the breakwaters, and three at least can be so moored now without in any way interfering with the ordinary shipping of the port.

Six sets of Mitchell's patent screw moorings are laid down in the inner harbour, capable of holding vessels up to 2000 tons.

The graving dock is capable of docking a first-class ironclad and any of the large ocean steamers now running to these colonies. The s.s. Ruapehu, the latest of the N. Z. Shipping page 150Company's fleet, was successfully docked, cleaned, and painted in four days only a short time ago. The dimensions of the dock are as follows:—Length on floor, 450 feet; width on floor, 46 feet; width on top, 82 feet; width of entrance, 62 feet; width where ship's bridge would be, 54 feet; depth on sill at high water, 23 feet. The total cost, including pumping machinery and caisson, was £104,000.

The whole of the wharves and jetties have lines of rails laid down on them, and are worked by the railway. Large shed accommodation is provided, including a large grain export shed, 520 feet long. Besides these, there is also ample storage accommodation in Lyttelton, two sheds alone being capable of holding: 11,000 tons of grain.

The Board have a powerful steam tug, built for them by Messrs Laird, of Birkenhead, which is constantly on the look-out for vessels requiring her services outside the Heads. The day signals for the tug are, answering pennant over letter N; and night signals, three blue lights burnt in succession. As a watch is always kept at the Heads Pilot Station Look-out, vessels giving these signals can be seen.