Out of work and searching for some means of support during the Depression years former Kurri  Kurri miner Arthur Murdoch knew, from previous experience in Port Hacking, that a steady but meagre income could be made by shovelling crushed shells into bags.

The shell grit, as it was known, was vital in the chicken sheds as it toughened the eggshell. Without the grit in the chooks diet their eggs were too fragile to sell.

The Steamship Pappinbarra ran aground near the `grit hole' in 1929, one year before Arthur Murdoch arrived.

Looking for a shell grit deposit closer to home Arthur was fascinated by an article in 1929 reporting the running aground of the ship Pappinbarra on the northern wall of Fingal Island near a small cove named “Shelly”. Could this mean a deposit of shell grit?

Riding his bike to Fingal from Newcastle, Arthur crossed the spit to the wreck of the ship and was rewarded by discovering a large deposit of grit.

Back in Nelson Bay Arthur was fortunate to meet local fisherman Jack Lund who had a launch which was soon loaded with bags, shovels and camping gear. Within an hour Arthur was on his way to his new home.


With Jack’s help Arthur continued digging grit until 1947 only interrupted by the War.

Grit Hole on Fingal Island.

The full account of Arthur’s adventures can be found in the book ‘Sheer Grit’ which is an excellent documentation of pre-war life in Port Stephens.


The Tomaree Museum Association Incorporated aims to develop a  regional museum and interpretative centre to document, protect and promote the history and changing natural environment of Port Stephens.


The Tomaree Museum Association acknowledges the Worimi people,
the traditional owners and custodians of the land and waters upon which Tomaree Museum stands. We should like to pay our respect to the Elders
past and present, and through them to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are advised that this
website contains a range of material which may be culturally sensitive
including records of people who may have passed away.