Esperance Pier: Heart of the Bay

Jennene and David Riggs with Dorothy Henderson

Heart of the Bay
Jennene Riggs is passionate advocate for the natural environment, Jennene Riggs has been filming and producing Natural History documentaries since 1998.
Dodie Henderson is a freelance journalist who lives and works in the south-east of Western Australia where she loves to take photographs and write about the people and country around her.


Construction workers clambered around and over the bare bones of my growing body. From the moment the first pile was driven in the sea bed at Hannett Point in 1933, I was surrounded by life. The Southern Ocean wrapped its cool, clear fingers around my solid, supporting structures. Horses, carts, metallically clanking locomotives and trucks shuddered and clattered along me as they loaded and unloaded the ships that cautiously docked along my side.

I stood silent, staying steady when storms buffeted ships and they strained against their moorings. Men bearing boxes of brown beer filled bottles clinked from ship to shore; super-phosphate and fuel came aboard, while wheat was loaded on to visiting vessels. I remained at attention. I saw fashions change, people age, buildings go up and come down. Overseeing all. Watching the town grow.

The last time I experienced a ship along my side was over 30 years ago, when a British Naval frigate kept me company as Esperance’s lights twinkled over the sea around me.

When the ships were quiet, and when they stopped coming, there were children. Hurrying footsteps; the whir of lines flung through the air, the plop of sinkers and hooks hitting the surface of the water before plummeting below. The slap of herring as the catch went in the bucket. Chattering, laughing people walked on my creaking timbers, and holiday makers slapped ice-cream on my sides, ate fish and chips as they dangled their legs over my edges, and swam beneath my sheltering hulk. Divers and snorkelers gazed goggle eyed at the wonders beneath me, and became part of the world I towered over and protected, the aquatic creatures and landscape that became part of my being.

But like all living things, I am growing old. My limbs are weary. I have lost parts of myself. Time has been hard on me. I no longer hear or feel the footsteps on my beams; the days are quiet. I wait. For the end. But it doesn’t come. People visit me. Around me I sense them gathering. Coming together for a purpose. There is an energy I wish I could tap in to, shrug some of the barnacles off, and become alive again. With tourists, ice-cream, children, bait buckets…pulsing like the heart of Esperance that I once was…

Jennene and Dorothy on the final edit