Geelong Keys

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The Geelong Keys were a set of five keys discovered in 1845 or 1846 in the time of Governor Charles La Trobe at Corio Bay in Victoria, Australia. They were embedded in the stone of the beach in such a way as to make him believe that they had been there for 100–150 years (~1700 AD). Since the earliest proven English exploration of the area was by Matthew Flinders in 1802, writer Kenneth McIntyre suggested the keys may have originated with some earlier European explorers of the region, possibly Portuguese explorations.[1]

The study of these keys was the subject of two pamphlets published by the Royal Society of Victoria in the 1870s. The first of these pamphlets suggested that the depth at which the keys lay indicated an age closer to 200–300 years. The second pamphlet repudiated this claim and was based on an interview with a limeburner, who said that the keys may have been dropped down a hole to that depth. The Geelong Keys are often connected to the Mahogany Ship further west on Victoria's Shipwreck Coast, also claimed to be a relic of early European exploration of the area. However, research by Geologists Edmund Gill and P.F.B. Alsop showed the age of the deposit in which the keys were found to be 2330–2800 years and this made La Trobe's dating highly implausible. The error by La Trobe is quite understandable, according to Gill and Alsop, given that in 1847 most people thought the world was only 6000 years old.[2]

The keys themselves, and all original drawings of them, have been lost.[3]

The keys are referred to in a book for children, The Voyage of the Poppykettle (and later The Poppykettle Papers), by Robert Ingpen. In it the keys are used as ballast in a clay-pot ship sailed by migrant Peruvian gnomes. These stories were so popular in Ingpen's home, Geelong, that a fountain and an annual Poppykettle Festival celebrate the mythical landing of the "hairy Peruvians".


  1. ^ McIntyre, K.G. (1977) The Secret Discovery of Australia. Portuguese Ventures 200 Years before Captain Cook. Pps.249-262. Souvenir Press, Medindie, South Australia. ISBN 0-285-62303-6
  2. ^ Gill, E (1987) “On the McKiggan Theory of the Geelong keys” in The Mahogany ship. Relic or Legend? Proceedings of the Second Australian Symposium on the Mahogany Ship. (Ed. Potter, B.) Pps.83-86. Warrnambool Institute Press ISBN 0-949759-09-0
  3. ^ White Hat

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