Guichen Bay and the Chinese Landings is a small book about the remarkable period in history when thousands of Chinese passed through the port of Robe, on their way to the Victorian goldfields.
Commissioned by the District Council of Robe in 2017, the book combines material from Liz Harfull’s highly acclaimed Almost an Island: the Story of Robe and additional research carried out since that book was released in 2013.
It’s a fascinating story, which almost defies belief, although it hasn’t always been told accurately, according to Liz. As part of one of history’s greatest treks in history, at least 18,000 Chinese left their homes in mainland China, and after a long and difficult sea journey arrived in Robe, then walked more than 400 kilometres through the bush.
At least 3000 came through the port in 1856 after clearing customs in other Australian ports, but in 1857 the first ships arrived direct from China, bringing even greater numbers. On one day alone in April 1857, three ships sailed into the bay, carrying almost 1500 passengers.
One of them hit a reef near the obelisk, and it was the middle of the season for loading wool onto ships for London, so it must have been absolute chaos. Just imagine the impact on an isolated colonial outpost like Robe, which had a population of no more than 200 people at the time.
Copies of the book are available from the District Council of Robe and the Robe Visitor Information Centre.