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      South Australian Projects 
      Cape Jervis - Fishery Beach


      Zone 54 
      Map 6526  Cape Jervis - South Australia, 3rd edition 
      E 0238821 - N 6052992 
      Lat. 138 05' 20" - Long. 35 35' 40" 

      View of Fishery Beach (Photo: Jody Steele and Tim Owen) 

      Aerial photograph of Fishery Bay Station site (Courtesy: Mapland)

      The whaling station began operations in 1841, when shipping records show that whale oil from the Cape Jervis whaling station was delivered to Port Adelaide aboard Sophia Jane, a cutter owned by John T. Haynes.  Haynes was the licensee of the Commercial Hotel at Port Adelaide and also owned the Fishery Beach whaling station. 

      Haynes disappeared while on a voyage aboard Sophia Jane with his headsman, George McGeehan, and several others when it was wrecked 80 kilometres south of the Murray Mouth.  Their bodies were never recovered, and it is believed that they were buried by local Indigenous people. 

      The whaling station changed ownership several times after this. Mr. Jacob Baker, a partner in whaling operations at Encounter Bay, purchased the fishery and its accessories at auction in April 1845 for £126.  In 1851 there is a report of the station being owned by Mr. Barnett, and managed on his behalf by Mr. Clark.  

      In 1851 Mr. Clark was accompanied by his wife to the station. The best description of the site comes from a travelling journalist who visited the site in December 1850. Mr. Clark was away but:  

      "Mrs. Clark received us with much attention and civility, in a slab hut, the picture of neatness and order, though the premises were surrounded by ducks, fowls, pigs, turkeys, four caged parroquets, a tame magpie, a pet cat, and an infant cockatoo." 
      This article also gives an indication of where the hut was located as the journalist reports: 
      "... we came in sight of Mr. Barnett's fishery, which, with its scattered sheds and buildings near the shore, we saw from a rise which terminated in a slope where the hut of Mr. Clark, the manager, was placed." 
      Later in the article this location is further expanded on when the journalist mentions that: 
      "Mrs. Clark had attempted a little garden north of the house, a little above it, which she said her husband laughed at but we told her that it might prove no joke. She was ambitious of growing melons, which were thriving, and coveted cucumbers, but had no seed." 
        (South Australian Register April 25 1851, p.3)
       Following a poor season in 1851, with only a single whale caught, a consortium consisting of Boord, Johnson and Bennett purchased the station from Barnett.  They also suffered a disastrous seasons and the ëinefficient and intemperateí attitudes of the crewmen forced the owners to abandon the fishery at Cape Jervis. Little is currently known of its operations after this date, with the local historian, R.F. Williams, stating that the station ceased operations in about 1855 (1985:23).  

      Fishery Bay was reused in the 1860s after the McLeod Brothers of Cape Jervis established the Talisker Silver Mine in 1862. The McLeods built a treatment works at Fishery Bay in 1863. The plant consisted of a 12 horse power steam engine, a boiler and a crusher. When Captain W. Price took on the management of the mine in 1864 he began construction of treatment works at the mine site and the plant at Fishery Bay fell into disuse. Fishery Bay was, however, still used by the mining operation as a port to ship the silver and lead (Williams 1985:47-49). 


      Pre Disturbance Survey  
      Crew: Dr. Mark Staniforth, Cass Philippou, Nathan Richards, Tracey Treloar, Jody Steele, Tim Owen, Terry Arnott (HSA), Wayne Johnson, Peter Bell. 

      On the 20th and 21st of October 2000 a group of volunteers and staff from Flinders University conducted a pre disturbance survey at Fishery Beach, Cape Jervis. The aim of this survey was to determine if a mound and line of stones, noted by Terry Arnott from Heritage SA, could be the remains of the Clark's hut. To determine this the team were looking for several factors. Firstly, did the site fit the description of its location given by the travelling journalist? Secondly, were there  artefact scatters that could be related to whaling? Lastly, was there any other evidence to suggest that the site was that of the Clark's hut rather than being related to the later operations of the Talisker Mine? 

      The crew found answers to all these questions that suggested that the site probably was the Clark's hut. Given the sloping nature of the area the site was located in the only place that matched the journalists description. The hut was located on a rise with a smaller rise behind it for the garden (figure 1). 

      Figure 1:  Nathan Richards and Tracey Treloar (left) seated on hut site with Dr. Mark Staniforth and Terry Arnott (right) standing on probable location of Mrs. Clark's garden. Photo: Tim Owen and Jody Steele 

      The crew also surveyed the area looking for artefacts. They found some bricks, slag and a bottle base (figure 3). At least one of the bricks can be positively connected to the whaling station as it was partly burnt and smelt of whale blubber (figure 2). When they found an artefact the crew plotted its location with a total station, which electronically measures degrees, distances and angles. The remains of the hut and structures from the mine along with features like the creek, power transformer and track were also plotted to show where these features were in relation to each other (figure 4). 

       Figure 2: Brick surveyed during pre distrubance work. Note the burnt section of the brick.  This actually smells like burnt whale blubber. (Photo: Jody Steele and Tim Owen). 

      Figure 3: Mid 19th century black glass bottle base found during pre disturbance work (Photos: Jody Steele and Tim Owen). 

      Figure 4: Total station plot showing location of sturctures located at Fishery Beach and artefacts found during the pre disturbance survey. (Map: Chris Lewczak). 

      A closer inspection of the remains of the hut visible on the surface showed that they were made of slate taken from the beach. Structures from the Talisker mine still evident were all made of limestone. The variation in building materials gives an indication that the structures were build by different people. Miners invested more effort into the structures they built as they expected to be there for a long time. Whalers, on the other hand, put in less effort because they did not know whether the whaling station was going to be a success and, therefore, how long they were going to be there for. Limestone took more time to collect and build with than did the beach slate used on the hut site. The different building material and construction techniques used on the mining structures and the site under investigation may indicate these differences. This was taken as further evidence that the hut was probably that of the Clark's. 

      Archaeological Excavation 
      Crew: Dr. Mark Staniforth, Dr. Susan Lawrence, Terry Arnott (Heritage SA), Susan Briggs, Chris Lewczak, Cassandra Philippou, Sally May, Jody Steele, Tim Owen, Rachel Owen, Catherine Hunt, Peter Brit, Virginia Dellino, Tracey Treloar. 

      Figure 5: Group of volunteers excavating Trench 1 context 100, Fishery Beach, Cape Jervis. Left to Right: Chris Lewczak, Tim Owen, Dr. Mark Staniforth, Virginia Dellino, Rachel Owen, Susan Briggs. Photo: Jody Steele 

      From the 5th to the 10th of December the group visited again, this time to excavate the possible hut site. Over the five days four trenches of varying sizes were excavated (figure 6). Three of these revealed foundations of the hut. The fourth, a mound, was discovered to be a natural feature and the trench was abandoned. 
      Figure 6: Location of trenches relative to each other. (Map: Chris Lewczak). 

      Excavations in Trench 1 revealed the remains of a slate and stone hearth (figure 7) and a small alcove where tools for the fire were kept.  Sitting inside the hearth was a 19th Century brick.  Mortar was found in between some of slabs of slate, perhaps providing them with a base. 

      Figure 7: Trench 1, Context 3 - 10 degrees. Slate and stone hearth. Photo: Dr. Mark Staniforth 

      Two parallel lines of stones run out to the west from the hearth, through Trench 4, suggesting that they were foundations for a wall (figure 8).  A gap of 10 cm separates them.  It is believed that the timber slabs would have sat inside this gap and the stones abutting them would have provided stability for the walls. 

      Figure 8: Trench 4, Context 2 - 10 degrees. Note the  line of parallel stones running from the hearth on the right into Trench 3 on the left. Wooden slabs were believed to have been placed between these rows to hold them upright. Photo: Tim Owen. 

      In Trench 3 and 3a were a series of six post holes.  These consist of circular deposits of tiny river stones, mainly quartzite, and sandy soil, most likely placed around a post to fill the hole back in and hold the post upright (figure 9).  These posts were probably used to support the roof of the hut, which was probably thatched. 

      Figure 9: Detail of one of the post holes from Trench 3. These probably once held poles to support the thatched roof. Photo: Sally May. 

      There were not many artefacts found considering the size of the area excavated. Artefacts found included: 

      • fragments of kaolin clay pipe;
      • fragments and complete pieces of ferrous metal, such as bolts, nails and an 'S' hook;
      • copper tacks;
      • fragments of 19th century bottle glass;
      • ceramic from tableware;
      • fragments of animal bone.
      Figure 10: Top left - CJ0049 Kaolin tobacco pipe, trench 4, context 400 (Photo: Tracey Treloar and Susan Briggs); Top right - CJ0044 Ceramic, trench 2east, context 201e (Photo: Tracey Treloar and Susan Briggs); Bottom left - metal 'S' hook, trench 3a, context 301a (Photo: Tracey Treloar); Bottom right - CJ0046 copper tack, one of the many found across the site, trench 3a, context 3000a (Photo: Tracey Treloar). 

      The small number of artefacts can be attributed to three factors. Firstly, the difficulties of supply, the station was very isolated. Secondly, there was a high level of curation of ceramics and glass vessels. Lastly Mrs. Clark was indeed very neat and disposed of waste a long way from the hut. 


      'Sketches of the Present State of South Australia. No. XI. - Cape Jervis', South Australian Register, 25 April 1851, p.3 

      Kostoglou, P. and McCarthy, J. 1991. Whaling and Sealing Sites in South Australia, Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology, Special Publication No:6, p39-40. 
      Williams, R.F. 1985. To Find the Way. Yankalilla and District Historical Society, Yankalilla. 

      By  Susan Briggs, Chris Lewczak, Rebecca O'Reilly  and Cassandra Philippou 

      Return to South Australian Whaling Site Index
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Created and maintained by Mark Staniforth and Nathan Richards.
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Mark. Staniforth@flinders.edu.au