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About Whyalla

Whyalla is the third most populous city in South Australia after Adelaide and Mount Gambier. It is a seaport located on the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.

History

It was founded as Hummock's Hill in 1901 by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) as the end of a tramway bringing iron ore from the Middleback Ranges to be used in the lead smelters at Port Pirie as flux. A jetty was built to transfer the ore. The settlement consisted of small cottages and tents clustered around the base of the hill. The Post Office opened in 1901 as Hummock's Hill and was renamed Whyalla on November 1, 1919.

The arid environment and lack of natural fresh water resources made it necessary to import water in barges from Port Pirie.

In 1905 the town's first school opened. It was originally called Hummock Hill School, and was subsequently renamed as Whyalla Primary School and Whyalla Higher Primary School. The school's current name is Whyalla Town Primary School.

On 16 April 1920 the town was proclaimed as Whyalla. The ore conveyor on the jetty was improved and ore began to be shipped to the newly built Newcastle, New South Wales steelworks. The town grew slowly until 1938.

The BHP Indenture Act was proclaimed in 1937 and provided the impetus for the construction of a blast furnace and harbour. In 1939 the blast furnace and harbour began to be constructed and a commitment for a pipeline from the Murray River was made. A shipyard was built to provide ships for the Royal Australian Navy. The population began rising dramatically and many new facilities, including a hospital and abbatoirs, were built.

In 1941 the first ship from the new shipyard, HMAS Whyalla, was launched and the blast furnace became operational. By 1943 the population was more than 5,000. On 31 March 1943 the Murray River pipeline from Morgan became operational. In 1945 the city came under combined company and public administration and the shipyard began producing commercial ships. In 1948 displaced persons began arriving from Europe.

In 1958 the Company decided to build an integrated steelworks at Whyalla. They were completed in 1965. In the following year salt began to be harvested and coke ovens were built. The population grew extremely rapidly, and the South Australian Housing Trust was building 500 houses a year to cope with the demand. Plans for a city of 100,000 were produced by the Department of Lands. A second pipeline from Morgan was built to cope with the demand.

In 1970 the city adopted full local government status. Fierce competition from Japanese ship builders resulted in the closing of the shipyards in 1978, which were at the time the largest in Australia. From a peak population of 33,000 in 1976 the population dropped rapidly. A decline in the BHP iron and steel industry since 1981 also impacted employment.

The BHP long products division was divested in 2000 to form OneSteel which is the sole producer of rail and steel sleepers in Australia.

From 2004 northern South Australia enjoyed a mining boom and Whyalla found itself well placed to benefit from new ventures, being situated on the edge of the Gawler Craton. The city experienced an economic upturn with the population slowly increasing and the unemployment rate falling to a more typical level.

In late 2006 the Whyalla City Council began planning for a new industrial estate close to the One Steel Whyalla plant. As of from September, 2008, infrastructure works are in progress so that roads, electricity, water and other essential services are in place for the industrial estate. Stage 1 is almost sold out and many big name players have bought parcels of land within this estate.

Transport

A narrow gauge so-called tramway was built to Iron Knob to supply iron ore originally used as flux when smelting copper ore. This ore became the basis of the steelworks. As the Iron Knob deposits were worked out, the railway was diverted to other sources of ore at Iron Monarch, Iron Prince, Iron Duke and Iron Baron.

To enable interchange between the BHP's other steelworks in Newcastle and Port Kembla of specialised rollingstock, the railway system within the Whyalla steelworks was converted to standard gauge circa 1963.

Although the steelworks produced railway rail, for several decades there was no railway connection to the mainland system. Finally in 1972, a standard gauge link to Port Augusta was completed.

Some iron ore is exported from Whyalla. In 2007, steps were being taken to export iron ore from Peculiar Knob, 600 km away.

Whyalla is served by Whyalla Airport, with Regional Express flying into Whyalla from Adelaide a number of times a day. On May 31, 2000, Whyalla Airlines Flight 904 (registration VH-MZK) crashed into the Spencer Gulf due to engine failure in mid flight. All 8 people on board (1 Pilot, 7 Passengers) died.

The city is also served by Premier Stateliner which operates 4 coach (bus) services to and from Adelaide (via Pt Augusta) each week day (less on weekends) and one service each way to Pt. Lincoln.

Tourism

HMAS Whyalla, a World War II-era corvette

HMAS Whyalla was a World War II-era corvette. It was the first ship built in the city of Whyalla and was named after the city. The ship was landlocked as a tourist attraction in 1987, the main attraction of the Whyalla Maritime Museum.

In the late 1990s the spectacular annual migration of the Australian Giant Cuttlefish Sepia apama to the reef areas in the Spencer Gulf north of Whyalla around Black Point and Point Lowly became recognised by international divers.  It has also come to the attention of divers of Whyalla, that the same area in which the cuttlefish breed is, just a few months later, the place of congregation for squid, which also come there to breed. This has only come to the attention of locals in 2005. There are also dolphins that frequent the local marina.

The Whyalla Conservation Park provides an example of the natural semi-arid environment.

The Hummock Hill lookout provides excellent views across the town, the port and the coast.


 

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  • This page was last modified on 18 October 2010, at 19:09.
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