The difficulties of constructing ocean baths can be considerable, but should not be over-estimated. Newcastle’s Bogey Hole was hewn out of solid rock on Australia’s Pacific coast in the 1820s. Pool construction posed few problems in nineteenth century Australian communities skilled in harbour construction, mining or quarrying (Newcastle, Wollongong, Kiama).
Equipment used on baths construction ranged from shovels and horse-scoops to steam engines. When construction of the Newcastle Ocean Baths began in 1912, steam winches and hydraulic jackhammers were used, while high sandbag barricades held back the tide. Draught horses hauled away pieces of rock. Parts of the jackhammer drill are embedded in the rock near the original pumphouse.
Pool construction involves working around the tide. In a pre-wetsuit era, pool construction was normally only undertaken in the warmer months.
The labour force engaged in pool construction could be the forced labour of convicts that created some of Australia’s earliest ocean pools or the paid or voluntary labour of free workers.
Organisations involved in paid work at ocean pools in the Australian state of New South Wales included:
– NSW Public Works Department (Bronte, Bondi),
– private enterprise (Wylies Baths, Pearl Beach Baths), and
– council workers or contractors working for local councils.
In some cases, use of the excavated material for local roads or other council projects helped justify the development of the ocean pool or at least to defray its costs.