Remnants believed to be of a 19th century sea pier and components of its steam crane have been found a few metres under water near the Valiathura sea pier, itself a piece of Kerala’s coastal heritage, by a marine research team here.
The ruins of the old pier, constructed in 1825 and destroyed after a steamer crashed into it in 1947, were discovered by a team led by marine researcher Robert Panipilla, his British researcher-friend Paul Calvert and a team from the Valiathura-based ‘Friends of Marine Life’ forum.
The forum has been documenting the history of Valiathura over the last eight years and has gathered documents related to the construction and, later, disastrous end of the old pier. But it was only recently that Mr. Panipilla and Mr. Calvert went under water near the existing pier, constructed in 1956, and obtained photographic and video evidence of the old pier’s remains – beams, parts of the steam crane and its boiler.
Mr. Panipilla urges authorities, including the Archaeology Department and the Harbour Engineering Department, to document the discovery and ensure the old pier is made part of the State’s port heritage.
He quotes Mathilakom records (palm leaf manuscripts of the Padmanabha Swamy Temple dating back centuries) to say that the port was constructed by the British on the initiative of the then royal family here. The pier was destroyed after a steamer, SS Pandit, crashed into it around 5 p.m. on November 23, 1947, Mr. Panipilla says.
The marine researcher has a printed pamphlet from March 24, 1950, which calls locals for a meeting the next day at the Valiathura grounds, to “demand a new pier and to protest the delay in opening the port after the pier was damaged, leading to unemployment and misery among the port workers”.
Local residents also say that about 20 persons were killed in the accident and are buried in the Valiathura cemetery.