Explore Eden’s rich history — from Indigenous settlement to the early whaling industry, and the tales of sealers, fishermen, timber cutters and pastoralists, this region has many fascinating stories to tell. Take your own voyage of discovery to Eden.
The original inhabitants of the Twofold Bay area were the Thaua (or Thawa) people. The Thaua ranged from Mallacoota and Green Cape to Merimbula and west as far as the borders of Narigo territory in Monaro. They were divided into two groups — the Katungal (sea coast people) and Paienbara (tomahawk people, or those who lived in the forests). A third group, the Bemerigal (mountain people) at Cooma, belonged to the Narigo, with whom the inland Thaua had some association.
British naval surgeon and explorer George Bass named Twofold Bay for its two bights as he passed through in 1798. The northern bight is called Calle Calle Bay, while the southern is known as Nullica Bay. Bass took shelter in the bay he named Snug Cove. In October 1798, he returned with Lieutenant Matthew Flinders to map and name other places around the bay. Prior to permanent settlement, whalers and sealers had their camps in Twofold Bay, and it provided a safe haven for merchant vessels sailing to and from Van Diemen’s Land across Bass Strait.
The whaling industry in Eden commenced with the arrival of Thomas Raine, who established the first whaling station on mainland Australia at Snug Cove in 1828. Whaling continued in Eden until 1930 — the longest continuous shore-based whaling industry in the world. The Imlay brothers, Benjamin Boyd and the Davidson family also played an important part in whaling in the area around Nullica Bay. The Davidson family were assisted in their operations by a pod of killer whales (or orcas) led by the legendary Old Tom. Before European settlement, the orcas had a special relationship with the local Yuin people and it was through this connection that they bonded with the whalers, whose crews often included Yuin men. The orcas would target baleen whales and shepherd them into Twofold Bay or neighbouring bays. The orcas would then alert the whalers to their presence and assist in them killing the baleen whales. The orcas would then be allowed to eat the tongues and lips as their share of the kill. Eden is one of the few places in the world where interaction between orcas and humans has been recorded. You will find all this history at the Eden Killer Whale Museum.
The Imlays also developed large pastoral runs from Cobargo in the north to Mallacoota in the south, but financial difficulties in the 1840s economic depression saw them lose most of their land. Many localities in the area are named after the Imlay brothers.
In 1842, Benjamin Boyd arrived in Eden, taking over from the Imlay brothers as the major pastoralist and whaling entrepreneur. He established and built Boydtown, using it to service his properties on the Monaro and in the hope that it would become a major port to rival Sydney and Melbourne. Seven years later, his plans collapsed when he was declared bankrupt and left the colony in disgrace. However, Boyd left his mark on the region, with Boyd’s Tower, Boydtown and the Seahorse Inn all reminders of his important influence.
A government surveyor mapping the site for the township named it after the then Secretary of the Colonies, George Eden, Earl of Auckland, in 1843. By the time of federation in 1901, Eden was even cited as a potential capital of Australia.
Green Cape Lighthouse was built in 1883, following a number of shipwrecks in Disaster Bay. Unfortunately, in 1886, the SS Ly-ee-Moon sailed onto the rocks directly under the lighthouse. Only 15 people survived out of 86 passengers and crew. Some of the bodies were recovered and are buried in a small cemetery near the lighthouse station. Among the dead was Mrs Flora Hannah MacKillop of St Kilda, Melbourne, travelling to Sydney to visit her daughter, Mary, now Saint Mary MacKillop. Today, you can visit the lighthouse to see the memorial to the Ly-ee-Moon and the gravesites at Green Cape. The historic (1860) Star of the Sea Catholic Church is now the Mary MacKillop Hall and Museum.
Fishing has long been integral to Eden. Twofold Bay is one of the deepest natural harbours in the Southern Hemisphere and makes for an ideal fishing port. Warm northern currents meet cooler currents from the south off the coast, leading to an abundance and variety of fish for recreational and commercial fishing. Originally the local Indigenous people fished these waters. As the town developed, its fishing fleet grew. Many tuna fishing boats were based in Eden to supply the local cannery, until it closed in 1999.
The timber industry has also been a local mainstay. From 1900, timber railway sleepers were cut and shipped out of Twofold Bay for Australian and overseas use. Today, high-quality logs are milled for joinery and craft timbers, while woodchips and pine are shipped overseas to supply the paper industry.
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