The significance of the fresh water springs

Visiting whalers and sealers would have continued to use the water source during the 19th Century as it was available at any time of the day or night, all year round and free of charge. The early seafarers collected the fresh water from the stream as it entered the beach. It is thought that the first dam was constructed in the 1850s – amounting to little more than a excavation on the side of the escarpment immediately below the emergence of the spring.

Demand for fresh water was growing. The Peninsular & Orient Company (P & O) won the sea-mail contract across southern Australia.



The P & O dam in the 1890s


In order to supply the water requirements of their fleet, P & O built a dam at Vancouver Spring to form a reservoir with a reliable and sustainable supply from which lighters would fill up and take water to their steamers. The water from Vancouver’s Spring was preferred because of its purity. They could not risk using water with mineral contaminants that would corrode the boilers.

From about 1890 to 1902, Albany’s water supply was insufficient to meet shipping demands. As a result, in 1902 Armstrong and Sons acquired a lease for the section of Frenchman bay containing the old P & O Dam. They refurbished the dam and constructed a jetty at the beach. Water was pumped from the dam through a pipeline that ran to the end of the 200-foot jetty seen in the photo below.

Armstrong was contracted to supply water from Vancouver Dam to the Town of Albany and various types of shipping (including Boer War transports) until about 1912. By 1914, Albany’s water supply had improved and the Frenchman Bay supply was only occasionally required for shipping purposes.

The jetty and pipeline to water lighter circa 1902 Although the Norwegians dug two wells they also used Vancouver Dam for both a potable and process water supply – by installing a pipeline along the beach from the dam to various areas of the whaling station.

From the 1920s to the 1980s, various tearooms; chalets; and caravan parks were established above Whalers Beach and used the Vancouver Dam reservoir as a water supply until a bore was drilled above the beach in the late 1980s. Even when the mains water supply from Albany reached the Goode Beach area in 1983, people still collected water from Vancouver Spring for various domestic purposes (including tea making), because of the purity  of the water compared to the scheme water!