Portland’s Rocket Shed is the smallest building in the town’s “government block”, and home to a display of 19th century rocket rescue equipment.
The new display was officially opened in April 2010 and is an initiative of Glenelg Shire Council’s Maritime Heritage Advisory Committee. The project was funded by Heritage Victoria and Council.
The bluestone rocket shed between the old Portland Town Hall (History House) and the Watch House was built in 1886 by local builder George Sedgewick, replacing an earlier weatherboard structure. Rocket rescue equipment was stored in the shed, and used by volunteer rocket crews who attended ship rescues in the region.
In Portland, the lifeboat crew and the rocket crew were generally the same group of volunteers, many being fisherman or whalers. The rocket rescue service supplemented the limited range that lifeboats could provide during a sea rescue.
The rocket line of one inch Italian hemp was the first of a series of successfully stronger lines sent from the shore to the wreck, fired from the rocket launcher.
As the survivors pulled it in, an attached tally board gave instructions in four languages of the procedure. To their end of the heavier rocket line, the rescue crew attached a heavier endless line called a whip with a tail block attached. Secured to the mast, the whip carried out a hawser to which a breeches buoy was attached. One by one, the rescued were brought to shore in the breeches buoy.
Rocket equipment was used by the Portland crew on four occasions: at the wreck of the “Admella” in 1859; “Tamora” in 1860; “Jane” in 1863; and “Lady Robilliard” in 1867. Only at the wreck of the Tamora and Lady Robilliard was the rocket line used successfully.
The new display includes a rocket, rocket launcher and megaphone from the Glenelg Shire Cultural Collection, and rocket line box, tally boards, stores box, water barrico, fuse box, rocket carrier powder box and arm bands on long term loan from the Moyne Shire Lifeboat Advisory Committee.
This unique display is available for viewing during the same hours as History House: from 10.00 am to 12.00 noon, and 1.00 pm to 4.00 pm daily, except Christmas Day and Good. There is no charge to view the Rocket Shed display.
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