Newcastle harbour, Port of Newcastle, a day in the lifephotos, interactive

Newcastle’s working harbour – a day in the life | photos, interactive No matter what the weather, tug boats work in the harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak
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Daily life in Newcastle’s working harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

Pacific Dawn sneaking past Nobbys Lighthouse on dawn as an early morning swimmer takes a dip at Nobbys Beach. Picture: Simone De Peak

The Pacific Dawn arrives in Newcastle harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

Busy morning on the harbour as a tugboat assists the Pacific Dawn as it arrives in Newcastle harbour and the Ferry leaves for Stockton. Picture: Simone De Peak

An early morning jogger looks on at the Pacific Dawn as it arrives in Newcastle harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

The Pacific Dawn leaves Newcastle, with a view of a rainbow. Picture: Simone De Peak

Daily life on Newcastle harbour, fishing on sunset. Picture: Simone De Peak

Blue swimmer and mud crabs can be found in the harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

In our harbour, there’s a smorgasbord of fish to find, from hairtail, bream, jewfish, flathead and mullet to prawns. Picture: Simone De Peak

Fisherman Phil Blanch is a third generation fisherman. Picture: Simone De Peak

A fisherman’s net. Picture: Simone De Peak

Fisherman Phil Blanch has been fishing for 36 years. Picture: Simone De Peak

Ferry deckhand Alex Sutherland loves the people he meets and cruising the harbour every day. Picture: Simone De Peak

Commuters on the Newcastle Ferry, departing Stockton for Newcastle. Picture: Simone De Peak

Morning commuters on the ferry from Stockton to Newcastle. Picture: Simone De Peak

Thee view looking from the back of the ferry towards Stockton. Picture: Simone De Peak

Ferry deckhand Alex Sutherland greeting passengers. Picture: Simone De Peak

Robert Kelly described the work of the multibeam echosounder. Picture: Simone De Peak

Senior hydrographic surveyor with the Port of Newcastle Robert Kelly. Picture: Simone De Peak

Hydrographic surveyor Darren Stocker on a survey vessel which monitors the depth of the harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

Hydrographic surveyor Darren Stocker on a survey vessel which monitors the depth of the harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

Tugs helping push a boat out of the harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

Tug boats working in the harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

Tugboat working in Newcastle harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

Tug boat working in the harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

Diver Doug Wilson takes a dip. Picture: Simone De Peak

Stand-by diver Tyne Smith helping diver Doug Wilson prepare to go underwater. Picture: Simone De Peak

Harbour diver Doug Wilson packing up after his dive. Picture: Simone De Peak

Dustin Besse and Doug Wilson inspecting harbourside development. Picture: Simone De Peak

Senior Constable Gavin Newton conducting marine safety compliance and random breath testing as Stephen Penfold and his dog Brandy enjoy some morning fishing. Picture: Simone De Peak

Sergeant Justin Harrison leads his team of six water police officers. Picture: Simone De Peak

Newcastle Marine Police conduct the same duties as police that patrol the streets, expect on the water. Picture: Simone De Peak

Senior Constable Gavin Newton conducting marine safety compliance and random breath testing out in the harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

Sergeant Justin Harrison with Senior Constable Gavin Newton and Constable Jon Clarke patrolling the harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

A seal basking in the sun on a buoy near Newcastle breakwall. Picture: Simone De Peak

People sit on large rocks at the end of the Stockton breakwall as a seal floats on its back waving its flippers. Picture: Simone De Peak

Svitzer tug master Ben Holder with chief eningeer Col Shilton taking a ship out of the harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

Svitzer tug master Ben Holder helps to steer a ship out of the harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

Gerard Inkston, deckhand assisting a boat which about to leave the Newcastle Port after being filled with asphalt. Picture: Simone De Peak

Gerard Inkston, deckhand and Col Shilton, chief engineer assisting a boat which is about to leave the Newcastle Port after being filled with asphalt. Picture: Simone De Peak

Dredging of the Port of Newcastle to maintain deep water access to the port. Picture: Simone De Peak

Destiny Sculpture at Dyke Point in Newcastle Harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

Port of Newcastle CEO Geoff Crowe feels lucky to have Newcastle’s greatest asset in his hands. Picture: Simone De Peak

View from Nobbys Lighthouse of a fishing boat heading out on dusk. Picture: Simone De Peak

The view of Newcastle breakwall from Newcastle Lighthouse. Picture: Simone De Peak

Yachts out late on a Friday afternoon. Picture: Simone De Peak

Pelican’s take in the view looking across to Orica on sunrise. Picture: Simone De Peak

Dredging of the Port of Newcastle to maintain deep water access to the port. Picture: Simone De Peak

Newcastle Lighthouse comes to life as the last of the days light goes. Picture: Simone De Peak

Newcastle Lighthouse comes to life as the last of the days light goes. Picture: Simone De Peak

TweetFacebookWorking Harbour full story hereLife on Newcastle harbour isn’t easy – it can be wet, cold, dirty and often lonely.

But, for Fullerton Cove fisherman Phil Blanch, there is no better place to be.

And he’s thought that for the 36 years he’s been fishing.

His opinion is echoed by the many other harbour workers. Ferry deckhands, harbour divers, marine police, tug masters, hydro surveyors and even the Port of Newcastle CEO all agree – it’s great to work on the harbour.

As the morning sun rises over the water and a brisk breeze drifts around the harbour, even when it carries a sometimes-pungent smell of fish, it’s hard to disagree.

The way of life is what Phil loves most about his job.

“It’s a beautiful spot to be in, you can’t beat it: it’s a lifestyle,” he said.

“Imagine in the spring when the sun comes out and it’s crystal and warm – there’s no better place to be,” he said.

A fisherman’s day can start as early as 3am and can continue long into the night. It depends what you’re catching, what season it is and whether there’s competition about.

“It’s a hard life,” Phil says with a chuckle as he clasps a fish captured in his net and throws it into a bucket.

In our harbour, there’s a smorgasbord of fish to find, from hairtail, bream, jewfish, flathead and mullet to prawns and blue swimmer and mud crabs.

Phil is a multipurpose fisherman with multiple licenses, allowing him to catch fish, prawns and crabs.

But, it comes with responsibility.

“Tourists take everything, but commercial fisherman try to respect the industry,” he said.

“The popularity of hairtail fish really, really hurt the industry this year.”

It’s not just the tourists Phil needs to watch out for. There’s competition among commercial fishermen too. He says you’ve got to be careful on the water, especially leaving crab traps out, because there’s thieves about.

Fishing is like a game, Phil says, you never know who has already been on the water before you.

“It’s a shhh kind of game,” he said.

And it’s a game that, according to Phil, is in your blood. A third generation fisherman himself, Phil says on those freezing, lonely nights it can be hard, but there’s something special about being on the water alone, with nothing but fish to keep you company.

“I love the fresh air, the water does something to you. It’s like a campfire you just want to sit and watch.

“You don’t earn no money, but it’s beautiful being out in the water, plus you get to eat fresh seafood.”

Although it’s a competitive industry, it doesn’t stop fellow fishing mates from having a yack on the water.

“There are many other blokes you run into and you end up sitting there and talking for an hour,” Phil said.

“But, it’s not just the blokes that come up to you, the pelicans do too.”

Phil remembers an inquisitive dolphin peering about in the harbour once upon a time.

He says it used to come right up to the side of the boats, and it stuck around for about four years, but then disappeared.

“It was marvellous, I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.

In fact, in his time as a fisherman, there’s been more than a few times where he’s seen the unexpected.

He’s put nets out and retrieved pistols, rusted safes and the usual items like shopping trolleys and car parts.

“It’s a funny little industry,” he said.

“Every day is different, it beats being inside all day.”

And that sentiment is echoed by harbour diver David Purser. Much of David’s life has been spent under or on top of water and he says there’s a certain amount of nerve you’ve got to have to be in that line of work.

He’s been working on Newcastle harbour since 1973 and says while the equipment and safety requirements of the job have changed, the job itself has stayed the same.

David owns marine structure and rehabilitation company Harbourworks and together with his three-man team, they do everything from underwater welding, to underwater carpentry and even cutting steel two inches thick underwater.

“Anything that is in the water and under the water, we work on,” David said.

Their work is labour intensive and requires a certain level of fitness, especially because they can be underwater for up to four hours carrying a 12kg helmet on their head, an oxygen tank on their back and specialist tools in their hands.

“The divers have to do push ups regularly to keep up their shoulder strength,” David says with a smirk.

Today, divers go through diving schools, but in the earlier days, David said you learnt by getting a job on the harbour, which is exactly what he did.

He started by cleaning the bottom of ships while they were in the harbour. But, his love for the water started much earlier than that.

“I spent my life on the water, I was a spear fisherman beforehand,” he said.

“We’ve all spent our lives on the water because to do this job, you have to be water orientated.”

You also need to have a lot of confidence in what you’re doing, because most of the time, you’re working with about half a metre of visibility.

“If you can see your hands, that’s a good thing,” he jokes.

“People ask us about running into sharks while we work, but we can’t see them either.”

A lot of the work the divers do is in complete darkness. Doug Wilson has been a diver for 10 years and said he developed a familiarity with the work his hands needed to do.

“It’s definitely hard work, you’ve got to have a certain amount of nerve” David said.

“But, we go to work each day and it’s never the same.”

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