Sir John Coode's
With the discovery of diamonds and the subsequent annexation of the diamond fields, the Cape Colony
became awash with money. As a result, railway lines began to be built from the major ports into the
interior, while the harbours themselves underwent a massive facelift.
Sir John Coode was responsible for drawing the plans for East London. He created training walls along
both banks of the river so that the flow of water at high tide would scour the sandbar and wash the silt out
This would be assisted by regular floods which he expected would happen every two or three years. In
reality, however, it just did not work because there was no flood at East London for the following 15 years.
Instead of the river becoming deeper and thereby enabling ships of a greater mass to enter the harbour,
the river mouth actually silted up, allowing people to cross dry-shod at low tide.
It was only in 1886, when a suction dredger was at last procured, that the river could be effectively
deepened. The Lucy worked steadily for the following decade and the result was a harbour which
was indeed workable.
More and more ships now entered the river mouth, and each year their tonnage increased. By the time
of the Boer War, there were more than 100 ships in the harbour simultaneously, so that they had to be
berthed sometimes three or even four abreast.
In the meantime, continued expansion of wharves on the eastern shore saw the harbour become busier
and busier. By 1896, when a new passenger jetty was created near First Creek -- the area that is now
known as Latimer's Landing -- passengers were able to disembark near the pontoon.
14 October 2009
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