SEALERS

Lieut. James Grant of the Lady Nelson entered Western Port on 21st March 1801 having been sent by Governor King to explore the southern coastline.

The sealers followed soon after Grant. The first sealing operations at Seal Rocks, almost certainly took place by the Harrington, William Campbell in 1801. Remains of fires and bamboo pegs were found at Seal Rocks by Lieutenant John Murray’s men from the Lady Nelson.

Sealer’s Hut at Rhyll
Artist: Louis Sainson

Other sealers soon followed and the following decade saw thousands of seals being taken from the Bass Strait islands.

The corvette Astrolabe under Dumont D’Urville visited Western Port on a French scientific expedition in November 1826. He had three sealers on board, Hambilton, Symons and Cloney from Kings Sound, Western Australia, left there by the Governor Brisbane. Hambilton was able to guide him to the anchorage off Rhyll as he had been before. As they anchored, sealers came up from Cat Bay in their boat and climbed on board. This is the first mention of the sealers at Rhyll, some of whom had been living on Phillip Island for more than two years. Their main base was at Cat Bay where there were several huts and a
vegetable garden and there was a hut shown on the lithograph at Rhyll.
Rhyll was the nearest safe anchorage for larger vessels.

Captain Samuel Wright on board the chartered brig Dragon, together with brig H.M.S. Fly, Captain Wetherall, entered Western Port to set up a British settlement on 24th November 1826. A small battery with two 6 lb guns was set up, and named Fort Dumaresq (Rhyll). Six sealers including John Scott were found there with a boat in their possession.

One of six 3lb and 6lb cannon balls found around Rhyll.

Seven sealers were resident on Phillip Island when John McHaffie arrived in 1842 but the numbers of seals would have been drastically reduced by then. The last record of anyone sealing was Stanley Kennon from Flinders who spent six weeks on Seal Rocks obtaining seal oil in 1879.

Seal Rocks

Victorian seals were protected from hunting by the Game Act of 1890.