Thursday, February 17, 2011

A 'street of lights' guides ships through Western Port Bay

For tens of thousands of years boats have travelled past Grossard Point, here on Phillip Island. First were the bark canoes of Aboriginal people. Now we see ships of all kinds pass through our seascape -- from jet skis, to wind surfers, kayaks, yachts, fishing boats, oil tankers, gas ships and oil rigs.

Aborigines came to Phillip Island in the spring and summer because they knew that every spring, hundreds of thousands of mutton birds arrived to nest on the island, and that the rocks abounded in delicacies such as abalone, mussels and other shellfish.

Kitchen middens in the dunes survive to this day, with their collections of shells and roughly shaped tools -- some of these are estimated to be 40 to 50,000 years old.

After the Bunorong people came whalers, sealers, mutton birders and explorers, resulting in many shipwrecks along the rocky coastline. Western Port Bay is a natural deep water harbour, therefore it didn't take long before large ships began using the bay and industry established itself at the closest point to Melbourne.

Sailors on Western Port Bay today are guided by a 'street of lights' -- a series of buoys and navigational beacons which allow craft of all kinds to enter and travel safely through Western Port.

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