HOME OF THE LADY DENMAN - Local history isn't always about the big story - the everyday story of life in the early development of the region can be a fascinating, entertaining and educational journey.

28 December 2013

St Georges Basin

basin-viewA magnificent waterway on the south coast.

The traditional custodians of the land surrounding St Georges Basin were the Indigenous Australian Yuin people, who named the basin as Bherwherrae or Bherwherree.
European surveyor Thomas Florance renamed the body of water as St Georges Basin on 29 November 1827 while tracing from Jervis Bay to Conjola.

The Basins first white settlers are thought to be William and Alex Brice mid 1880's.


Some Basin history snippets.

1841 – Soon after the sale of land lots at the newly proposed township South Huskisson, there was great interest being shown in land around the basin. 16 agricultural farms of thirty-eight acres each came up for sale.

1888 – A new shipbuilding slipway was constructed by Messrs, Mathie and Suffolk on the western side of the Basin under the lee of Tallyan Point in a spot well sheltered from southerly and westerly winds. The "ways" of 12 x 12 hardwood ran some hundred feet or more into the lake and also a couple of hundred feet inland so that by the time the cradle was hauled up to it's fullest extent, there was space below the keel for a man to walk under.
The schooner Result of about 60 tons was the first vessel on the slip,  "slowly rising out of the water without mishap".

1889 – A large and deadly storm hit the basin. Jagged hailstones as big as hens eggs flattened the landscape, cows backs were torn open, fruit trees were stripped bare and the following day hail 12 to 18 inches deep still remained in shallow ditches. Trees around the lake were shredded bare leaving only the main stem and branches.  Many small animals and birds were found dead around the district houses had windows smashed and roofs holed.

1891-  Mathie and Suffolk bought the Schooner Result at a time when the timber trade between Sydney and the Basin was in decline, They quickly built the trade up again, the Result made fortnightly trips between ports.

1900 – Plans were set in motion to build a road linking St Gerges Basin with Nowra and Milton.

1903 – Fry trout were released into the Basins lagoons and thrived.

1907 – 5-pound trout were dying as the lagoons receded because of the protracted drought affecting the area.

1909 – Captain Creswell (Commonwealth Naval Director) made a report recommending St Georges Basin as a possible future naval base. He proposed dredging the entrance to accommodate shipping.

1909 – St Georges Basin sawmill burnt down. The court could not establish if it was accidental or deliberately lit. The property was valued at 700 pounds and insured for 300 pounds.

1914 – Commercial fishing was well established with large loads shipped by lorry to Sydney.

1914 – The first telephone communication between Tomerong and St Georges Basin was established under the charge of Miss Ellmoos.

1926 – A proposal was put forward to the Fisheries Department by fishermen at St Georges Basin to destroy porpoises "which for the past 20 years have been working havoc among fish".
The industry is now faced with ruination.  The Fisheries Department considered the porpoises pests.

Mr, A. W. Wood, an officer in charge of State fisheries, pointed out that there were 12 large porpoises which had never left the Inlet for 20 years. Their numbers alleged to be increasing.  The local fishermen saw their chance to kill this "pest" when the porpoises were observed travelling once a week up Tallawalla Creek which was 60 yards wide and 4ft deep.

It was proposed the department should get two nets, 60 yards long and 1 feet deep, four harpoons and pay a bonus of 1 pound a head for the porpoises captured.

The department, however, could not see it's way to initiate any action, but any effort to bring about the destruction of the porpoises would be considered on its merit.

Since posting this story I have been told fishermen shot the "porpoises" around 1950.
This came from a man who as a teenager was working as a fisheman.

The basin covers a catchment area of 316 square kilometres (122 sq miles)  an estimated surface area of 40.9 square kilometres (15.8 sq miles); and at an average depth of 5.3 metres (17 ft).

800px-OS2U_107_Sqn_RAAF_in_flightWorld WAR II

From 1943 to 1945 a squadron of 15 flying boats operated from the shores of the Basin. No.107 Squadron from Rathmines was transferred to the Basin and ran anti submarine patrols along the coast.
They were involved in an intensive search for the German U boat U-862 which sank American
Liberty Ship Robert J. Walker off Moruya on 25th December 1944. This amazing image was taken by a US Navy employee or sailor and is in the public domain. - No.107 Squadron OS2U Kingfisher.

The RAAF Sea Plane Base closed down on the 1st July 1946


Before 2002 the waterway was heavily fished and netted by professional fishermen  In 2002 it was declared a recreational fishing haven, with the government buying back all the commercial fishing licenses. This has resulted in an amazing turn around in fish populations with many species being caught these days that were considered fished out before 2002.
It has become a hot spot for fly and lure fishing, one commercial tour operator has a policy of catch and release and many huge flathead and bream are released back into the system.

The water way can be enjoyed by all, keep and eye on the weather and enjoy the sunsets from the eastern side, they are really quite amazing, so take you camera.

Ref; German U boat U862  - Read more. 1 and 2 this article contains pictures.

History is an amazing thing…


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