Point Nepean: the end of the Mornington Peninsula, one of the ‘heads’ of Port Phillip Bay, a national park, the site of a disappearance of an Australian Prime Minister, a series of army forts, a former army training area and the site of the first shot fired by the British Empire in WWI.
For those who haven’t been there Point Nepean is about an hour and a half’s drive from Melbourne Australia. It is is one of the few places where you can stand on a spit of land with the ocean on one side and the bay on the other. It is also the place that claimed one of Australia’s Prime Ministers. Harold Holt went swimming at Cheviot beach, see the photos below, in December 1967. He never returned. He was officially pronounced dead on the 19th of December. There have been many theories over the years, ranging from a Japanese submarine to sharks. The last is actually a possibility. I think he just drowned. It is a very unsafe swimming beach with unpredictable currents and frequently a number of rips.
There are also several of army forts along the length of Point Nepean, from WWI and WWII, such as the Cheviot Beach fortifications, Fort Pearce and the Eagle’s Nest. All of which can be seen in the photos below.
Point Nepean is probably best known for the role it played in WWI. WWI was declared at 11pm on the 4th of August 1914 in Britain (9am of the 5th Australian time). A German cargo steamer the SS Pflaz, having anticipated a declaration of war, was trying to get clear of the heads of Port Phillip Bay and find a neutral port in South America.
Signal flags were raised at Fort Nepean, at the very end of Point Nepean, and Queenscliff ordering the SS Pflaz to stop. There was no response and a ‘heave to’ shot was fired from the gun emplacement at Fort Nepean. Eventually the SS Pflaz returned to the harbour under armed guard. This shot was the first shot fired in WWI by the British empire. This was the only shot fired in anger from Australian territory in WWI
Incidentally Fort Nepean also fired the first Australian shot from WWII on the 4th of September 1939. The SS Woiniora failed to identify itself as it came through the heads. Once the correct code was signalled the ship was allowed to continue on its way. The remains of the gun below are in the position the shot was fired from and the other photo is the view from the gun emplacement.
Point Nepean also served as a quarantine station from the 1850s until 1952 when it was taken over by army cadets, with the proviso that it would be vacated if it was needed again for quarantine. Many immigrants were quarantined there from passengers, steerage and first class, from the 1850s all the way through to assisted immigrants in the early 1950s who were kept there while their belongings were fumigated against foot and mouth disease.
1912 saw the largest intake of the quarantine station with 1291 from the ship, the Irishman. They were mainly agricultural labourers. The photos below are some of the quarantine buildings. The final photo is the view along the balcony of one of the hospital buildings.
Also Point Nepean has been in use as an army base of some form for centuries and there are many of the beaches you still can’t walk on because of unexploded ordinances.
Point Nepean is a truly beautiful piece of land as well as a fascinating peace of history. If you get the chance to go there, it’s worth it. It is quite lovely and for the moment very unspoiled.