Thursday, 29 January 2009

Boat Harbour, Gerringong

On the way home from Rosedale we stopped at Gerringong Boat Harbour to take some photos of the rock pool and surrounds. (On the way down we stopped at Werri Beach, a bit further north. From the 1820s, red cedar was shipped from Gerringong's small boat harbour. Once the cedar was cut out, dairying became the district's main industry.

The pool is a short walk from the boat ramp, where some fishers were cleaning their catch, and the pelicans and sea gulls were waiting expectantly!

There's a great tessellated rock platform, and some terrfic rock formations. The information below is from the NSW Ocean Baths website.

Photos taken 13 January 2009

The Gerringong Council wanted to dedicate a portion of the Gerringong wharf for use as a ladies baths. But when the NSW government suggested that the Council could take over responsibility for the wharf, Council sought a more convenient site for the baths. No rates could be expended on the wharf. and by that December, only the lack of funds for material was delaying the construction of ladies baths.

According to the Illawarra Steam Navigation Company's illustrated handbook, Gerringong had 'good seabaths in a park with lawn tennis courts' and was becoming 'a favourite resort for visitors'.

Opening of new men-only baths in a more exposed site at Boatharbour enabled the existing baths to be reserved for use solely by women and children.

Early 1920s
Conflict over use of the rock platform arose between a licensed Sydney shell-grit miner, whose workmen had to cross the Ladies Baths up to 18 times an hour and the Gerringong community, which wanted to preserve both the privacy of the women's baths and their local practice of exploiting the shell-grit resources at no cost.

There were complaints about baths not being cleaned out and mixed bathing at the Ladies Baths. Apparently on Boxing Day, 'men had possession of the baths' and 'most of the ladies would not go if men bathers were there'. Since the surf beaches already offered mixed bathing, Council instructed the caretaker to prohibit mixed bathing at the baths. The Gerringong community took a long time to reconcile itself to mixed bathing at the Boatharbour Baths.

Soon after its formation in 1927, the Gerringong Progress Association urged improvements to the Boat Harbour Park and Ladies Baths. Aldermen wondered 'whether it's the ladies or the baths' that attracted men to the Ladies Baths and whether one of the existing baths should be declared 'continental'. The counter view was that 'there are a lot of ladies in Gerringong who'll never go into Men's Baths or fall in with the continental idea. They have their own baths and it is Council's duty to provide them'. Eventually Council decided to fix the Ladies Baths and then the Men's Baths.

Seaweed clogging the Men's Baths, but not the Ladies Baths, prompted local men to start swimming at the Ladies Baths (or so they said).

Weather delayed work at the Baths. New roofing was needed for the Ladies dressing-sheds.

Some ladies from Nowra who came up to Gerringong for a swim found a lot of men in the Ladies Baths. The ladies would not go in and were very disappointed that their planned swim was not possible. While acknowledging that 'a man might want to swim with his wife or children', Gerringong aldermen agreed that 'Gerringong is not like a city' and 'some of our ladies are a little shy' and 'don't want to plunge in with men'.

Despite one aldermen's assertion that 'there is no excuse for men going to the Ladies Baths', it seems that several aldermen had been observed using the Ladies Baths. Seaweed in the Men's Baths was again offered as a justification. One alderman complained that 'as things are now, if I want to teach my children to swim, I cannot do so in Gerringong'. When considering setting hours when men could go with their wives and children to the Ladies Baths, Council noted that 'costumes often worn at the Men's Baths are not such as would be worn to continental bathing'.

Both the men's baths and women's baths at Boatharbour were in use and Gerringong Council was even considering a federal loan to create a continental bathing place.

Suggestions for improvements to the Ladies Baths were back on the agenda. Steps to the dressing sheds constructed some 19 years earlier were dilapidated and unfit for use and a ramp was needed down to the baths. Materials were on the spot and the cost by relief labour was not great.

Depression-era emergency relief men using 14 bags of cement improved the Ladies Baths at little cost. Council discussed rebuilding the rails leaning up to the dressing-sheds at the Ladies Baths, but further work was deferred until the 'finances of council were better and a new structure could be erected'.

By February, both the Gentlemen's Baths and the Ladies Baths were leaking and empty.

Both the Boatharbour baths were in a bad state, hardly fit to swim in. Cleaning of both the Gentlemen's Baths and Ladies Baths had to wait until a suitable tide.

A racing greyhound named Socialite was expected to recover after falling 100 feet into the Ladies Baths, when chasing a rabbit on the cliffs above the pool.

Pool still in use and maintained by Kiama Council.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

The Bogey Hole at Mollymook

We stopped in at Mollymook, which is just north of Ulladulla, on our return from Rosedale this year. I've discovered that the term "bogey hole" apparently derives from an Aboriginal wordmeaning "to bathe" or "to swim" in Dharawal, an Aboriginal language from the Sydney area.

Photos taken 13 January 2009

From NSW Ocean Baths website

Before 1900
The Mollymook Bogey Hole may long have been used by Aboriginal people for hundreds or thousands of years as a swimming place, as a fish trap and as a place to dive for lobsters and shellfish. Strategic placement of rocks could supplement a natural enclosure and form channels to direct fish into waiting nets or spears.
Around 1900
Collers Beach, generously made accessible to the public by the Coller family, was a very popular retreat and picnic area for local people, partly because of the safe swimming at the Bogey Hole.
John Coller stopped all public access to Collers Beach.
Collers Beach remained the favourite picnic place and many locals learned to swim at the Bogey Hole. even after the Collers Beach property was closed to horses and vehicles, due to visitors' failures to close gates.
Investigations by the Illawarra brick company revealed that silica from the headland at Mollymook known as Flint Point 'gave promise of yielding a refractory brick equal in quality to the world's best silica brick'.
Around 1918
Flint Point was mined for silica. Rocks that were almost pure silica were transported to Ulladulla, then shipped to Port Kembla and Newcastle to be crushed and made into refractory bricks to line the furnaces of the steelworks. The mining of silica meant Flint Point itself virtually disappeared. There was subsidence in the cliff faces along the northern side of the headland and big rocks were removed from the Bogey Hole. When the silica quarrying increased the size of the Bogey Hole, people were quick to take advantage of it as a good place to swim, even though pieces of broken quartzite on the pool's sandy bottom were often razor sharp and very dangerous.
After the 1920s
Silica mining became uneconomical. When the quarry men and their shacks disappeared, fishermen, swimmers and picnickers came back in increasing numbers. Communal Boxing Day and New Year's Day picnics at the Bogey Hole continued. After a young local man drowned, possibly taken by a shark, local people acquired a real fear of entering the surf and swimming in the open sea.
Children were still learning to swim in the Bogey Hole.
Late 1940s and early 1950s
The Mollymook Country Club attracted families because of its golf links and the nearby Bogey Hole.
The Bogey Hole and Collers Beach became better known to surfers.
Mollymook's Bogey Hole was considered a visitor attraction and an enhancement to the value to nearby properties.

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Swimming Australia One Hundred Years by Murray Phillips

I came across this book at Bay Books in Batemans Bay while we were on holidays. It's the story of how organised swimming, leading up to the current highly developed competitive swimming scene. The chapters I liked the most were the ones on bathing in colonial times and the one about different places Australians have swum including early sea bathing, floating pools, baths that have long since disappeared, and others which are still going strong after 100 years, and Australia's early Olympic history. There are chapters on coaches and coaching, and the golden eras of Olympic swimming. The book was published in conjunction with the 100 year anniversary of the governing body of swimming, Swimming Australia. 

 The illustrations in this book are fabulous, from the sepia-toned historical ones to amazing underwater shots made possible through modern technology. There's lots to admire in terms of the human body - and looking at the differences in physique development over the years, a product of diet, coaching science and training. 

 For a swimming nut, stumbling on this book was joyful. The only thing I'd like now is a longer volume about leisure swimming in Australia. Maybe I need to write it myself? 

 Publication: Published by University of New South Wales Press, 2008 ISBN 978 1 921410 81 9

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Ulladulla Sea Pool

Photos taken 13 January 2009

Called in at Ulladulla on the way home from Rosedale. Unfortunately, being a Tuesday, the pool was closed for its weekly clean.

From the NSW Ocean Baths website:

This concrete pool dates from the 1950s. One of the few formal ocean baths created at new sites along the NSW coast after WWII. These relatively recent ocean baths were once Ulladulla's best public venue for competitive and recreational swimming. Their ongoing significance to Ulladulla residents and visitors from NSW, ACT and elsewhere is demonstrated by recent community protests about possible closure of the pool or imposition of admission charges.

Plans of Ulladulla harbour show a quarry adjacent to the site of the current ocean pool. The apparent remnants of an older pool next to the current ocean pool are probably the remains of this 1895 quarry.

Work began on the construction of the ocean baths as a full-size Olympic pool, with lane markings. When completed, the pool did not fill with wave and tide action, so a pump was used to fill it.

On reviewing a regional environment study (including the ocean pool), consultants concluded the pool might have regional significance.

Shoalhaven City Council's Heritage Study rated the rock pool as high on historical and social aspects and moderate on aesthetic and social significance.

The Ulladulla Harbour Conservation Management Plan, noted that 'to the south of the working port, there is a separate rectangular shaped 'rockpool' enclosure' near the 'modern rendered pool set above the high watermark, set on a base constructed from cut stone pieces'.

The pool operated unsupervised until Shoalhaven City Council's risk consultants warned in December 2001 against continuing to operate the pool without supervision.

The Ulladulla Leisure Centre had superseded the ocean baths as Ulladulla's best swimming competition and training venue. Even so, there was resident uproar when the ocean pool was closed for a week in February, after Shoalhaven City Council ran out of funds to employ a lifeguard.

The Ulladulla sea pool had a consistent four-star Beachwatch rating for cleanliness, meaning it was not contaminated and was safe to swim in.

Storm damage meant simply making the pool safe for the next season was estimated to cost $43,000, while the cost of a completely new structure was estimated as around $700,000. Cr Watson said Shoalhaven City Council staff were investigating whether an insurance claim could be made against the year's storm damage, but conceded that even if the pool was saved, it was likely that the Council would have to levy an entrance fee. About 150 people a day used this free-to-use pool during the summer.

The pool was fully supervised in the swimming season.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Blue Pool, Bermagui

While we were staying down the coast at Rosedale (see here - lots of beach swimming!) we took a trip down to Bermagui for me to have a swim in the Blue Pool. It was wonderful. Fortunately the sea water temperature has been quite good off the south coast this year. It was refreshing, but not overly cold.

Information from NSW Ocean baths website.

Trustees were appointed to the Bermagui camping area named to commemorate the visit by international novelist and angler Zane Grey, but their control extended only to the high-water mark and did not include the fairly sheltered spot for swimming between the rocks known as Blue Hole. That swimming place was less than half the size of the current Blue Pool.

Bermagui philanthropist Bill Dickinson initiated a project to develop the Blue Hole into a good-sized, saltwater pool. Unlike the seawater pool at Bermagui's Horseshoe Bay that was designed primarily for bathing, the Blue Pool would be suitable for training and competition swimming.

Following a visit to Bermagui, Eric Spooner, the NSW Minister for Works and Local Government, offered an additional grant of 50 pounds for Bermagui's headland drive and a grant of 200 pounds towards the cost of making improvements to the rock baths at Bermagui South, provided local residents raised a further 100 pounds.

By the time the agreement for the Blue Pool grant arrived in July, residents had already spent about 100 pounds on work at the pool. Local labour enlarged the original pool by blasting the rock away with dynamite, then shovelling the rubble into wheelbarrows and tipping it over the edge into the sea.

Spooner said he was aware that 118 pounds had been contributed locally to the Blue Pool project, but had suggested raising a further 100 pounds locally to match the government grant of 200 pounds. The local parties who explained the pool initiative had after all advised Spooner that local people could easily raise this amount and both he and local MLA Bate had each contributed a pound to the effort. Local fundraising would demonstrate 'acceptance of the principle that the government must not be expected to fund the full cost of local works'.

By then the Bermagui District Surf Life Saving Club believed that while they could not raise a hundred pounds, they could do work to that value. They later managed to raise 76 pounds, expected to have the balance by October 1937 and hoped that the pool would be available for the coming swimming season.

The Bermagui lifesavers sent Council a cheque for 88 pounds to cover their contribution to the Blue Pool project, and the council engineer submitted plans and specifications for erecting concrete walls and excavating rock to the Local Government Department. By November 1937, the Bermagui District surf club had spent an additional 12 pounds on excavation at the Blue Pool since Minister Spooner promised the grant. The Club believed they had received agreement from Spooner via their local MLA that this work, plus their 88 pound contribution fulfilled the requirement for local funding.

There were sufficient funds left from the headland drive project to erect the protective fences near the Blue Pool requested by the trustees of the Zane Grey Camping reserve.

The Mumbulla Shire Council contracted out the work at the pool. By February, the contractors at the Blue Pool had practically finished work under the original contract, but after discussions with the local member and the surf club, an additional 100 pounds was allocated to cover a flight of concrete steps, extending the rear concrete wall to cut off a wading pool for children and further rock excavation.

In May, Minister Spooner offered a further grant of 300 pounds for construction of a dressing-shed at the Blue Pool. Council had contractors construct the shed.

By January 1939, work on the dressing-sheds and subsidiary works at the Blue Pool was complete. Bermagui resident Bill Dickinson personally paid for concrete steps to replace the steep dirt track leading down to the pool, concreting the floor of the wading pool and the back wall of the pool and for two water tanks for use by picnickers at the Blue Pool. His total contribution to the pool project was at least 300 pounds. Council wrote thanking Mr Dickinson for his generosity.

The Local Government Department argued that Council should strengthen the pool's dressing-sheds, which were not strong enough to withstand heavy seas. The Local Government Department insisted the Council take full responsibility for any damage to the dressing-sheds by high seas. The changing sheds have since been washed away by high seas.

Fears of a Japanese invasion prompted the setup of a coast watch above the Blue Pool.
The Bermagui South Progress Association advised Council that the approach to the Blue Pool scoured very badly after rain, but Council was unable to take any action to gravel the approach.

The beautiful Blue Pool was considered good for swimming and snorkelling.

Though both the Blue Pools are flushed at high tides, a pump had been installed to maintain its water levels for the benefits of locals and tourists. A modern amenities block stood at the top of the cliff.

More widespread concerns about safety meant the Blue Pool, along with other NSW ocean baths and surf beaches, needed more warning signs and ongoing water quality monitoring programs.

A “See our Seas' coastal explorers workshop organised by the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre at Eden listed the species of plants and animal found at Bermagui's Blue Pool.

Funds were allocated to replace the public toilet and steps at the Bermagui Blue Pool.
Water quality monitoring demonstrated the cleanliness of water at both the Big Blue Pool and the Little Blue Pool.

Water quality monitoring gave a five-star rating to both the Big Blue Pool and the Little Blue Pool, which had 100% compliance with national water-quality guidelines.

'Bermagui's famous Blue Pool' is located well south of the Newcastle-Sydney-Illawarra strip that hosts most of the NSW ocean baths, but forms part of the fifth wave of ocean baths (Public works for public pleasure amid depression, war and rationing: 1939-1949) developed on the NSW coast. In its incorporation of a wading pool, the Blue Pool was representative of pools of the fifth wave of ocean baths. It is also representative of a range of ocean baths constructed with voluntary labour from surf club members and other residents.

The Blue Pool occupies a dramatic site on a rocky shore and has affinities with the nineteenth-century ocean baths sited well away from the beach sands such as the Newcastle Bogey Hole, and the women's baths created on the south headland of Sydney's Coogee Bay. Both of the Blue Pool's rather distant neighbouring formalised ocean baths at Ulladulla to the north and Eden to the south relate more closely to the beach sands.

Though not the first formalised ocean baths to be created in Bermagui, the Blue Pool was far larger and proved far longer-lasting than Bermagui's earlier ocean baths near the safe surf beach at Horseshoe Bay. Development of the Blue Pool demonstrated a desire to supplant a purely bathing pool, used mainly by women and children, by providing a pool complex with a far larger rectangular pool suitable for fitness training and competitive sport and a wading pool. It is also a far more formalised swimming environment than the Zane Grey pool to the south. Heavy community investment in the construction of this pool to provide safe shark-free swimming environment and a social centre has proved a wise investment.

Development of the Blue Pool also demonstrated the growing importance of motor camping and game-fishing for tourism. While Bermagui's earlier pool was located at a surf beach near the steamer wharf and village's best hotel, the Blue Pool was developed near a recently created camping ground named after Zane Grey, the American author and game-fisherman, who helped promote Bermagui as a centre for game-fishing.

Bermagui's Blue Pool is rare example of surf lifesavers spearheading the development of ocean baths, that, unlike most of the ocean baths created in the 1920 and 1930s, lacked ready access from a surf beach. Its closest counterpart among the twentieth century NSW ocean baths is the far less elegantly formal North Curl Curl pool on Sydney's Northern Beaches, located a considerable walk from the North Curl Curl surf club. That pool was never as significant a tourist attraction as Bermagui's Blue Pool.

The Blue Pool was not only one of the few Depression-era ocean baths projects to both attract a substantial donation from a local philanthropist (namely Bill Dickinson) but one of the few free-to-all NSW ocean baths of any era to be heavily subsidised by the philanthropy of a single private individual.

This pool has remained more significant for recreation and tourism, than for any form of competitive swimming and is well south of the Illawarra's Werri Beach pool, the southernmost of the NSW ocean baths linked to any winter swimming club. The Blue Pool has strong appeal for snorkellers.

A recent survey of plant and animal life at the pool demonstrated that the Blue Pool remains significant as a place where people can become acquainted with the plant and animal life of the rocky shore. Observing and photographing the nudibranchs can be part of the appeal of visiting this pool.

Assessed significance: Worth nominating for State Heritage Listing.

Current heritage status: Listed in 2002 in Schedule 6 (Interim Heritage Items) in the Bega Valley Local Environmental Plan.