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Memoirs of Robert Dollar
Vol. 1 - Chapter Twelve. A Visit to Australia 1908 - 1909

We arrived at Zamboango, the principal city- of Mindanao, shortly after dark, the day after leaving Manila; saw the lights and that was all. Our course took us through the Sulu Sea and Archipelago and the Celebes Sea and through several of the Dutch East Indian Islands, thence to Torres Straits. We called at Thursday Island, which is in the extreme northeast comer of Australia. It is a small village of about fifteen hundred inhabitants. The only industry is the pearl fisheries which is carried on principally by Japanese, so the settlement is made up mostly of that nationality. They intend prohibiting them from engaging in the work, but as the whites cannot dive to the depths that the Japanese can the industry- will likely die out. This is one of the benefits arising from white Australia.

The channel is well buoyed, but we took a pilot and went in alongside the wharf, although there is good anchorage near it. One thing I noticed was five old hulks of vessels dismasted and partly submerged that had come to grief in the vicinity. The water is very clear and of a very light blue color. The tovra is well laid out with very wide streets, but still in their natural state. The buildings are one-story shacks of very light wooden frames and corrugated iron roofs and sides, giving the place the appearance of a new mining town that is anything but stable. So if the Japanese must leave, they would not leave much behind. It is very hot here all the year round and it is anything but a pleasant place to live in. The British have a strong fortification here, the reason for which I cannot understand, as there is nothing in particular to protect.

From here we sailed along the coast of Australia inside the barrier reef which extends one thousand miles along the coast, from five to twenty miles off laud. This is the most peculiar freak of nature I ever saw. In most places the reef is made tip of low, flat islands covered with small trees; in other places it is partly submerged, but always connected and only in a few places are there deep channels that a vessel can use. We coasted along three days close to land and often close to the reef. In many places the passes are quite narrow and the scenery is beautiful. Our pilot from Thursday Island went right through to Sydney with us.

We called at Townsville, three days from Thursday Island, a distance of about seven hundred miles. This is quite a smart place, with very good substantial buildings, fine wide streets, and a population of about four thousand. They have some very good stores— -mostly English goods, When we were ashore it was comfortably warm, but they told us that the week before had been a scorcher. The general appearance of the place gives one the impression of prosperity. There are several good mining camps tributary to it. also a good cattle country. Our steamer laid to anchor about three miles out in four fathoms of water. Six coasting steamers were inside of the breakwater There are seventeen feet of water at: low tide, going in, and at the railroad wharf twenty-two feet. Three dredgers were at work, and two large scows had a row of drills fitted on their sides and were drilling holes eight feet apart, as the bottom is rock and has to be blasted out—a very expensive way to build a harbor, but the only way to do it. They hope to make a uniform depth of seventeen feet at dead low tide, and with the six feet rise, twenty-one or twenty-two feet draft steamers can get in at high tide. Then they will blast alongside the wharves to twenty-two feet at extreme low tide so that vessels of twenty-two feet can enter and lay afloat alongside the wharf. They have a big job ahead of them as at three miles out there are only twenty-four feet, so it deepens very slowly.

I have gone into this description fully as they attach considerable importance to the place, and also because there is no authentic information obtainable except by coming

here. At present all large steamers lay off three miles. The coasting steamers are the only ones that come in. They are a good deal like the Pacific Coast boats, of six hundred to fifteen hundred tons net register and fitted to carry passengers.


From Townsville we coasted along not very far out at any time, although the Barrier Reef dues not extend any farther south. Brisbane is six hundred miles from Townsville and four hundred and eighty-five miles north of Sydney. The approach is buoyed out, showing several shoals and is very crooked. The distance on the course is almost double that on a straight line, and is well lighted by several lighthouses and range lights.

The city is about twelve miles up the Brisbane River. There is a small place about four miles from the mouth of the river at which there are some meat freezing establishments, but nothing more. There is a railroad wharf at which our steamer landed, and I noticed the price for wharfage was $2.50 gold, an hour, for vessels over one thousand tons. The railroad connects this village with Brisbane, trains leaving every hour. We had only two hours in Brisbane, but we drove around and saw the residences They are nearly all unpretentious and no really fine ones. All the buildings are roofed with white corrugated iron, which gives the town a cheap appearance. The business buildings are solid and substantial, giving one the impression they are put there to stay; all are of stone and brick. The public buildings are a credit to the town. Parliament Building of Queensland, Treasury Building. Land Office. Agricultural Exposition Building and Post Office are all fine buildings. The streets are wide, well paved and clean. Outside of the wooden buildings the town has a very distinctively English appearance. The people, their speech, carts, wagons, cabs, railroad equipment, all sneak very plainly of their origin. They look to be a prosperous community, and there is certainly a great future in store for it. All they appear to want is people.

It is a large country with less than five million people. They have many natural resources and all they need is a population to develop the great continent. An arrangement was made with a steamship company to bring in two hundred a month. This was denounced by the labor unions, stating that the country could not stand so many. They want a monopoly. The unions seem to have control of the Government, and it appears to have some able men. They don't appear to have taken to graft as our labor leaders have done, and while wages are high they are not nearly as high as in California.

The weather is very much like that of California; being south of the equator, the farther south we go the cooler it gets. We left the "Yawato Maru" at Sydney.


We next visited Port Adelaide, which is situated to Adelaide as San Pedro is to Los Angeles, connected by rail, with a half hourly service. The port is up the river ten miles. What is called the outer harbor is inside the mouth of the river, but is only an anchorage. Then there is the outer anchorage. The inner harbor has several channels dredged out where ships load and discharge at various docks. As the steamer "Bessie Dollar" was going into one of those channels to go to the lumber yard she grounded going through one of the bridges which was only five feet wider than herself. She could neither go ahead nor back, so she stopped all traffic for one tide, when she floated and went ahead. The bottom was soft. Vessels drawing twenty-five feet can go into the inner harbor and if the channels were dredged out properly vessels could go with full cargoes to any dock.

On the way to Port Pirie we called at Port Lincoln. This is a small town of one thousand inhabitants. It is an old settlement but did not prosper until recently, when the Government built a three foot, six inch-gauge railroad forty miles back into the country, which opens up a good farming district. They are now exporting wheat and wool. The buildings are solidly built of stone and brick, but it is a quaint old-fashioned place. There are two banks, a good wharf with thirty feet of water at which a four hundred foot steamer can d«>ck. The railroad owns the wharf, or rather the Government, as all the railroads and wharves are owned by the Government. They claim it will be a place of some importance when the farming country is developed, but everywhere we go we see a great lack of people.

The entrance to the harbor :s very good. A large island is in front of it and it can be entered from either side. It is perfectly land locked. This port is one hundred and seventy-five miles from Port Adelaide.

We next called at Tumbay, thirty miles further on, which is now a small country village without a railroad. Very little, development work has been done, but they have a good agricultural country back of it; in fact, from the deck of the steamer we could see a tine level country, white with the crops of ripe grain. This would apparently be a fine fruit country, but they have not tried it to any extent, yet.

Wallaroo, which is on Spercer Gulf, was our next port of call. It has a wharf one hundred feet wide, and much exposed. As it was blowing a gale of wind it was not easy to make a landing. Three sailing vessels and a steamer were here loading wheat; the steamer, about seven thousand tons. The farthest out berth has thirty feet and the inside one twenty feet at low water. The total length of the wharf is half a mile, of which one thousand feet is used to load and discharge. There are smelters here, and we got one hundred and fifty tons of copper. The town is small and scattering and doesn't amount to much, but it is the terminus of a narrow gauge railroad which runs through a rich country. Large quantities of wheat are skipped from here.

Germain is a small village, with a wharf one mile long. There are twenty-two feet of water at the outside berth. Two square riggers were loading wheat here. Great quantities of wheat were piled up in vacant lots in the village, thirty feet high, and wagons with six yoke of oxen and some with three teams of horses were hauling in large loads. No railroads run into the interior although a railroad is on the wharf, but it terminates in the village. This village is backed up by a beautiful rich farming country. A range of low hills was in sight back of it. They told us it was a rich, level country producing wheat and fruit. Steaming along the shore to Port Pirie, eight miles distant, we could see a tine farming country all the way.


The entrance to Port Pirie is mud, dredged out one hundred and fifty feet wide and fifteen feet, six inches of water at extreme low tide. It is crooked but very well buoyed and marked out. It is dredged wide enough at the town at one place so that the steamer "Bessie Dollar" turned around, but altogether the channel and harbor are narrow and cramped. There were eight steamers here, one larger than the "Bessie Dollar," and two large square riggers. Considerable wheat and wool are being shipped, and the smelter (second largest in the world) ships a large quantity of lead, and uses a great quantity of coke and coal. All the mineral from the Broken Hill country comes here to be treated.

It is a well built town of ten thousand people, w ith wide and good streets, but is entirely controlled by the labor unions. Stevedores commence at 8:00 a. m.; at 9.00 they have twenty minutes to rest: dinner 12:00 to 1:00; at 3:00 p. m.. twenty minutes to rest. Overtime, -f less than half a day—we pay half a day. An agitator was lecturing the men to strike for six hours a day. Timber is piled with one and one half inch strips between layers and dried, to save freight on the railroad, as it has to be freighted some fifty or sixty miles and they carry it by ton weight. The rates on the railroads are very high. The Government has no competition, and will allow none so they charge what they like. Each state has a different gauge, so in crossing a state line you have to change cars and all freight has to be transferred, which makes cheap rates impossible. The gauges are three feet, six inches; four feet, eight and one half inches, and five feet, three inches.

Before the confederation, each state had a tariff against the other, and even now a postage stamp bought irt one state will not be accepted in another It costs two pence for a letter from here to Sydney and from Sydney here one penny; Queensland postage is one and one hall' pence. They all appear to be at sixes and sevens, and there still is a good deal of antipathy shown against each other This state (South Australia) is two thousand miles long and has only four hundred thousand inhabitants, but they have two Houses of Parliament, an upper and lower house, besides the Federal Parliament for all the states.


Going into this port by sea I had a good opportunity of seeing the entrance of the bay and river. Like all Australian harbors there are plenty of lights and buoys. Melbourne is especially fitted up with range lights and range beacons so that a stranger could make no mistake in going in. However, as pilotage is compulsory a captain is not supposed to know anything. I have a very poor opinion of the pilots. One of them stuck the "Bessie Dollar'" in the bridge at Port Adelaide; another ran her into the mud going out of Port Pine, and still another, in trying to put her in the drydock at Sydney, a clear straight course for two miles, landed her broadside across the entrance, but did not manage to hit anything. And the worst of it was the captain of the steamer told him what would happen before he got near the dock. I told them they should have the dock entrance four hundred feet wide, then their pilots could get them in broadside, if they could not end on. However, there is one thing to be said in their favor, and that is their excessive charges—they can't be beaten.

The entrance is quite wide although half the distance is blocked by a bad shoal, but it is well marked. Robson's Bay is the lower anchorage where sailing ships lie. The wharves are situated on each side, at the head of obson's Bay.

On the left side going up is Williamstown where there are a number of good-looking wharves, with railroad tracks on each. This place is connected with Melbourne by street cars, and is distant from the center of the city nine or ten miles. On the right side is Port Melbourne, about four miles from the center of the city. There are only a few wharves, which appear to be used mostly for mail line steamers. The Yarra River, which goes right into the heart of Melbourne, is dredged out twenty-four feet deep, about two hundred feet wide. They are widening it to three hundred feet. The distance from the head of the bay to the head of navigation is from four to five miles. After the first two miles the wharves commence and are continuous.

The river banks are well protected with rip rap rocks, well placed and showing a smooth surface. In two or more places large basins are dredged out which accommodate many ships, but most of the loading and discharging (including lumber) is done alongside the channel and alongside wharves. Lumber is loaded on wagons at the wharves, which are tout feet higher than the ship, the bottoms of the wagons being level with the floor of the wharf. It is on the same principle as the railroad sunk tracks at San Pedro, California. The wagons are left to be loaded and horses haul them away when loaded, replacing them with empty ones. About as much as one firm can handle is one hundred and fifty thousand feet a day, but, by loading consignments separately and at different ends of the ship, much quicker dispatch can be made.

Much better dispatch, however, can be gotten at Sydney, where the ship lays to an anchor and all goes on lighters, and there is no dockage to pay. The yards are all near b> the timber quay so the haul is very short.

Melbourne is probably the best laid out city in Australia: fine wide streets, a number of small parks and squares with trees and shrubs, lawns, etc. It is a residential city, and many fine homes are in evidence. It appears to have a very good street railway system, although the charges are higher than in other places. There are many sea beach resorts, Coney Islands, etc. It was a different looking city than when we first visited it, as everyone was off on holidays and the city seemed deserted.

The entrance to this port is the same as Melbourne. Turning off to the left, about twenty miles inside of the entrance, it is dredged out so vessels of any size can go in at high water. This port is forty miles from Melbourne, with frequent train service. Little or no lumber is landed here, but as it has a population of thirty thousand no doubt some will go soon. A large amount of wheat and wool is shipped out, and it can be considered as one of the ports of Melbourne.

The population of Melbourne is about five hundred thousand. Sydney a little more, Adelaide about one-third as many. Melbourne -s in the State of Victoria, and nearly half the population of the State resides in this city. Adelaide is in the State of South Australia, and has about one third of the population of the State. The population of Sydney- is over five hundred thousand, the entire population of the State of New South Wales being only 1,500,000. So that one-fourth of the population of Australia resides in the three cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Besides there are several other large cities—Brisbane, Newcastle, Perth, Fremantle and others.


We joined the steamer "Bessie Dollar" here, where she w as loading coal. While this harbor is largely artificial, still in the early days the river was deep enough to allow the small ships of that time to enter. The Hunter River brings a great deal of sediment down, and it requires constant dredging to keep sufficient water for the large steamers using the harbor. The entrance is rocky, but is blasted down to permit a steamer going out on high tide, (medium) twenty-four and one-half feet, in spring correspondingly more. The "Bessie Dollar" went out when the tides were low on twenty-four feet, one inch

They have many wharves, but the facilities are not up to the large amount of business they are doing. The wharves could do a great deal more business if the railway facilities were up-to-date. They have the old-fashioned English system, using small-powered locomotives and cars that only carry six to eight tons each. Some of the new cars carry ten tons, but the cranes in some cases can't lift them and two tons have to be shoveled out. The body of the car is lifted with a crane and tipped into the hold of the steamers. Three new cranes are being erected that will lift fifty tons.

The manner of handling coal reminds me of doing with a wheelbarrow what should be done with a four-horse team The whole system seems to be wrong. The coal people have to rent the truck for which they have to pay the Government $2.50 a week. Then the mines have practically no storage facilities worth)- of the name, and as the coal is all bandied direct from the cars to the steamer at port of loading there is really no storage capacity, only in the cars, and as the) only average about seven tons to a car it's easily seen how delays to shipping are unavoidable.

To load the "Bessie Dollar"' it took seventy-three hundred cars to carry her cargo and bunkers, so you can see that we were depending on the cars being loaded and unloaded several times and the coal being mined while the ship was waiting What they should have is bunkers at Newcastle capable of holding one hundred thousand tons at least, and also bunkers at the mines sufficient to store a like quantity, then vessels could get despatch. Until that is done Newcastle will be a slow and expensive port for any steamer. Besides all this, the Government owning and operating the railroads puts a stop to all progress or improvement in that direction, as the Government does not differ from an individual or a corporation. When they have a complete monopoly the manager can sit back in his chair and laugh at all complaints and say, "Well, what arc you going to do about it?" All this is a sad commentary on progressive white Australia, when the longest we ever had one of our steamers m a Japanese coal port was six days for seven thousand tons, but the ordinary time runs from four to five days.

The lay days in the printed form of charter party are colliery working days, that is, a half day Saturday, and every second Saturday, which is pay day, no work at all Time bunkering is not counted, first day twenty-four hours' notice not counted, holidays don't count, so from Christmas until January 5th are holidays, and they tell me that Easter is as bad. In a book issued by the Chamber of Commerce which by the way is very instructive and well gotten up, they speak of the fast loading done in this port. This may he true of this port's own record, but comparing it with other ports in the world, the comparison would be very much against Newcastle.

The city itself is well built, good streets and stores right up-to-date. The buildings are good and substantial. Altogether the place gives one the idea of prosperity and solidity, and shows it has come to stay, and, if the railway administration would only wake up. Newcastle would be one of the foremost and best coaling ports Hi the world. Like all Australian ports, the port charges are high.


Zamboango is in Basalan Straits on the highway between Manila and Australia. It is scattered along the shore. In the center of the town are the Government buildings, Army headquarters, the seat of the government of the Province of Moro; General T. H. Bliss, Governor. We called in here with the steamer "Bessie Dollar" on the way to Hongkong from Newcastle. Not having clearance papers for this port, we were not entitled to land, but through the courtesy of the Collector of Customs, Mrs. Dollar and I obtained permission to land, and received every courtesy from the Governor and the American Government officials.

An old stone fort wall twenty-five feet high and about five hundred feet square, built some four hundred years ago by the Spaniards, is on the water front. There are two wharves, neither of them much good from a commercial point of view, as all large vessels have to anchor. The harbor is an open roadstead protected from the west by islands, but exposed on the north and south sides, especially to the southwest monsoons, so in winter it is a much better place than in summer during the southwest monsoons.

About four miles to the eastward an estuary comes in back of the town in which there is plenty of water. If wharves were built and the present excellent road was extended one mile it would make an ideal harbor. If commerce increases, a steam or electric- road could be built making it more convenient than at present. Now, the chart shows twenty-seven feet of water at the shallowest place at low water.

A great deal of work has been done on the roads in the vicinity, and they have made some excellent ones. If they only keep up this good work it will be of the greatest benefit to the community and in the event of trouble a boon to the military. However, no trouble is anticipated as they claim the natives are getting satisfied and contented, especially where they are in close touch with the Americans. The Moros in the mountains and inaccessible places may give some trouble jet. If our Government would adopt the policy that the Romans had in colonizing: that is to build roads all through the country, this would have a more civilizing effect than anything else, besides it would open up the country to settlement and trade, and then to follow that up with railroads, troubles would be a thing of the past—from natives at least. There was but one automobile in the city, which was put at our disposal, so we saw all that was to be seen n the six hours we stayed there.

By Government statistics I see there is a considerable export of hemp and copra. For the last fiscal year, hemp, 802,667 pesos, and copra, 399,460 pesos, but it looks as if lumber would or should cut a very big figure.


The Island of Mindanoa and adjacent islands are covered with woods from the ocean side to the tops of the highest mountains. Such a heavy stand of timber is not seen in any of the East Indian Islands, except perhaps Borneo. None of the Philippine Islands appear to have nearly as much as Mindanoa. It looks as if young, energetic men would have a fine chance to engage in the lumber trade in this new country, as the forests are practically untouched,1 and, if the Government would give the proper inducements to get the business started, I can't see why a large business could not be opened up. There are some drawbacks, as in all new countries. Labor is the greatest. They claim the natives will only work when they feel like it and that is not often, and the best and most reliable labor for this tropical climate (the Chinese) is excluded. It looks as if the Government should allow a limited number of Chinese to be brought in to open up a new country like this, especially when the natives won't work, and, in view of the fact that there are not enough of them any way, to carry on an extensive business. I see in the Government reports that they will have to await the natural increase of population to get labor enough.

In this progressive age Americans are not accustomed to wait that long. We should live for today as well as prepare for the next generation, and with a view of providing for futurity we could not do better than develop the resources of our country by cutting off a certain amount of the timber, building roads, railroads, etc., and prepare for those who will come after us, thereby opening up the country to other industries, especially the cultivation of the soil; and above all to increase the commerce of our nation and make us a truly great nation From the short time I had and the scant information I got, those are the thoughts that came to me.

Mr. Corwine, of the Industrial Department of the province, was extraordinarily kind in giving us information and also in driving us around in an auto, which, in the limned time, enabled us to see more =n a few hours than ordinarily would have taken a day or two. He gave me the governor's last report, which contained instructive and interesting information. I see, in the estimates, it is proposed to improve the wharves at Zamboango. I think it would be a mistake to spend more money there but it all should be spent in Masinlac, that is if the Government ever intends making the change. We never met a kinder lot of strangers in our life than we came across in Zamboango. I must especially mention Mr. and Mrs. Corwine, Mr. W. H. Tidwell and Governor Bliss.

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