April 2, 2017 – Portland, Victoria, Australia
We had a great day today. When we got off the ship, it looked like everyone in town was there to greet us. They had all kinds of volunteers who did everything in their power to make us feel welcome. This was the friendliest welcome we’ve had on this trip. The 1st thing we did was ride the tram around town. It was a narrated tour which pointed out some of the sights to see and told us a bit about the history of the town. The neat thing about the tram ride was the homemade afghans which were carried in each car. These were donated by local people for visitors to use on the tram on cold days. Those who were riding on the outside portion of the car were certainly making use of them today.
After the tram ride, we caught the free shuttle bus and went to the Portland Botanical Garden. It was a small garden, but it was really nice. The dahlias were in full bloom, and they were gorgeous. They will be picked soon. They are used for decorations for ANZAC Day which is April 25th. They make huge decorative pieces from them as well as use them for bouquets. We understood that there were koalas in the garden, but we got so busy looking at birds, which I’ll let Patsy tell you about, that we almost missed the koala. Birds included mostly what we had seen before with the addition of some good pictures of corellas. We mentioned to one of the volunteers at the garden that we had wanted to see a koala. He said that he knew where one was, and he took us to see it. We had been within 30’ of it and had missed it. By the time we left, there must have been 20 people taking pictures of the koala. The volunteer made a lot of noise and tried to wake the koala up. The koala did open his eyes and shift his position, but then he went right back to sleep. He couldn’t be bothered with all these folks making noise and disturbing his sleep.
From the garden, we walked the short distance back into the center of town.
The Rocket Shed was interesting. I was expecting it to be an armory where ammunition was stored. Instead, it is where they stored a machine which looked like a gun. It could launch a rope to a wrecked ship if it was near shore. The rope was secured to the ship, and the rope was returned to shore. This created a pulley system to which they could attach a breeches buoy to evacuate the stranded sailors and passengers to shore. The breeches buoy was like a pair of pants into which the sailor/passenger inserted his/her legs and was pulled to safety via the pulley system.
There was a market day going on, and we looked through the 40 or so stalls. We didn’t find anything that we wanted to buy, but it was fun to just wander and look.
There was a gentleman there who had taken the nose cone of a Martin Mariner flying boat, put it on trailer wheels and had it on display. This was an aircraft operated by the RAAF during WWII. It could be used as a caravan (camper) for weekend fun!
It tried to rain this morning while we were on the trolley ride, but that was okay since we were riding inside the car. By the time we started walking around, it had cleared off and it turned into a pleasant day.
Just before we left port, the ship announcement was made that we would be hitting rough water again tonight so everyone should be careful walking. We have at least 2 more days in the Great Australian Bight which evidently can be quite turbulent so we can expect this rocking and rolling to continue at least that long.
Portland is the oldest European settlement in the state of Victoria.
The bay was named in honor of the Duke of Portland in 1800 by the British navigator James Grant who sailed in the Lady Nelson along the Victorian coast. The bay, the only deep sea port between Adelaide and Melbourne, offers a sheltered anchorage against the often wild weather of Bass Strait.
By the early 19th century, whalers and sealers were working the treacherous waters of Bass Strait and Portland Bay provided good shelter and fresh water which enabled them to establish the first white settlement in the area. Whaling captain William Dutton is known to have been resident in the Portland Bay area when the Henty clan arrived and is said to have provided seed potatoes for the Henty garden.
In 1834, Edward Henty and his family, who had migrated from England to Western Australia in 1829 and then moved to Van Diemen’s Land, ferried some of their stock across the Strait in search of the fine grazing land of the Western District.
After a voyage of 34 days, the Thistle arrived at Portland Bay on 19 November 1834. Edward Henty was only 24 years old. Early in December, using a plough he had made himself, he was the first white man to turn a sod in Victoria. The next voyage of the Thistle brought his brother Francis with additional stock and supplies, and in a short time houses were erected and fences put up.
The Hentys were "discovered" in Portland by the explorer Thomas Mitchell in 1836. The squatter settlement was illegal since, at that time, the British Colonial Office policy was to contain colonial settlements in Australia within geographic limits. It was still considering how to deal with the prior occupation and ownership of the land by Victorian Aborigines.
By 1838, land auctions had been authorized from Sydney and Charles Tyers surveyed the Portland Township in 1839. "It was government policy to encourage squatters to take possession of whatever land they chose". A Post Office was opened on 4 December 1841, the third to open in the Port Phillip District after Melbourne and Geelong.
Unusually for Aboriginal people in Australia, the Gunditjmara were a settled group who lived in small circular stone huts. The ancestors of the Gunditjmara people lived in villages of weather-proof houses with stone walls a meter high, around eel traps and aquaculture ponds at Lake Condah. On just one hectare of Allambie Farm, archaeologists have discovered the remains of 160 house sites.
On 30 March 2007, the Gunditjmara People were recognized by the Federal Court to be the native title-holders of almost 140,000 hectares of Crown land and waters in the Portland region.
Through the 19th century Portland developed to become an important fishing port providing for the town and later, with the connection of the railway, to the region as far afield as Ballarat and eventually Melbourne. Barracouta, Australian salmon and crayfish (now southern rock lobster) were the main catches with many fishermen working the bay, around the Lawrence Rocks and in the season, Bridgewater Bay.
Portland harbor enabled the development of the wool growing industry of the Western District, but has it lost its primacy to facilities at Geelong. Even in western Victoria, Portland fell behind Warrambook as the main commercial center. In the 20th century Portland's role as a port revived, and its economy was also boosted by the tourism industry and an aluminum smelter.
The port of Portland was sold in 1996 by the State Government to a group including the listed New Zealand company Infratil & the Scott Corporation), the first privatization of port facilities in Australia. Since then, it has been traded a number of times and is now owned by two institutional investors - the publicly listed Australian Infrastructure Fund and Utilities Trust of Australia, a private infrastructure fund - both of which are managed by Hastings Funds Management.
As new supertankers have emerged, Portland, along with Hastings in Western Port Bay was proposed as an alternative to the controversial plans for deepening of Melbourne's shallower Port Phillip. The plans are aimed at maintaining Victoria's shipping status since Melbourne has become Australia's busiest port, the Victorian economy relies heavily on the import and export of goods. Due to environmental reasons, the plan to deepen Port Phillip has been heavily criticized, whereas Portland offers some of the necessary infrastructure with minimum environmental impact.
Alcoa is Victoria's largest exporter. The Portland aluminum smelter is located in Portland in South West Victoria. The smelter was commissioned in 1987 and is managed by Alcoa World Alumina and Chemicals for Portland Aluminium (a joint venture project between Alcoa, CITIC and Marubeni). Portland is Australia's third largest aluminum smelter, with a capacity of around 352,000 tons of aluminum per annum. The majority of Portland's production is supplied to the export market. The Portland Aluminium smelter, in conjunction with Alcoa's Point Henry smelter produce about 30% of Australia's total aluminum. This smelter was recently closed.
Portland today is the home of a varied professional fishing fleet of approximately 60 vessels which harvest a wide variety of sustainable commercial species. During the austral summer (November to May), the Bonney Upwelling (part of the larger Great South Australian Coastal Upwelling System) brings nutrient-rich deep ocean water to the surface in the Portland area. This supports a rich abundance of marine life. Trawlers target deep sea finfish such as rockling, hoki, blue eye trevalla and more. Southern rock lobster, giant crab, blacklip and greenlip abalone, arrow squid, wrasse and others are also landed in significant quantities. The industry is a significant employer and directly generates approximately $30 million in export and domestic earnings for the town with major flow-on benefits through local seafood processing (both export and domestic), transport & engineering services, fuel supplies and other ancillary industries. An abalone hatchery has been established on the shores of Portland Bay. Easy access to prime locations supports a flourishing amateur angling fraternity with many locals and tourists regularly enjoying a fresh catch of King George Whiting, Snapper, Kingfish, Flathead, Morwong and Southern Bluefin tuna.
The Portland Wind Energy Project involves the development of four wind farms at Cape Bridgewater, Cape Nelson, Cape Sir William Grant and Yambuk in south-west Victoria. It is one of the biggest wind farm developments in the Southern Hemisphere. The four Portland sites are considered by the proponents of the project to be ideal wind farm locations, with consistently strong winds, access for construction vehicles and machinery, a nearby connection to the National Electricity Grid, compatible farming activities and a large land area. The 195MW project will produce enough clean electricity to power about 125,000 homes each year, equal to more than 7 per cent of Victoria's residential electricity demand, or power a city the size of Geelong.
Portland is one of the only cities in Australia where koalas, seals and whales are all regular visitors. Seals and large Eagle rays frequent the city boat ramp and fish cleaning tables particularly during school holidays and the tuna season. Southern Right whales and Humpbacks enter the bay annually.