The Quarantine Station at Point Nepean was first opened in 1852 and officially closed 1980. From 1951 until 1998 the station also housed the Australian Army Officer Cadet School and the School of Army Health.
Today, many of the buildings are open to the public and offer an insight into life on a Quarantine Station and the history of immigration to Australia. One of the most well known ships to moor off Point Nepean and raise the yellow flag was the Ticonderoga in November 1852. In the terrible living conditions, 93 passengers died of Typhus on board the ship during the voyage from Liverpool to Melbourne with many bodies being thrown overboard and a further 70 would die at the basic quarantine station which was completely unprepared for the catastrophe unfolding. Tents were made using the ships rigging, two huts were bought from local lime burners to use as infirmaries and a ship, the Lysander, was anchored off the coast and used to house the most serious cases.
It didn’t take long after the Ticonderoga incident for the building of a proper Quarantine station. Five hospital buildings were built in 1858/59. One was used for the sick, the others to house those not showing symptoms but quarantined in case. Other buildings were built for fumigating passengers luggage with formaldehyde and bath houses where passengers had to take baths using antiseptic soap.
The station protected the colony (and later state) of Victoria from many epidemics including the Spanish Influenza epidemic in 1918/19 and many bouts of infectious diseases like measles, typhus, cholera, smallpox and more.
As science advanced and the need for such stations decreased, the Army took over some of the buildings for use as a training facility for Army officer cadets and Army health. Most recently, the station was home to over 400 Kosovar refugees during the 1998/99 conflict.
Today, the Quarantine Station, along with the Army forts, is managed by Parks Victoria and is popular day out for visitors to the National Park.
When I decided that I was going to do the 4 day hike to Machu Picchu, I knew that I would have to do some training. One of my favourite place to go hiking close to home is located at the very tip of the Mornington Peninsula- Point Nepean National Park.
Over the years, this park has been home to a Quarantine Station for newly arrived immigrants to the city of Melbourne, and also to the Royal Australian Army.
In this post I thought I’d cover the army forts at the very tip of the park.
The forts were commissioned in the late 1800’s as the City of Melbourne was growing in importance and defences were needed. It’s location, along with the forts at Point Lonsdale on the Bellarine Peninsula, guard the entrance to Port Phillip bay in which lies the Port of Melbourne.
At the beginning of World War 1, the German Merchant ship departed the Port of Melbourne moments before War was declared and tried to flee the bay for the safety of open waters before they could be detained. Unfortunately for them, the word that England had declared War against Germany got the soldiers at the fort before they could make it out of the bay and a shot was fired across their bow from Gun Enplacement Six. This was the first shot to be fired in World War 1 and the German captain surrendered to the Australians. Interestingly, the first Australian shot of WW2 was also fired from Gun Enplacement Six!
Today there is still plenty to see with bunkers scattered all along the coastline and tunnels that once held ammunition stores open for exploration. Parks Victoria has also done an amazing job when it comes to signage explaining the history and importance of the sites.
The National Park is also home to the beach where Australia lost a Prime Minister- Harold Holt. In 1967, Harold Holt went swimming with friends at Cheviot Beach, a notoriously dangerous beach and was lost, presumed drowned. His body was never recovered and there are several of conspiracy theories surrounding the disappearance but anyone who sees the beach on a good day can see that it’s a dangerous place and not smart place to swim. The beach proper is closed to the public but you can see it from the path on top of the sand dunes.