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Busselton jetty lovingly restored
Busselton jetty lovingly restored

As the $27 million refurbishment comes to a close, Busselton's jetty again dominates the seascape and stands as the heart of this thriving town.

When construction began in 1865, the jetty stretched only 150m from the shore. However, as ships became bigger and needed deeper anchorage, extensions were made to enable the jetty to continue its role in what was then the South West's biggest port.

Now 1.8km long, it is the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere. On a scorching day in summer it is a seemingly endless walk but the newly refurbished Underwater Observatory is just part of what makes the trek worthwhile.

Watching the builders work tirelessly to complete the jetty before the opening date led to thinking about the conditions for jetty workers in the 1800s.

It is hard to imagine what they went through with the lack of tools and machinery available centuries ago, not to mention the long hours in the searing sun.

A railway was installed on the jetty in 1911, its worn tracks still present. Soon another train will run to take visitors not so fond of a long walk to the observatory.

The working port ceased operation in 1972, maintenance stopped and the jetty deteriorated. Six years later, Cyclone Alby swept along the coast, badly damaging it.

Years on and the Busselton community raised more than $9 million dollars to help restore their jetty.

Children do bombies off the jetty as an escape from the heat as elderly men cast fishing rods and lovers walk along holding hands. Memorial plaques are placed on a hand rail in a small section of the jetty, honouring those who were dedicated fishermen or captains, people worked on the jetty or just loved it for its own sake. Artwork chosen by the community reaches up into the picturesque aqua sky and down towards the bubbling water. Each day the Busselton Jetty brings the community together.

At the Underwater Observatory, built 8m down into the water, you can view the remarkable marine life that occupies the warm waters of the Leeuwin current.

As you venture down, sponges and coral plastered on the wooden pylons flash vibrant oranges, blues and greens.

The local guides tell us coral growth lasts from seven to 10 years, and new coral is easily identifiable with its more vivid colours compared with the older coral.

On the last of the three viewing levels is a stunning view of the ocean floor. With the viewing glass being so thick it creates an illusion of the pylons bending and everything seems so much closer, as if you can just touch it.

Every year the Leeuwin current attracts hundreds of marine species that call the jetty's waters home because of the warmth. Not only is there a huge array of coral, sponges, fish and many more animals but also many dolphins visit. At night the underwater observatory waters put on a show of octopus, Port Jackson sharks and starfish.

Like an underwater forest, fish dart between the coral and hide from the flash of the cameras. The wood pylons are like underwater trees with the coral and sponges a rainbow of flowers. The azure blue water laps against the jetty and creates a calm wave of peacefulness.

Walking back down the jetty, the comradeship between the workers is hard to miss. Without support from the community the restoration and refurbishment of the Busselton jetty wouldn't have been possible.

Busselton Jetty has been the heart of the bustling town for centuries and it will keep beating for centuries to come.

ยท Darcy Harwood visited Busselton Jetty courtesy Australia's South West tourism.

The West Australian

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