On the 4th November 1852 a clipper called The Ticonderoga sailed through the Heads of Port Phillip Bay. On board were over 800 emigrants who had departed the UK in search of a better life in Australia. It was the height of the Gold Rush and the dream of finding a fortune was enough to persuade thousands to leave their homelands and head to Australia.
Unfortunately for those on board the Ticonderoga, it turned out to be one of the most infamous journeys in history. By the time the ship entered the Heads it was flying the yellow flag that indicated that Typhus was on board. In fact conditions on board were absolutely horrendous with over 80 deaths en route and most of the remainder sick or dying, including the ship’s doctor.
The Ticonderoga was refused entry to the Port of Melbourne and was forced to unload the remaining passengers at Point Nepean. A couple of small cottages belonging to local lime burners were secured. The ships sails and stays were also used to construct a makeshift tent quarantine centre. Within weeks another 90 had perished on shore. Those that survived were eventually released to transfer to Melbourne and get on with what was left of their lives.
On board were a young couple, William and Susan Scarff who had brought their 2 children with them. One of the children died on the ship and the other died soon after arrival in Australia. When discharged from quarantine they eventually travelled to Ballarat and made a new family of 6 children. They never made their fortune, but it is thanks to them that I am here today. William and Susan were my great, great grandparents.
When I was a child my grandfather would try to tell us the story of how our family arrived in Australia, but it was only in later life that I learned just what an incredible story of survival it was. The whole history of the Point Nepean Quarantine Station is a very important part of Victoria’s history, but it is largely unknown by the general population.
Several years ago the Point Nepean was opened up to the general public and entry was made free. We now make this historic and beautiful location the destination for one of our annual bike ride. On Sunday 29th November 14 riders made the journey to the Mornington Peninsula to conduct our latest ride.
Conditions were ideal for riding with a gentle head wind most of the way down (which became a tail wind on the way back) and a temperature in the low 20s. We stopped at Portsea for lunch and coffee before continuing. When we arrived at Point Nepean there was a large market underway which was a bit of a contrast to the very quiet setting we usually find. I made my pilgrimage to the Quarantine Station and pointed out the picture of my great great grandmother to the other riders.
On the way back we stopped for another coffee stop at Rosebud. That provided a perfect chance for us to chat and assess the ride. It had been a superb ride and I look forward to returning to this spot in 2016.