Sunday, June 11, 2017

Unloading cargo by Lighter - the old-fashioned way

Goods for Norfolk Island.
At Norfolk Island in the South Pacific, wooden hand-built lighters are the only means of unloading cargo. A ship, anchored beyond the double reefs can wait for days for the sea to calm sufficiently for the lighters to be put into the water.

Once-a-month, a cargo vessel sits off the coast only a few hundred yard from where the HMS SIRIUS foundered in 1790. The hand-built lighters must wait for the sea to calm before they can be hoisted onto the water.

With no natural harbour and treacherous reefs to navigate, all cargo for Norfolk Island is brought ashore by lighter (like a traditional longboat or whaleboat of the sailing ships of a bygone era) in the manner goods have been brought ashore since the settlement was established in the late 1700s.
Unlike the early days, today’s cargo does not comprise of soldiers, marines, convicts and livestock, but is often made up of dozens of cars and small trucks plus all manner of building materials and provisions. 

Having no engine, merely one oar for steering, the lighters are towed out to the cargo ship by a motorized boat, where they are loaded up and then towed back to the pier.
Two weeks ago, operating from dawn till dusk, the whole process, took 4 days to complete. It is repeated once every month with ninety per cent of the necessities for the island being delivered this way.

Once past their useful life, the old boats remain on the shore as a reminder of the important role they have served over the years. They also make attractive subjects for photographers.
It is said that the specific whaleboat design was brought to the island from Pitcairn in 1856. They are constructed on the island by skilled boat builders but never given a name – merely allocated a number. 

The latest is No. 03 (number 13 being regarded as unlucky) built from local pine. The keel is of Australian hardwood. Launched in May 2016, No. 03 is expected to carry about 30,000 tons in its 20 year working life.
Last week, I watched 3 of the lighters at work for 4 days including No. 3

No comments: