Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Trading Ketches of South Australia

The Trading Ketches of South Australia: an Oral History on Film, by Garry Kerr, Portland, Victoria, 2005

Well, that's the title of Garry Kerr's film which I came away with - in DVD format - as my tangible souvenir of last Wednesday's trip to The Maritime Museum at Port Victoria, South Australia. What a splendid documentary compilation it is, part rostrum photography of surviving still images, part movie footage, plus on-camera interviews with those who remember the ketch trade firsthand.

We're talking about a time span of a hundred and fifty years from the founding of S.A. as a British colony in 1836 right up to the re-enactments in 1986 of loading of wheat bags from bullock drays onto the ketch Falie (restored as a multi-purpose working vessel). I was present at the event on Normanville beach.

Anyway, I'm going to watch the DVD again and take some more notes. Will add to these comments then. His film is a great companion piece to Garry Kerr's other title The Last Cape Horners, of which I made previous mention. Port Victoria played a key role as a windjammer port and it was also, of course, one of the towns at which the trading ketches routinely called.

Not all the small sailing craft were strictly masted or rigged as ketches, but the word ketch became something of a generic term for the vessels plying the trade around the towns of the two gulfs, Spencer Gulf and Gulf Saint Vincent.

Here's something Garry Kerr doesn't tell us. The French navigator Nicholas Baudin named what we know as Spencer Gulf "Golfe Bonaparte", while Gulf Saint Vincent to him was "Golfe Josephine" - so you can guess that if the Napoleonic Wars had had another outcome, a few things would definitely be different - at the very least the naming of our South Aussie gulfs after Napoleon and his Josephine.

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