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SS Sultan

SS Sultan was the first steamship to enter the new Harbour, 4 May 1897.

In 1894 the combined service of the West Australian Steam Navigation Company and the Ocean Steamship Company placed the Sultan on the run, and she was followed by the Karakatta (Captain Talboys) in 1890. The Karakatta was lost on Swan Point at the entrance to King Sound in 1901, and she was replaced by the Minilya and the Saladin was replaced by the Charon in 1902. The following year the Paroo replaced the Australind and the Gorgon replaced the Sultan in 1908. The Minderoo entered the service in 1909 and the Centaur and Gascoyne have been more recent additions. Hitchcock: 102.


The SS Sultan entering the Harbour at formal opening in 1897. Photo from Hitchcock: 72 .

The work of construction went steadily on until, on May 4, 1897, the rocky bar was sufficiently cleared away and sufficient room attained inside to enable the old steamer Sultan, of Singapore-Fremantle fame (but now long since disappeared), to steam through a narrow cut into the growing basin. The vessel was steered through the narrow rocky cut by Lady Forrest, the wife of Sir John, who saw with pride the fulfilment of his ardent dream that ocean-going ships should come inside for safety.
The entrance of the Sultan comprised the real official opening of the new harbour. Stevens, in Hitchcock: 142.

Excerpts from article in the West Australian, 3 May 1897:

Yesterday an important ceremony was performed at Fremantle, when the first large ocean-going steamer, the Sultan, under command of Captain F. Pitts, steamed into the river in the smooth water which now lies where quite recently lay the formidable rooky bar of the Swan.
Although the ceremony was not official, it was dignified by the presence of the Premier (Sir John Forrest) and Lady Forrest, Mr. F. H. Piesse (Commissioner of Railways and Director of Public Works) and many members of both Houses of Parliament and public officials.
As the river is now practically open to ocean-going steamers it may be assumed that the gathering which assembled on board the Holt liner yesterday morning inaugurated the useful career for which the Fremantle harbour scheme has been designed. 
As an omen of the altered state of things that is to be, the main Fremantle pier yesterday was almost bare of shipping. The three vessels alongside indicated by their display that they were, however, fully alive to the importance of the event of which the day was to witness the celebration.
On approaching the entrance the helm was taken by Lady Forrest, under whose guidance the Sultan steamed accurately along the new channel, and amidst the cheers of hundreds of spectators arrived at the south quay at noon.

References and Links

Hitchcock, JK 1929, The History of Fremantle, The Front Gate of Australia 1829-1929, Fremantle City Council.

Garry Gillard | New: 10 February, 2016 | Now: 13 July, 2022