Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 51 - February/March 2013 > Esperance: The Heart of Industry (by Pr George Porter)

Esperance: The Heart of Industry

by Pr George Porter

Esperance: The Heart of Industry

From August to Christmas for the years 2011 and 2012 it has been my pleasure to pastor the Esperance Seventh-day Adventist Church.  My wife Maye, a Western Australian was delighted to be back in her wildflower state.  Below is a rather different story to my usual contributions.

Esperance was sighted by the Dutchman, Francois Thijssen back in 1627. He was skippering the Dutch vessel Gulden Zeepaert.  In 1792 French explorers made landfall near the existing town while sheltering from a severe storm.  The site was named Esperance after the French ship commanded by Bruni d'Entrecasteaux.  We are told that Esperance roughly translated means 'hope'.  It certainly was 'shelter' and 'hope' from the severe southern ocean gales.  In 1802, the British navigator Matthew Flinders sailed the huge Bay of Islands adjacent to Esperance, anglicised the names.  He was followed by whalers, sealers and pirates and eventually pastoralists and miners.

It was not until 1864 that the town's real beginnings were initiated.  The Dempster brothers of Scottish descent drove sheep cattle and horses hundreds of kilometres from Northam, northwest of Esperance.  A telegraph station was established in 1876. The Dempsters grazed sheep over a large area including an extensive holding in the Mt Franklin area 250 kms to the north east of Esperance and east of Norseman. Esperance town site was surveyed in 1881; however it was not formally gazetted until 1893. Esperance was declared a municipality in 1895 and experienced an incredible transformation with the discovery of the eastern goldfields surrounding Norseman and Kalgoorlie. Fortune seekers bumped the population in 1895 to 895 of whom 623 were males. In the 1890's the original famous long jetty was built to enable export of gold to the world and livestock to markets in Perth.  A tanker jetty was completed in 1935. Today Esperance has a huge hard jetty attached to the granite headland which makes it one of the deepest ports in the southern Australian region. It can handle Cape-class vessels up to 180,000 tonnes (iron ore) and fully laden Panama-class vessels up to 75,000 tonnes

In the 1920's some grain was grown in mallee country 100 kilometres inland. However, extensive development occurred in agriculture in the 1960's. An American syndicate in partnership with the state government developed huge tracts of land on the sand plains of the shire surrounding the town. With the use of superphosphate fertilizer and trace elements it was transformed into a booming grain industry.  Esperance became the heart of a prosperous grain producing area.

Esperance Shire has over 400 kilometres of coastline extending from the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight to the east through Israelite bay to Munglinup in the west.  It extends about 150 kilometres inland.  The shire covers 45,000 square kilometres of which 6,000 kilometres are National Parks and Reserves.

The town of Esperance is 750 kilometres from Perth via the most direct inland route.  Population is around 15,000 souls. The town enjoys a Mediterranean climate. Official records show an average annual temperature of 21.8 with an average low temperature of 12.0. The average annual rainfall is 616.4 mm. It is a glorious climate and we really enjoyed living in the town. Esperance is flanked to the south by the southern ocean in which are numerous islands of granite rock, the remains of huge volcanoes in the past. Some have smatterings of sand on which grow some plants and scrub. Collectively they are known as the Recherche Archipelago. The coastline consists of numerous dreamtime bays of "lagoony blue" water, which provide shark free bathing.  It is tourist paradise and the photographers mine for picturesque creations.  Behind the town are large land locked lakes of which one is the famous Pink Lake which gets it colour from pink algae that inhabit it.   The area teams with bird life making it a must visit for bird watchers.

Seventy kilometres north east of Esperance is the Mt Ridley National Park.  It is part of the 16 million hectares of the Great Western Woodlands which extend west from the South Australian border.  This area boasts 20% of Australia's native plants and 20% of Australia's eucalypt species.

Cape Arid National Park is 150 kilometres to the east of Esperance. It was named Cap Arride in 1792 by the French Admiral Bruni d'Entrecastteaux. In 1892 Matthew Flinders anglicised the name to Cape Arid while the Aboriginal's named it Yorlinning.  It covers 280,000 hectares and hugs the sea shore and boasts numerous wild flowers in season and supports 160 species of birds including the rare Western Ground Parrot, Cape Barren Geese and other migratory birds. It is also the habitat for honey possums and other mini marsupials.  Further west and 60 kilometres east of Esperance is the Cape Le Grand National Park.  It is named after the huge almost bare mountain of granite which towers above the southern shore.  At its base and in the surrounding area are numerous bays which give a peaceful and surreal atmosphere one would imagine as paradise.  In season multitudes of wildflowers and flowering shrubs adorn the area.  In November 2012 we out of town with friends admiring flowers when a father emu presented himself with his chicks (size of large hens) and slowly crossed the road and of into the low plants.

Esperance with all its natural beauty is the heart of industry for the area and beyond.  It is also a hive of industry.  There is a huge industrial network which supplies and maintains all types of agricultural machinery, from planters to harvesters and sprayers.  These are huge machines and loaded with modern technology.  The road train trucks grind on all day and night all the year transporting grain from outlying farms to holding silos and bulk wheat dumps.  This eventually is carted to huge silos on the western side of town where trucks continually transfer it to the port silos for transfer to ships on which it is exported around the world.

We lived in our caravan behind our church in Esperance and continually experienced the activity. The church has its back to Wharf Road which is the main artery to the heart of Esperance, the wharf. Once we were accustomed to the noise we never heard it day or night!   But if for some reason there was a brief break, day or night, we would become alarmed at the quietness of the silence!

Parallel with the road runs another artery in the corridor to the wharf. It is the rail line on which Queensland Rail now shifts the iron ore and other resources.  The ore trains consist of two huge leading diesel engines pulling 100 ore trucks which are attached to two more engines pushing as they pull another 61 ore trucks. So, the train consisted of four power units and 161 ore trucks. Each truck carries 50 tonnes of ore, so I am told.  They travel from Leonora600 kms to the north, with some loads from Kalgoorlie and Norseman. The train takes a little over 2 hours to complete the journey of 200 kms from Norseman.  There are four trains every 24 hours, and because of recently completed upgrading, eight trains a day are planned.   This wills double the tonnage handled by the port facility.  Trains terminate at a huge marshalling yard on the north western perimeter of town.  The train is split into two and each is taken one at a time to the wharf port where they are turned upside down five trucks at a time.  The ore drops onto a huge conveyer belt in a pit where it is shifted to holding stocks or directly into the holds of waiting ships. The ships queue for ore and load day and night.

Millions of tonnes of exports leave the port of Esperance.   Each ship carries off 180,000 tonnes of iron to destinations in China and Japan.  Lead mines also export through Esperance as do Nickel mines. These items have to be transported and exported in special sealed containers to protect the environment and humans.  Lithium is also exported from the Ravensthorpe mine which is 200 kms west of Esperance. It is currently one of the largest sources of lithium in the world.   Together with these exported resources the port handles millions of tonnes of grain annually.  Beside exports, millions of tonnes of cargo are imported including huge amounts of fuel. One mine alone uses 5million litres of diesel per day 7 days a week!   It is transported by a fuel train with five tankers carrying a million litres each.

The port is the heart of Esperance and drives the economy of the region. Mineral resources together with land produce provide wealth, employment and contentment to the population who are so very proud of their region.  They are a pleasant, friendly and happy people and enjoy sharing the fabulous features of their town and surrounds.  The region is a hive of industry 24 hours per day, enjoying the boom producing billions of dollars. The activity is watched and enjoyed with amazement, by all types of visitors and the increasing number of resident retired farmers from the shire and surrounding regions.

Recently, while visiting the town lookout which is a large granite mount overlooking the town and the agricultural plain into the distance, I mused to myself.  I concentrated on the corridor to the port, the heart of industry, with its arteries of road and rail, which transport minerals and produce which are daily pumped into ships and taken to enrich the world. I saw a similarity between the port and Christianity.    Christianity is to be the heart of the spiritual world. She is rich in spiritual resources which have been supplied by God from his mine of salvation, sent down the arteries of communication found in the Old and New Testaments of Holy Scripture, sent to the Church, which is the port for the distribution of the Gospel of salvation to the entire world. It is imperative that, the Church and the Christian personally, be a hive of industry.  We must be continually exporting the resources of salvation to our little world and to the travellers and to the regions beyond.   The prophets and apostles, the holy men of the past, mined and exported to us the words of salvation. We too are duty bound to share and distribute them far and wide for the benefit of all who wish to buy them.   Like Esperance we are duty bound to share 'shelter' and 'hope' to a spiritually hungry world.

This article is Copyright © 2013 by George C Porter.  Used by permission.

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