Doctor Beaufort Montgomery III, yachtsman and overly-entitled upper class twit, was not a man to let little things like reality or good manners stand in his way. His stubbornness, allied to an even less laudable vindictive streak, had caused the end of the careers of several people who had gotten in his way. Fittingly, it was also the cause of his own career’s end, and that of his life as well.
When Montgomery landed at Sorrento, he was offended by the crass mercantilism of those who lived there (crass mercantilism being a thing he understood to be a privilege of his social class alone), and sought revenge upon them by depriving them of their livelihoods. Realising how dangerous the Rip – the narrow entrance to Port Phillip Bay, a mess of cross currents and shallows – was to shipping, he hit upon the scheme of building a canal across the Mornington Peninsula where it narrows approaching the Rip.
The idea was acclaimed as an excellent solution to the problem, although Montgomery made enemies of his competitors (one who advocated a canal across the Bellarine Peninsula and another who wanted a rail link all the way to the Sorrento back beach), and he had little trouble finding investors. He had rather more trouble constructing the canal. The spine of the Mornington Peninsula is a basalt ridge line, stretching for miles. Digging would never work – it would have to be blasted out. But there was estimated to be insufficient dynamite in the whole of the nation for that job, even if the mining industry could be persuaded to part with theirs. Montogomery lost his shirt and his reputation, and eventually threw himself into the ocean in shame. His body was never recovered, although it is rumoured that Harold Holt may have been searching for it on his final swim.
Suburbs near Portsea: