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Portland Harbour is located beside the Isle of Portlandmarker, off Dorsetmarker, on the south coast of Englandmarker. It is one of the largest man-made harbours in the world. Grid reference: .

The Harbour is currently a thriving commercial Port operated by Portland Port Ltd and Portland Harbour Authority Limited.Commercial activities on the water include specialist diving services for vessels and repairs & maintenance as well as a bunkering (fuelling) station. The Port is used by all nature of vessels from commercial ships such as bulkers, tankers, container carriers car carriers, survey and Reefers etc to British and foreign naval vessels. The Port also sees various cruise ship calls bringing visitors to Dorset and the numbers are increasing year on year.

Commercial activities on the land of the dock estate include fuel storage, natural gas storage, several engineering facilities and even a shell fish specialist.

Historically the original harbour was formed by the protection offered by the south coast of England, Chesil Beachmarker and the Isle of Portlandmarker. This gave protection from the weather to ships from all directions except the east. King Henry VIII built Portland Castlemarker and Sandsfoot Castlemarker to defend this anchorage.

Construction of the modern harbour began in 1849 when the Royal Navy created a breakwater to the south of the anchorage, made of blocks from local quarries on the Isle of Portlandmarker. This was completed in 1872 and created a much larger harbour providing protection from south-easterly winds. The Verne Citadelmarker fort, Nothe Fortmarker, East Wear Batterymarker, High Angle Batterymarker and two forts on the breakwaters were also built.

In 1906, with the threat of torpedo attack from the eastern side of the anchorage, two more breakwaters were added. A further barrier against submarine attack from the south came in 1914 when HMS Hoodmarker was scuttled across the southern entrance to the 1848 breakwater. Its wreck still remains, although it is deemed too dangerous for divers.

The Harbour was sold off by the Royal Navy in 1996 allowing it to flourish as both a mecca for water sports and as a service station for Channel shipping.

The harbour is a popular location for wind surfing, diving and sailing, as Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academymarker which will host sailing events in the 2012 Olympic Games, is located on the south-western shore of the harbour.

In addition to Hoodmarker, there are other wrecks around the harbour:
  • on the inside of the harbour, against a breakwater:
    • Countess of Erme - barge 30 metres north of the Eastern Ship Channel
    • the Spaniard - barge 50 metres south-west of the Chequered Fort
    • a World War II landing craft and a Bombardon Unit, a harbour device intended for the D-Day beaches in Normandy, 50 metres north east of the curve of the south break water
  • in "open" water inside the harbour:
The second of only two Victoria Crosses awarded for action in the United Kingdom was posthumously bestowed on Jack Foreman Mantle, who died at his post on HMS Foylebank during a 1940 air raid on Portland Harbour. Mantle is buried in the Portland Naval Cemetery.

See also

Further reading

  • Stuart Morris, 1985-2004 Portland, an Illustrated History The Dovecote Press, Wimbornemarker, Dorsetmarker: ISBN 0-946159-34-3
  • Stuart Morris, 1998 Portland (Discover Dorset Series) The Dovecote Press, Wimborne, Dorset: ISBN 1-874336-49-0.
  • Jackson, Brian L. 1999. Isle of Portland railways. ISBN 0853615403
  • Stuart Morris, 2006 Portland, Then and Now The Dovecote Press, Wimborne, Dorset: ISBN 1-904349-48-X.

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