Sunday History Photo / SA

Submitted: Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 07:48
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Randell's Dry Dock, originally a floating dock, was built by shipwright 'Little Tommy' Smith for A.H. Landseer in Milang in 1873 and described at the time as the largest floating dock built in the Southern Hemisphere. Listed on the South Australian State Heritage Register and the Register of the National Estate, the Randell Dry Dock was designed and constructed as a timber floating dry dock in 1873 for use on Lake Alexandrina. The dock proved to be a failure in its intended use, due to the limited water depth in the Lake , twelve trestles were fitted to the bottom to support the vessel being repaired. The dock was calculated to lift 1000 tons but was unable to sink low enough in the shallow waters to take on most vessels but was soon converted to a graving dry dock. It is one of a few timber floating dry docks to have been constructed in Australia, and was the only graving dock on the inland river system. Built of red-gum as a floating dock this dock was dug into the river bank at Mannum in 1876. After major repairs in 1880 the dock was used productively until 1927.

Specifications: Length: 140 feet (42.7m) Width: 40 feet (12.2m) Depth: 12 feet (3.7m) Total weight: 350 tons

The installation of the Dock at Mannum greatly extended a small existing ship building and repair facility that had been developed by Captain William Richard Randell since forming his base on this portion of the River Murray in the 1850’s. Being the only facility of its type on the inland river system it attracted a large number of river vessels for repair and re-fitting, with up to 30 vessels using the dock per year. It is estimated that over half of all vessels in use on the river system used the Dock at some time. The Dock and its associated workshops consequently had a significant role in employing local shipwrights and tradesmen, and provided the core required to maintain local ship building industry. After several years the dock was purchased by William Randell and towed to Mannum. He claimed that it moved like a snake when towed. The first vessel, the PS Lady Daly, entered the dock for repairs on 6 June 1876, but it was found that the structure was leaking.




The construction of the Dock at Milang and its opening at Mannum three years later coincides with the peak of the significant river trade which had facilitated the development of much of the inland areas of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. River trade patterns were to change during the late 1870’s and 1880’s as railways reached the Rivers and heralded the gradual decline in the River trade. While Mannum declined as a port, the Dock flourished during this period and over the next fifty years until it was replaced by a new slip at Morgan in the late 1920’s.
The Dock has a strong association with a number of individuals who were extremely influential in the development of the River Murray trade. The merchant AH Landseer from his headquarters at Milang did much to foster the river trade by providing an efficient and cost effective outlet for wool and a source of up river cargoes. By the early 1870’s, over half of the wool for direct export passed through his business, as well as the majority of export goods for up river destinations. Landseer also owned a fleet of river vessels, for the repair of which he commissioned the floating dry dock in 1873.



Captain William Richard Randell was the pioneer navigator of the inland river system, having through his own initiative designed, built and sailed the first river steamer, the PS Mary Ann, in 1853. Randell and the Mary Ann, took part in the famous up river race with Captain Cadell in 1853, and he pioneered navigation of many of the rivers of the system, testing the limits of navigation. Randell made Mannum his base, subdivided the land for the current centre of the town and constructed his home, Bleak House, on the ridge overlooking the dock. He had used Mannum for the construction and repair of his own river vessels, and had constructed a slip there in the 1860’s. In 1874 he purchased Landseer’s failed floating dry dock and towed it to Mannum, where he supervised its installation into the river bank to form the current dry dock. In association with his partners, in 1880 Randell commissioned and supervised alterations to the Dock, and in which configuration it remains today. Despite moving from Mannum in 1876, Randell maintained his strong associations with the river and Mannum, maintaining his fleet and the ownership of the Dock until his death in 1911.
On Randell’s death the Dock was purchased by Captain Johan Georg Arnold. A Swedish sailor, he had made Mannum his base and in the 1890’s had begun to build up a fleet of river vessels, eventually combining with the other major ship owners to form Murray Shipping Limited. He owned local business and won Government tenders for the supply of materials and construction of barges for the construction of the locks. He also played a role in the evolution of the river trade, as a major buyer of wheat for the expanding farm land of the Murray Mallee, his barges carried wheat to Goolwa and his passenger vessels helped to develop a new tourist trade. Arnold gave the Dock a new impetus, by upgrading its facilities and providing good management, it continued its role as a major river vessel repair facility and provided the basis for his new ship building slips. With the construction of a Murray Shipping Limited slip at Morgan, the Dock was closed in the late 1920’s.




After becoming defunct in the late 1920’s, the flooded dock was used by the community for mooring small boats. The use of the flooded dock for the permanent mooring of the PS Marion in 1963 returned the site to prominence in the mind of the community, with the vessel providing a visual identity for the site. The dock itself was again in the public eye with its use as the site for the restoration work to PS Marion which was undertaken there during the early 1990’s. This use also helped to return an economic focus to this area of the town by providing a new centre of a growing tourist industry, which has since been reinforced by locating the current Visitor Information Centre and Museum alongside the dock.


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Reply By: Member - MUZBRY(Vic) - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 08:12

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 08:12
Gday Doug
Gee you put up some interesting stuff. Thanks for todays, it gives me another place to visit when free to go.

Muzbry
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Follow Up By: Bonz (Vic) - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 08:48

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 08:48
Middle of the winter trip??? Overnighter??
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Follow Up By: Member - MUZBRY(Vic) - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 08:57

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 08:57
Good morning
Where do you want to go young fella?

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Follow Up By: Bonz (Vic) - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 09:16

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 09:16
Good morning! Yes I reckon somewhere cold would be great, bracing one could say
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Follow Up By: Member - MUZBRY(Vic) - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 09:22

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 09:22
Bonz
We need someone to organise us to go . Ill be away for the last two weeks of July . Ill talk to some people I know and sort something out.

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Reply By: Nomad Navara - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 10:19

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 10:19
more great work Doug, thank you once again.
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