The Jetty 1905 Story

The Jetty

The conception of the jetty occurred mainly due to the inadequacies of the Mole such as the rapid silting up of the harbour area in 1904- an urgent rethink of the way in which the cargoes could be offloaded from the ships which anchored off one kilometre from the shoreline was where the idea for the jetty took hold.                              
It was decided that a wooden landing jetty should be constructed for the purpose of off-loading the boats and rafts.
On 25 October 1904 sixty men of the 2nd Eisenbahn-baukompagnie landed at Swakopmund with the materials and commenced with the construction of the jetty. The high Atlantic surf made the operation of securing the foundations and lower braces of the pillars treacherous labour with work teams being regularly engulfed by angry waves. There was a race against time and even though  working conditions were dangerous, troublesome and debilitating, the tough engineers soldiered on as the Mole harbour was rapidly silting up. They met their deadline and the Jetty was completed 25 April 1905.

It was 275m long and 9m wide. By 1907 the volume of goods being handled by the jetty warranted the expenditure of not only extending the jetty by 50m but also widening it a further 5m in order that the bulkier cargo could be handled more efficiently.
During the early days of the colony shipping goods to Swakopmund companies encountered major budget problems as there were no return loads for the ships. Export only began as late as 1907 when the Otavi Copper Mine came into production and the export of ore began, and by 1911 the first blocks of Karibib dimension stone marble were shipped through the  port of Swakopmund.   But the jetty soon encountered its own problems as nature continued its tirade on the steadfast jetty - spring floods affected the foundations and  the marine borer mollusc (Teredo Navalis) attacked the submerged wooden beams, which had to be replaced at regular intervals.

The construction of the (steel) iron jetty, which commenced in 1912, was contracted as a joint venture to the companies Flander A.G., Benroth and Grun & Bilfinger. The jetty was originally planned to be 640m long, and stood on the south side of the wooden jetty. However, the outbreak of the Great war halted construction of the steel jetty at only 262 m.  Foundation problems were ingenuously overcome by drilling and securing the pillars to the bedrock. Two of the original ‘stamper’ drills bits of 63cm and 93 cm across the chisel ends can be seen mounted on a pedestal at the entry point to jetty.                  
The unusually heavy rains (Hochwasser) of 1934 resulted in so much sand being washed down the Swakop River that the shoreline increased to past the end of the jetty! It took several years for the shoreline to return to its ‘normal’ position.  The Swakopmund Jetty soon became a favorite fishing ‘spot’ with anglers and at times looked a veritable porcupine with fishing rods bristling from the platform. It was also popular  place for couples to take romantic strolls and was a breathtaking location from which to view the sunset. From the end of the jetty you could also look back at to the coastline and see an unspoilt panoramic view of the little hamlet of Swakopmund.

However, by 1983, never having had any major repairs, the jetty was considered unsafe. A jetty fund managed to raise N$ 300,000 after numerous collections and fund-raisers, which were way off the mark and insufficient to complete the much needed repairs.

 Concrete pillars were placed around some of the more corroded steel “legs”, but sadly the jetty was still considered unsafe for pedestrian use. The Municipality of Swakopmund recognized the value of the Jetty to the town as a tourist attraction as well as a historical landmark that was enjoyed by all population groups from all over the country. The jetty is also considered to be the beginning of Swakopmund’s rich German colonial history.
Former mayor of Swakopmund, the late Daniel Kamho instigated the ‘Save the Jetty Fund’ and eventually the renovations were undertaken in a joint venture between Kraatz Marine, Walvis Bay Diving & Bicon Engineering in September 2005.

The jetty was opened after thirteen months of back breaking, challenging work on 6 October 2006 by Swakopmund  Mayor Rosina  /Hoabes  "This town just about managed to survive," Swakopmund Mayor Rosina /Hoabes said of the years since 1998 when the jetty was closed after an underwater survey found it to be structurally unsound.
   "The town was built because of the jetty," she said, "and it gave Swakopmund that romantic aura."

After reviewing proposals that answered their call to “take care” of the jetty, The Town Council accepted a proposal by The Lighthouse Group to develop, maintain and manage the jetty and to make the project commercially viable the idea for Jetty 1905 was born. The remaining portion of the jetty was renovated by the Lighthouse Group and opened by the Swakopmund Mayor on 6 August 2010, and the restaurant opened its doors on the 14 October 2010.

The Jetty 1905 Story
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