William Withers and Edward Ryan drowned near Point Lonsdale on 19 October 1954 when they tried to enter the Rip at Port Phillip Heads against an ebb tide with a strong south-west wind blowing. They were sailing a large crayfishing boat, the 'Robert John', returning with a load of crayfish from King Island.
Photograph shows William (Bill) Withers and Edward Ryan who worked in the local Queenscliff and Victorian fishing industry. The commercial fishing industry developed in Queenscliff from the 1860s, with early fishing developing around the couta boat and barracouta fishing. Crayfishing and shark fishing also became important, especially as the supplies and popularity of barracouta as a commercial species waned.
Local Queenscliff fishermen often fished outside Port Phillip into Bass Strait and had to navigate the dangerous entry to Port Phillip, known as 'The Rip', with its turbulent and variable water and weather conditions. This added to the everyday dangers of sailing faced by fishermen in their industry. The local fishermen often had the local knowledge of these waters, but the fishing community in Queenscliff also lived with the threat or fear that the Rip could rob them of one of their own.
The entrance to Port Phillip with this Rip is the scene of many shipwrecks,often resulting in tragic loss of life or injuries, including passenger and cargo ships travelling to/from Melbourne and Geelong as well as accidents to local Queenscliff and Port Phillip sailors such as the fishermen or sea pilots.
A B/W photograph of two Queenscliff fishermen, William (Bill) Withers and Edward Ryan
information about photo and donation handwrittten on back
fishermen, queenscliff fishermen, withers, william withers, ryan, edward ryan, robert john crayfish boat, shipwreck, port phillip