Footscray Wharves and Environs


Cockle shell found on the banks of the Maribyrnong, Footscray Warves precinct , 2016

While wandering along the eastern bank of the Maribyrnong, just south of the survey area, I came across quite a few cockle shells among the land fill and the assorted bricks from a range of long gone old buildings.

I had never been conscious of any stories about cockles in the mud of the Maribyrnong. After all the river had been turned into an industrial drain by Europeans in the mid nineteenth century and things like molluscs and oysters that might have once been plentiful had been poisoned a century before I was even born.

And were these cockle shells just land fill from another place with that obsession with shifting dirt all over the place to raise the banks of rivers and fill in quarries to make sports ovals and dog parks?

So I checked with the experts on molluscs at the Museum of Victoria and was told the shells I had found were a species of cockle called ‘anadara trapezia’ and were in fact native to the area. They can also be called a ‘mud ark’ or ‘blood cockle’ and are also native to Port Phillip and the east coast of Australia.

Although they generally don’t have much meat in them these cockles are often found in Aboriginal middens. Another odd historic fact is that cockle shells and oyster shells were ground up in the first year or so of the colony to produce lime to make mortar for buildings.