In 1869 a steam dredge Black Swan was ordered from England at a cost of £3000 and assembled in Fremantle. It was a significant investment for a small colony and the Black Swan, 90 feet long and able to dredge to 12 feet, became the symbol of what was seen as development and progress in Perth. It was launched by the Governor who claimed it would remove obstructions to navigation by dredging river channels, in particular by clearing a permanent channel through the Causeway flats and deepening the River near the jetties at William and Barrack Streets.
By the time the Black Swan was launched in October 1869 the community had persuaded authorities that they needed a recreation ground. The dredge, unsuited to dredging in shallow waters began work on channel deepening in the river but by 1870 it lay idle and rusting at the Government jetty. The costly investment appeared to face technical and political barriers to its use and was described as "the steam dredge affair." 
Page last updated: Tuesday 23 November 2010