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The Museum consists of 2 Sections: The Historical Old Fishing Harbour and Fishermen's Village. THE INDOOR DISPLAYS: Houses some of the items used in the Fishing Industry in the early part of the century plus the "Selkirk Collection". Selkirk was a world famous Angler and Shark Catcher who lived in Hermanus. A variety of Seawater Aquariums displays fish and life forms found locally in the Intertidal Zone. A major section of the displays is on whales and whaling, depicting especially the Southern Right Whales that visit our bay anually from May to December. The Old Harbour was the centre of activity of Hermanuspietersfontein when as long ago as 1857 it provided shelter for fishing boats whose owners were drawn here by the abundance and variety of fish. This faded after the building of the New Harbour. In 1970 the Old Harbour was declared a National Monument.

The Old Harbour as related to us by Matt Montgomery, son of Sam Montgomery - 23/5/89. Sam Montgomery operated from the Old Harbour up to the late 1950's. Alec Rose was operating from the Old Harbour in 1946. The boats were 22 feet - 4 oars and 26 feet - 6 oars. In 1920 a Mr Jaffe had an office on the market. It was enclosed and his telephone number was 8. He was the person who brought ice to Hermanus. He had his own boats at the Old Harbour, Hawston and Gansbaai and had a fish hut towards the middle of where the museum stands today.

Warrington was one of the first busdrivers in Hermanus. Mr Fick and Scheepers was at the school before Meester Paterson.

The Old Harbour Museum includes an open-air museum which is open 24 hours a day with boats, old sea wall, brine tanks and "bokkom" stands as well as an indoor museum. This houses exhibitions on natural history with whales as the most prominent feature as well as aquariums with fishes and inter-tidal creatures and on the cultural history of Hermanus, including angling and fishing papaphernalia.

The cottage houses a photographic exhibition of Old Hermanus dating as far back as the beginning of the century and includes prints from glass negatives taken by the famous photographer T D Ravenscroft whose studio was in Main Road. The Selkirk Room in the cottage is devoted to the trophies and memory of Bill Selkirk, including the jaws of his world recordbreaking shark. All the furniture displayed in the cottage belonged to Meester Paterson a leading figure in Hermanuspietersfontein at the turn of the century.

As long ago as 1857 the Old Harbour at Hermanus Pietersfontein provided a rocky but safe shelter for the small fishing boats whose owners were drawn to Hermanus by the abundance and variety of fish. Indeed, without the Old Harbour, Hermanus would have been a very different place. For more than a century, the return of the fishingboats to the rocky inlet was the event of the day. The boats often had to ride outside the harbour in heavy seas, waiting for a break between swells before they could row in to land their frail craft. Large crowds gathered to watch this fascinating daily ritual as the catches were carried ashore and gutted and sold on the spot, while the boats were lifted and placed on the turning-stone before being carried up the slipway by sixteen men - eight fore and eight aft - straining under the carrying-poles. Some of the fish was salted and dispatched in crates for sale in other towns, while snoek and harders were salted and dried on "bokkom" stands in the harbour area and in the backyards of the fishermen.

A new harbour was built some two kilemtres to the west in the nineteen-fourties and gradually the fishermen forsook the old "visbaai" for the greater convenience of the new breakwater. In 1970 the Old Harbour was declared a national monument and in 1972 the development of the area as an open-air museum was begun.

By its very nature, the Old Harbour Museum is an all-weather open-air museum, open 24 hours a day. An indoor exhibition on whales (soon to be expanded to include sharks, fish and inter-tidal creatures) is open to the public six days a week and provides interesting information on the southern right whales which visit Hermanus every year to calve.

The museum has plans to re-introduce small fishing craft and the sale of fish to the harbour, and to procure accommodation for its cultural history exhibits in fishermen's cottages in the old town nearby.

Without the Old Harbour, there would have been no Hermanus - or Hermanuspietersfontein, so called after the wandering shepherd who watered his flocks at a spring on the cliffs towards Westcliff. As long ago as 1855 the harbour provided a rocky but safe shelter for the small fishing boats whose owners were drawn to Hermanus by the abundance and variety of fish.

These boats are fragile and precious - help us look after them. All the boats in the harbour, with the exception of Nellie II, are examples of the type of boat used in the Old Harbour between 1855 and 1961. At first they depended on sails and oars, but later some were equipped with inboard engines, usually a Kelvin Marine. An examination of the back of the keel, through which the shaft for the screw passed, will show whether the boat was converted to use a marine engine. The boats Debbie, Tunny, Deppie and Rosebud all show a cut-out section for a mast in the second thwart. Slats from the thwart to the floor of the boat kept each fisherman's catch separate. Several of the boats show the marks of successful fishing lines under strain gouged into the wood. Nellie II is a clinker-built (the boards overlap each other) life-boat. Built in World War II, she is a reminder of the life-boat Nellie I which rescued the survivors of the H.M.S. Birkenhead disaster off Danger Point in 1852.

This is the area between high- and low-tide watermarks. Varieties of limpets, starfish, sea urchins, anemones, sponges, worms, periwinkles barnacles, chitons, whelks, mussels and crabs are specially adapted to live in this zone of regular dry and wet periods and in the rock pools. Low tide provides ideal conditions for seeing these creatures in their natural habitat, but ... please do not disturb them!


Info on the Old Harbour Museum supplied by G G Clarke, former curator:

Copyright 1999 © Paragon Computing PO Box 2049 Hermanus 7200

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Hermanus started in 1855
Allengenski Complex built in 1870
Harbour wall was built in 1904
Crane was built in 1915
Gutting tables were built in 1935
Last boats in Old Harbour 1958 

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