Site Name: Hicks Point Jetty
Address: Austinmer Boat Harbour Headland Avenue off Lawrence Hargrave Drive
GPS Coordinates: H 310516 E 6202647 HSL Sea Level
Site Access: Public Access
 

Brickyard Point, Austinmer, showing Tongarra coal seam

(Mineral Heritage Committee collection)

North Bulli Mine at Coledale

Coal mining commenced at various sites around Austinmer and Coledale in the late 1870s. In 1878 the North Bulli Coal and Iron Mining Company (NBCIMC) opened the North Bulli Colliery at Coledale with plans to construct an incline haulage tram line and erect a jetty at Hicks Point. While the Colliery continued to operate for a number of years, the geological conditions and ground water entering the mine workings severely limited its output and neither the tram line nor the jetty were constructed. In 1884 the North Illawarra Coal Mining Company (NICMC) took over the site and opened their North Illawarra No. 1 Colliery.

The Need for Hicks Point

This company required as before an incline haulage tram line and coal loading staith nearby to export coal from the mine. While the NICMC properties had a frontage of eight miles to the Southern Ocean, Hick's Point was the only site suited to the colliery's need for a tram line and a jetty located in a position providing some protection from sea storms. Coal mined at the North Illawarra No. 2 Colliery at Austinmer was to be railed to Hicks Point jetty along the company's private rail line from the mine to the jetty.

Building the Jetty

Soundings were taken at the intended jetty location in November 1884, showing a good depth of water of 30 to 40 feet at the intended seaward end of the jetty. Tenders were subsequently called for construction of the jetty in late 1885, but the prices received were considered unacceptably high (up to £69,000). The work was later arranged to be carried out under the direction of Mr Walter Kerle, previously known for overseeing major railway construction. Commencing in May, the work was completed in late 1886 for a total cost around £10,000, much credit being given to Kerle and his foreman for this.

Against the Waves

The jetty itself was of largely timber construction (with concrete piers at the seaward end), with the timber to be cut from company land adjacent to the site. The Illawarra Mercury of the time commented on how its construction differed from other jetties on the coast nearby, which were more usually of steel construction to minimise resistance to wave and swell movement. As the writer remarked "... in this instance strength instead of weakness, as may be said, appears to be depended upon to withstand the violent throes of Neptune.". While the jetty was of robust construction, it was unfortunately exposed to the full fury of the “black Nor’-Easter" gales, although sheltered to some extent from southerly storms by Brickyard Point on the southern shore of Hick’s Bay. Consequently, the jetty could only be approached by steam colliers in practically calm weather.

The completed jetty had a total length of 1250 feet (381m) with a depth of water at the ship loading chutes between 22 and 26 feet (6.7m and 7.9m). It could be serviced by separate rail tracks from the north and south. The jetty received coal from the North Bulli Colliery situated at Coledale and from the Austinmer Colliery, west of Austinmer railway station. Only smaller colliers could berth and the vessels had to maintain full steam whilst loading in order to make a very quick departure should a sudden storm arise.

The Wreck of the Waratah

When the colliery came into production, the company chartered the well-known 550t collier “Waratah” to convey coal to Sydney. In June 1887 this vessel was caught in a squall while tied up to the jetty and, although it was promptly released, one of the mooring ropes dragged into the sea and fouled the propeller. The disabled ship was washed on to the rocks at Hick’s Point and became a total wreck.

Jetty remnants - dowel pins in rock shelf

(Mineral Heritage Committee collection)

 

Remnants

There are remnants of the jetty to be seen on the rocky shelf to the left of the boat ramp. In construction, steel dowel pins, 3 inches diameter were inserted into holes drilled into the rocky shelf. Wooden piles with holes drilled into their bases were then positioned onto these to form the structure of the jetty. These dowels can best be seen at low tide. Shifting sands may cover some of them at times. The stern mooring ring is also visible in the area where the steel pins are protruding from the rocky shelf.

The jetty was abandoned in the late 1890s. It was damaged by storms in November 1903, and destroyed by fire in 1915.