Sunday, 7 March 2010

The Selborne Dry Dock in Simonstown

With March 6th and 7th being Navy Day at Cape Towns,Simonstown,why not do a feature on a dry dock,not just any dry dock either.
As a very regular visitor to Simonstown Naval Dockyard delivering either sealed tenders,delivering wood and collecting cheques from Dawn in the payment offices,I got to know my way around and meet some interesting people,one being the Dock Master.
He told me the dock was part of the British Empires way of doing things in the world,the stone was cut block by block in India,then shipped to Simonstown for construction,it was laid with a fall,end to end of exactly one foot (12") and even today if that fall is measured its exactly the same now,thats now 100 years later on!

In 1900 the yard covered about 13 acres, exclusive of the victualling establishment and naval hospital, and was provided with a small camber, slipways for torpedo-boats and small vessels, together with various dockyard buildings, storehouses, coal stores, &c., but had no dry dock or deep-water wharf. Under the Naval Works Loan Act of 1899 £2,500,000 was provided for the construction of additional docks east of the original naval yard. These works were begun in 1900 and completed in 1910. They consist of a tidal basin 28 acres in extent, with a depth of 30 ft. at low-water spring tides, enclosed by a breakwater on the eastern and northern sides and a similar projecting arm or pier on the west. The entrance to the basin faces'north-westerly, and is 300 ft. in width. South of the basin is a large reclaimed area forming the site of the new dockyard. Opening from the basin is a dry dock, 750 ft. in length on blocks, with an entrance 95 ft. wide and having 30 ft. over the sill at lowwater spring tides. The foundation stone of the dry dock was laid in November 1906 by the earl of Selborne, after whom it is named, and the dock was opened in November 1910 by the duke of Connaught.

The Selborne dock can be subdivided by an intermediate caisson in such a manner as to form two docks, respectively 400 lt. and 320 ft. in length, or 470 ft. and 250 ft. in length on blocks, as may be required, or the full length of 750 ft. can be made available. The dockyard buildings include extensive shops for the chief engineer's and chief constructor's departments, the pumping-engine house, working sheds, &c., while ample space is reserved for additional docks and buildings. Berthing accommodation is provided in the basin alongside the wharf walls which surround it. The walls available for this purpose have a total length of 2585 ft. lineal, are constructed of interlocked concrete block work, with an available depth of water of 30 ft. at low water, and are furnished with powerful shear-legs and cranes for the use of vessels alongside. Extensive sheds for the storage of coal are provided. The whole of the dockyard area (35 acres), including the enclosing breakwater and pier, was formed by reclamation from the sea; and the total area of the new works, including the tidal basin, is 63 acres

This then came in as a response to my blog:

Hi Roy,
Thanks for the article on the Selborne Dock. Just for info the granite blocks came from Scandinavia, not India. You will probably be interested to know that we are planning something special for the docks centenary in November this year.

Best regards,

John Sutherland
Simon's Town Dock Master.

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