Port Chalmers Harbour Photocards through the decades.

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Port Chalmers in Postcards

 From the entrance at Otago Heads to Dunedin wharves by sea is about thirteen miles
 Otago Heads to Port Chalmers being six miles
 and the Port to Dunedin seven miles.

New Zealand Bound

Port Chalmers, a small town, located on the western shore of Otago Harbour, on a small hilly peninsula was founded on 31 July 1844  Reclaimed land is the site for Dunedin's container port. There were two Otago Harbour Board graving docks, the first being opened in 1872.

1951 census, 2,682
1956 census, 3,012
1961 census, 3,120
1996 census 1,365

Port Chalmers 23 March 1864 - Otago Witness page1
From the Otago Witness 23 March 1864 with the prominent building in the center closet to the wharf is the Customs and Courthouse. A picture of Port Chalmers as seen from the signal station on Observation Point, and especially engraved by the Otago Witness own artist. 1864 

'Money ran like water in Port Chalmers in those days [1862], and as usual the gold miners were a pretty uproarious crowd" Basil Lubbock

Otago Harbour is a long narrow large natural, non-estuarune inlet on the SE coast of the South Island surrounded by an amphitheature of hills of the Otago Peninsula with the city of Dunedin sprawling around the head. About 22 km long. The harbour mouth is 400m wide. The average depth at high tide is 4.5 m.

Port Chalmers, formerly Koputai, was named after Dr. Thomas Chalmers, of the Free Church of Scotland, has preserved many of its old stone buildings and retains its connection with its maritime past. Surveyed by kettle in May 1846. The first settlers were the Anderson's and McKay's families both from Nelson.  The McKay's opened a public house known as 'The Surveyor's Arm's' where the Pt. Chalmers Hotel is located.  The Anderson's came to the bay at the head of the harbour now known as Anderson's Bay. The John Wickliffe landed passengers here in 1848 at what is now Water St.  The first steamer to visit was the H.M.S. Acheron in 1849. Today it is the deep water port for Dunedin situated 14km NE from Dunedin.  It was from Port Chalmers on 11 February 1882 that the first cargo of refrigerated meat left New Zealand for London onboard the vessel 'Dunedin'.  Port Chalmers Museum. Written enquiries with SSAE. Holdings include index to people and ships, local cemetery and funeral directors records. No passenger lists are in their holdings.  Former citizens include Henry Dench, Captain Tom Robertson, and Capt. W. Sewell.

The survey of Port Chalmers was completed by the middle of May, 1846. The streets enshrine the names of the first emigrant vessels. Hence, Wickliffe, Laing, Victory, Bernicia, Mary, Ajax, and Scotia streets; the last after Mr John Jones' favourvite schooner, which traded up and down the coast. Harrington street is after the secretary of the New Zealand Company, the same gentlemen being also remembered in Harrington Point, near the Heads. Currie street is after one of the directors who took a special interest in the scheme. Burns street, after the first minister of the settlement. George and Grey after Sir George Grey, the Governor. The river bounding the southern portion of Otago was called Matau by the Maoris, and had been named Molyneux by Captain Cook. The association decided that it should be known as Clutha - that being Gaelic for Glasgow's river, Clyde.

'Port Chalmers' Early People. Complied by Ian Church.' The Dunedin Public Library, NZ Room, by the 'shipping' stuff, three large orange binders, A to Z  listing people by surnames noting a brief history on them and ODT, directory, electoral roll references, and cross referencing.  A wonderful resource. also notes for further information send SAE to the Archivist, PC Museum, Beach St, Port Chalmers, Dunedin, New Zealand ph: 472 8233: email pcmuseum@extra.co.nz

Church, Ian, 1941- Port Chalmers and its People. Dunedin : Otago Heritage Books, 1994. 212 pp Bibliography and index. Includes a coloured print of the Robert Henderson & Pladda lying at anchor in Pt Chalmers, 1861. Painting by R. P. Macgoun.  Reproduced by courtesy Otago Settlers' Museum.

Church, Ian, - A Guiding Light: the Port Chalmers Presbyterian Church and its People. : commemorating 150 years since the opening of the second church in Otago in October 1852/ Ian Church - [Dunedin, NZ] : United Church of Port Chalmers Presbyterian Parish, 2002 - 52 pp, 22 plate. 

Bowman, H.O. (Harold Otto) Port Chalmers : Gateway to Otago Christchurch : Capper Press, 1978.  222pp. Reprint of the 1948  Whitcombe & Tombs, by Otago Centennial Historical. Contains a bibliography. hardback 224 pages.  An Otago Centennial Historical Publication. Lots of history, facts, people, events and photos.

Contents include: -
Before the settlement
Early Post Chalmers
Port and harbour
The waterfront
Wrecks and hulks
The churches
Defence and patriotic
Social and sporting

Stewart, Peter J., 1934- Days of fortune; a history of Port Chalmers, 1848-1973 78 pp Dunedin, J. McIndoe, 1973

Gold Rush

The "Otago Witness" announced the gold finding at Gabriel Gully on 1 June 1861. The gold rushes in Australia starting in 1851 and Otago in 1861 and the West Coast, South Island lead to increased trans - Tasman migration as well as the need to find employment, the opening of new farm lands and the low coast of travel. 

Gold exported from New Zealand
1861 187,695 ounces
1862 239,722 ounces

Shipped to England via Melbourne
1863 284,118 ounces
1864 311,767 "
1865 216,046 "
1866 407,394 "
Total exportation in 1865 was �2,226,474
Reference: Resources of the Pacific Slope 1869 by J. Ross Browne.

Port Chalmers is a harbour of winding waters and wooded shores. 1873

Birdlife abounds Otago Harbour especially waders, waterfowl and sea birds. S.I. pied oystercatcher, shags (Stewart Island and spotted), bar-tailed godwits, banded dotterel, black swans, mallard ducks, gulls, yellow-eyed penguin, blue eyed penguin. Royal Albatross at the Heads. Marine mammals include fur seals, Hooker sea lions, elephant seals and leopard seals - depends on the season. The common dolphins and the Dusky dolphins at the Heads.

Port Chalmers c.1860 - A Wilfred Alfred Nicholls engraving. View from the flagstaff.

Port Chalmers. From a 1903 NZ Geography Book for Students.

Port Chalmers 1890 with a sheerlegs crane capable  of lifting 80 tons and graving dock. Steamers at the USSCo. wharf. 

View Port Chalmers in 1875 showing in the foreground the abandoned ship's boiler from which Boiler Point took its name. The bay area is now reclaimed land. The flagstaff on the hill at the left also carried a time-ball, dropped daily at noon.

Port Chalmers with Goat Island and Koputai Bay.  Railway line passing right in front of the ?Methodist Church.
Similar view


Port Chalmers - today the main trunk railroad line is where the road (word cemetery) is in the foreground.
Same angle.

Port Chalmers 1960.
Similar photo.


Port Chalmers

google map 2008


Otago Witness 16 March 1872 pg13