At the very end of the Mornington peninsular jutting out between the waters of Port Phillip and Bass Strait is Point Nepean, now a national park sporting a rich history. Evidence of Aboriginal settlement of the area dates back 40,000 years, Point Nepean was a birthing place for women of the Boonerwrung People.
It was also a quarantine centre from 1852 to 1980 and played an important role in the defence of Victoria. It boasts panoramic views of Bass Strait, the Rip and Port Phillip Bay. It was whilst traveling through Port Phillip bay to the Bass Strait on route to Tassie we first saw the fortifications and thought of visiting them. You can see the Spirit of Tasmania ferry in one of the pictures. Martin also suggested Fort Nepean as a day out and pointed us in the right direction.
With the discovery of gold in 1851 a flood of immigrants flocked to the area, they brought with them cholera, smallpox, typhoid, influenza and measles and many didn’t survive the journey. Port Nepean was opened as a maritime quarantine reserve, any infectious ships had to dock here, luggage was taken ashore to be fumigated with formaldehyde gas. Later after the great war soldiers from overseas duties also had to be quarantined from the Spanish influenza pandemic.
As part of the quarantine station a Cattle jetty was built at Observatory Point in 1879, and while it is no longer complete the remains make an interesting photograph.
Fortifications were built on Point Nepean from the late 1870′s the remains of which still stand today. Fort Nepean, Eagles Nest, Fort Pearce and Pearce barracks.
The first Australian shots of both World War I and II were fired from Fort Nepean. These are the two six inch mark VII gun barrels that fired them.
On 5th August 1914, the German ship SS Plalz was trying to escape Port Phillip. Lieutenant C Morris was given orders to “stop her or sink her” and the B1 gun was fired across her bow after the Pfalz had ignored previous signals to halt, she soon turned around and the crew was arrested at Portsea.
The only other occasion the guns were fired in anger was on 4th September 1939 when the A1 gun fired across the bow of a ship which failed to identify itself which turned out to be the Australian freighter SS Woniora.
After the wars the guns were dismantled and sold for scrap. It was only in the 1960′s that the barrels were retrieved from a scrap yard in Brooklyn and an artillery proving ground in Port Wakefield and returned to the fort.
The forts are joined by a maze of underground tunnels and rooms. Kev is sitting in one of the bomb proof rooms.
Some of the guns even disappeared. After firing the guns recoiled down into the concrete shelter to allow them to be swabbed clean and reloaded in relative safety. They also had ones that ran on tracks above ground.
Some of the fortifications are hardly visible considering how large they are. The engine room was sited down on the cliff edge presumably to dull the noise of the thudding engines.
Although the area seems full of unspoilt beauty and nature it is surrounded by contaminated soil and unexploded mines so definitely a no swim zone. In fact Cheviot beach marks the spot where the former Prime minister Harold Holt disappeared while swimming in 1967, never to be found and presumed drowned.
It was a good walk in all we must have done 6km or more not bad for my first real day out.
We stopped at the jetty in Rosebud for fish and chips and ice cream before heading to Arthur’s seat to get a night shot across the harbour.
It’s a good job it’s a bike riding day tomorrow before we start walking again in Wilson’s Prom.
Next up – Wilson’s Prom