We spent the day touring around part of Mornington Peninsula – the towns of Sorrento, Portsea and Point Nepean. The day was wet and cold. However, that didn’t stop us. We found ourselves immersed in local history.
On October 9th, 1803, His Majesty’s Ship Calcutta, A 56-gun frigate sailed into Port Phillips bay with a human cargo of 299 male convicts, 16 convicts’ wives, a few children of the convicts, a detachment of 50 Royal Marines and the Civil Staff. Their Commander, Lieut. Col. Collins, had been empowered to start a new settlement on Port Phillip Bay. However, the site was deemed unsuitable after only 7 months of settlement. They upped anchor and moved lock stock and barrel to Risdon Cove in Tasmania.
A few convicts however, managed to escape. The most notable of these was William Buckley. He had been convicted to transportation for life for receiving a roll of stolen cloth! Buckley ran into some local indigenous people with whom he lived for 32 years until he surrendered to the local authorities. He was pardoned and employed as a government interpreter. The Aussie saying “you’ve got Buckley’s or none” is thought to have originated from his story. It simply means “no chance”, or “it’s as good as impossible”.
Even though it was cold and wet we enjoyed the local scenery. The scenery has changed from rolling hills and meadows with grazing cattle and dairy herds to Aussie bushland. The country towns we toured around today had beautiful gardens. Main streets were lined with magnificent, gnarled old trees. Some, like the garden above left had immaculately manicured hedges.
Our next port of call was a totally unexpected treasure trove of Aussie history from the mid 1800’s. I quote direct from the information boards on the snippet I’m sharing with you today.
The Quarantine Station was established in 1852 to protect Melbourne from highly contagious diseases. The arrival of the clipper Ticonderoga in November precipitated the need. Having left Liverpool on August by the time it reached Port Philipp there had been almost 100 deaths and nearly 400 passengers were ill with fever, diarrhoea and dysentery. A further 70 deaths occurred in quarantine.
When disease carrying ships arrived, passengers were taken ashore for processing then the males and females would be separated, stripped, scrubbed in hot showers, medically examined and vaccinated. Luggage, clothing and bedding were fumigated with formaldehyde gas.
With advances in modern medicine the need for the Quarantine Station declined and in 1952 the Department of Defence took over some of the buildings to establish the Officer Cadet School and later, the School of Army Health in 1985. The quarantine facility officially closed in 1980. Comprising of over 50 heritage listed buildings, it contains the oldest barrack style accommodation built for quarantine purposes in Australia. ‘
Having only driven a mere 50 kilometres, we saved ourselves 200km and a drive through Melbourne’s horror traffic in crossing by ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff. Forty-five minutes over calm seas and we are now over-nighting at Ocean Grove before starting our journey along the Great Ocean Road tomorrow.
© Raili Tanska