Botany’s Healing Hot Sea Baths

Fishing in the warm waters outside Bunnerong Power Station, 1939. COURTESY OF THE SLNSW (HA_30317)

Fancy taking a bath next door to a power station? Over the years many locals have fondly told us about the hot baths that once existed, just outside Bunnerong Power Station, on the foreshores of Botany Bay.

We recently came across a very interesting article that describes these baths in 1931. According to the journalist the water came from the paper mill next door and was used to cool the factory’s condensers. When the water entered the bay it was a lovely 38 degrees.

‘Remarkable cures have been claimed for [Botany’s] novel sea baths’ stated the journalist. According to his article one visitor from Pymble, who had been badly hurt in a car accident, stayed in Botany for three weeks so he could regularly visit the baths and heal his legs. Mrs Fuller, of Bay Street, Botany was also full of praise and claimed that the baths were better than more formal medical treatments.  Despite having undergone electrical treatments and vaccines ‘after four visits to the Botany waters she was experiencing great relief’ for her rheumatism and nerves.

These so called baths were actually a giant trough that was built by the paper mill to prevent erosion occurring when it discharged 90,000 gallons an hour into the bay. On warm summer nights crowds of nearly 300 people apparently gathered here to enjoy the water. This included aboriginal residents of La Perouse.

We are not exactly sure how these ‘baths’ changed over the years. Dennis Muller remembers hanging out here in the 1950s but recalls a much smaller bath. He knew the bath as the ‘hot box’.  ‘The hot box was the outfall from the paper mills. It was just a pipe coming through and there was a big wooden box on the end of it probably 5 x 5 metres square and about 3 metres deep. There’d be 15-20 kids in there… What was coming out of that … to this day I still have no idea.’

Vera Cragg also fondly remembers this spot. “You’d be surprised how many people would go out there and sit in the hot water… Some of them used to get right up near the pipe and they would sit up with their back like that and it would shoot over the top of their heads, it was lovely it really was.”

Besides attracting people, this warm water also drew fish from across Botany Bay. In 1939, Sam Hood, the famous Sydney photographer came here and documented the people who fished. According to a newspaper from around this time good blackfish and bream could be caught from this point.  During the 1950s Dennis also recalls catching mullet.

The power station’s outlet canal was also a popular place for local kids to go swimming. According to Dennis Muller in the 1950s it was surrounded with willow trees and no one could see you there. The image below is from a newspaper article on Trove.

Do you have any memories of this spot on Botany Bay? If so drop us a line.

If you’d like to learn more about the original foreshores of Botany Bay, why not take our self guided walking tour.

Samantha Sinnayah, Museum Curator

 

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