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ABERDEEN, FROM ABOVE THE CHAIN BRIDGE
“Biyth Aberaein! thou beriall of all toums,
The lamp of bewtie, bountie, and blythnes;
Unto the heaven ascendit thy renown is
Off vertew, wisdom, and of worthines;
Benottit is thy name of nobilnes; —
Be blyth and blissful, burgh of Aberdein!” — DUNDAR.
THE PORT OF ABERDEEN is now universally known among seafaring men as one of the safest and most commodious in Scotland. The skill and practical efforts of both Smeaton and Telford were successively employed upon it; and after an arduous and extensive enterprise, the grand object has been fully obtained. To those who are only acquainted with the harbour under its present aspect it will be difficult to convey a correct notion of its appearance in ancient times. There is reason to suppose that at a period beyond the reach of history, the river Dee must have discharged its waters into the sea at the Craiglug — where the Chain Bridge is seen in the engraving — and that by their alluvial deposits, and the effects of the north-east winds, in accumulating the sands in the neighbourhood, the ground now occupied by the village of Footdee, the shorelands and Sandilands, the Links and the islands in the estuary were gradually raised above the level of the sea. At a less remote period it is believed that the river Don poured its floods into the frith of the Dee: and the conjecture derives strength from the notices of Roman geographers. The occurrence of great changes is attested by various remains, which have been disinterred at different periods. Thirteen feet under low-water mark in spring-tides, and twenty-eight feet below the general surface of the Inches, were discovered two human skulls, a large piece of flint, and great quantities of shells and other marine deposits; and in excavating the canal, at a considerable distance from the shore, anchors and other articles of shipwreck were found deeply imbedded in the earth.
The entrance to the harbour of Aberdeen is naturally bad, owing to a bar at the mouth of the river, where, at ebb tide, the depth of water was often not more than two feet. To remedy this evil was, from a very early period, the ardent desire of the citizens, and to some of their first efforts in this direction we have alluded in our notice of Aberdeen Light-house, But it is since the commencement of the seventeenth century that the most effective improvements have been made, amongst which we may name the erection of a bulwark on the south side of the entrance, and the removal of a great stone, called ” Knock-Maitland,” which lay nearly in the middle of the river, both of which were accomplished in succession ; the first in 1608, and the latter in 1618. Between 1623 and 1658, the quay was extended eastward, towards Futtie; by which means a considerable portion of ground was redeemed below the Castle-hill, and is now covered with buildings. In 1755 an additional quay was built a good way further down, opposite the village of Torrie. In 1770, further improvements were projected; and, on a report from Mr. Smeaton, recommending the erection of a pier on the north side of the entrance, so that the influx of sand from the north might be prevented, and the removal of the bar effected, by confining the waters of the river Dec within narrower bounds, the work was commenced in 1775, and finished in less than six years. The length of this pier was twelve hundred feet, and it terminated in a round head of sixty feet in diameter. Owing, however, to a departure from Mr. Smeaton’s plan, by which the pier was founded too far to the north, it was found that a heavy swell entered the harbour; and to obviate this formidable Inconvenience, a bulwark was projected from the pier, to about one-third across the channel.
By these means considerable improvements were effected; but as the trade of the city increased, inconvenience was still felt from a deficiency of water on the bar; and Mr. Telford, having been consulted in 1810, on the means of remedying this evil, recommended that the pier should be extended, and that wet docks should be formed in the harbour. These works were commenced forthwith, and the pier, carried on to the extent of nine hundred feet beyond the head of Smeaton’s pier, and again finished with a round head, was completed in 1816. In the course of the following winter, however, this head was destroyed by the storms; but being rebuilt with a slope towards the sea, it has since stood without very material damage. A breakwater, extending to the length of eight hundred feet, was also built on the south side, by which the mouth of the channel was narrowed, and the entrance protected from the storms of the southeast. Wharfs were built along the south-west side of Futtie; the pier opposite Torrie was enlarged; and, latterly, the quay has been extended westward from the old quay-head; and by raising embankments on the inches, a considerable range of quay-room has been gained there, which is connected with the town by a swivel-bridge, opposite Marischal-street. By all these combined measures, quay-room has been provided to the extent of about four thousand feet; a tide-harbour has been formed, in which, at spring-tides, the depth of water is about eleven feet at the west-end, gradually increasing to fifteen feet, where it joins the course of the river; while the depth of the water on the bar has been increased to about nineteen left.