Track 3 on the new Doomed Bird album is called 119 Tins of Opium Came to be in Port Phillip Bay. It is drawn from a news report in The Riverine Herald, August 1931.
Mr P. H. Holden, Sub-Collector of Customs, who is endeavoring to discover how 119 tins of
opium came to be in Port Phillip Bay, near the Heads, on Sunday, said today that on Sunday a motor launch was seen cruising in the south channel, taking a zig-zag course down between Sorrento and Portsea. Fishermen said that the launch which, they did not recognise, was working- toward the Heads.
The opium, it appears, was dropped in the bay attached to lifebelts. The floating package included the 119 tins and ‘ six opium smoking lamps’. The launch that took a ‘zig-zag course’ mentioned in the article clearly missed the dropped off package. The suggestion is that because the tide was seven knots the floating package was getting pushed out quicker than perhaps the launch anticipated. So they misjudged the location. I haven’t been able to find any details on who the person/people were on this launch.
If this article is anything to go by, opium dens existed into the 1950s. One such area was…
“Melbourne’s notorious district of debauchery, ‘Little Lon’, bounded by Lonsdale, Spring, La Trobe and what is now Exhibition street.”
So, it seems that if the drop off made for use in dens, there was a definite demand for it.
In 1926 William Stanley Moore an…
‘Opium dealer./ Operates with large quantities of faked opium and cocaine./ A wharf labourer; associates with water front thieves and drug traders‘
…was photographed for a mug shot. The early 20th century had trade that was alive and well with real and fake opium. William was at the time of the photograph, short of luck. Indeed it seems, 5 years later, so was the captain of the zig-zagging boat that tried to locate a large quantity of opium floating in Port Phillip Bay.
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