Each day as those using the wharf go about their usual business, whether it be launching a boat, tender, canoe or just casting your favourite lure, a small group of workers are quietly going about their business.
They’ve been there for some time now and so have become just part of the wharf-scene. It is difficult to see the results of what they are doing – no structure under construction for passersby to see for example. The lack of any visual evidence of what it is that they are doing belies the importance of their work.
Soren Nielsen and his small band of workers are doing what they can and must do to ensure that one of the island’s lifelines, Sir Robert’s Wharf, is kept functioning.
From the original rickety wooden structure in 1900-01, by 1913 a concrete base and a derrick was added and the channel widened. Further improvements were made as the banana trade with New Zealand increased after the Second World War.
In August 1998 a team from US Pacific Fleet Seebees Underwater Construction team completed an extension of 20 metres to the wharf. Unfortunately the extension did not survive the aftermath of Cyclone Cora late in 1998.
In 2016-17 following an inspection by Engineers it was discovered that over the years the concrete base in some sections of the wharf had weakened. Crevices had opened up causing a build up of air pressure from wave action. Vent holes were opened to relieve the pressure.
Soren Nielsen says – “Our main focus has been to ensure that the foundation is solid so that if at some future time, the wharf requires further expansion, the work can be done, knowing that the base is solidly anchored. The wharf hasn’t seen any major work for a number of years so there are areas where the wave action has eroded the base. We have been working to stabilise and strengthened those areas.”
Mr Nielsen said that given the location of the wharf and the forces that can be exerted by wave action, the structure has lasted well. In addition to the work on the wharf itself, the team are also installing new mooring bollards for ships. The work is expected to be completed by the end of September or early October.