The oystering settlement at Flagstaff Point (Rhyll) began in the 1850’s and finished up in the early 1860’s due to failure of the beds. The main blame for the failure was put on a marine borer which drilled a hole through the shell to feed on the oyster.

Site of the 1850’s Oystering Settlement along Rhyll’s eastern shore

Dr. L. L. Smith M.L.A. visited the artificial oyster beds in July 1862 and reported that the village was deserted:

“There were a number of well-built cottages, many of them with their doors and windows still attached to them, and behind were neatly fenced gardens, well laid out, and many of them having peach and apple trees still standing.”

“At one time there were opposite to this village no less than from 25 to 30 vessels engaged in the oyster trade. Now there is not one ! And unless speedy precautions are taken there will not be a single oyster in the colony of Victoria taken either from the natural or artificial beds ; but more of that anon. After sorrowfully wandering amongst these deserted dwellings, still containing amongst them scattered about numberless domestic articles, besides bolts, nuts, chains, anchors, etc, sufficient to set up a large marine store shop, we wandered to the top of a hill to obtain a view of the surrounding country, and a more beautiful sight I defy anyone to describe, than that which presents itself to the eye of any intending farmer.”
The Herald, Melbourne, 28 July 1862

Western Port’s worst maritime disaster

A story titled “Extract of the History of an Unhappy Family” was published in a Beechworth newspaper, the “Ovens and Murray Advertiser” on 6th January 1872. It tells the story of a family of three settling on Elizabeth Island near Corinella in 1860 to farm rabbits. Elizabeth Island was then owned by John Rogers who also owned Churchill Island.

“For the first few weeks there were numerous visitors. From them we learned that shortly before our arrival, a shipwright living at Flagstaff Point, Phillip Island, had built a fine little cutter of some 15 tons burden, apparently a first-class vessel — that 17 of his neighbours (from the oystering settlement) had taken her out for a trial sail round the bay, and since then had never been heard of. It was a terrible gap in the little community — the loss of so many fine able-bodied men. Fortunately few had relatives to mourn their loss, thus the grief felt by all was not permanent.”

Shooting the dredge and sorting out the oysters at Port Albert

Similar cutter rigged vessels were used at Western Port