Another storm approaches

Day 5 - Monday 9 April 2012

9.19am Ė There is hail today. Little rocks of frozen ice have just hit the island. Its cold and wet, in fact itís the coldest day weíve had since being here. Thereís no sign of work or walking this morning. More storms are coming, not through knowing any weather forecast, but through seeing them coming this way from out on the horizon. The only forecast Iím aware of is for snow in Hobart down to 600 metres. Not sure what weíll be doing today, oh well, thatís Tasman for you.

The morning light looking east out into the Tasman Sea
I must make the most of this time here. I probably wonít be back for some time, a year or two maybe. Even if I am working deep in the grass poisoning weeds I must make the most of it. Absorb, look, analyse, being careful to analyse everything I see slowly taking it all in. To Ďbecomeí should really mean truly involving oneself in all, oh how Zen of me!

Iím a positive mood today; my attitude is to just go with the flow. The island is quiet, apart from the occasional gust of wind, in fact itís a little strangely silent, there are no sounds coming from the many species of birds that are usually around and the occasional rain shower only makes a strange muffled sound. On days like this I feel like Iím living really high up on a mountain. But I know that Iím on an island thatís a 1,000 feet into the air, half mountain half island.

At one stage today Chris explained to me that the weather patterns we have been getting are due to the islands vicinity to the sea and mainland Tasmania. Particularly the fog we had on day 2 that came over from Cape Pillar and rolled across the island. It forms, he said, when itís a hot day in Hobart, the air that is cooled by the sea hits the hot air sitting above the mainland (Cape Pillar) and condenses causing fog. (I really should look up the technical reasoning on this). This cooling down by the sea is probably the reason why it always is 5 to 10 degrees cooler here on Tasman than in Hobart, but Chris also says; itís difficult to take Hobart as any sort of indicator when thinking about the weather on Tasman as its generally radically different. Chris should know, as this is his 21st trip to Tasman with FoTI.

Thereís a lovely dark grey flatness in the clouds hovering overhead today. The thick dark grey rain/storm clouds are just quietly siting there above the horizon. There is a warm white light bordering this grey zone before the horizon and sea, and from my line of sight when the edge of island comes into the picture it is a dark silhouetted landscape. Dark to light, then a crisp dark again separated by the edge of the island. Most of the detail is lost until the eye makes out a small detail here and there. The edges of the island are in sharp contrast against each other. Itís quite a beautiful sight. Further, I am currently looking at this scene through a dirt covered rain soaked window. Argh, the many moods of Tasman!

1pm and there has been more intermittent hail throughout the morning, this time slightly heavier and coming through the chimney next to where Iím sitting. For the last hour and a half Iíve been pulling screws and nails out of bits of old timber. Timber that once used to be the front veranda of Q2, I like this job as itís a nice quiet job to be doing inside out of the cold and wet hailstorms.

As visual artist how would I describe Tasman to another artist, or an island scholar, or a geologist, or a philosopher? What colours, tonal values, and descriptive and emotive language would I use? How would I describe the sounds, the physical features, the uniqueness, biodiversity, history (lighthouse), memories, current work we are doing? What words would I put around it to make an interesting discussion about this place. It would be good to give this more thought. (I am thinking about this for 2 reasons, one Jo asked me if I had done any drawing on the trip so far and I told a bit about how I work, including the process of coming to the island to absorb write and primarily take a lot of photographs and video, followed then by a lengthy process of exploring and experimenting with images before working out drawings to make.) I told her my process, then shortly after I checked my email and there was a Call for Papers email from someone, not sure for what reason, as I didnít download the large attachment accompanying the email. Reading through the scientific reports on Tasman Ė weeding, cat eradication, some of Ericaís texts, etc. - got me thinking how I might develop something specifically for the visual arts, or island scholarship or philosophically with place/landscape. How would I define what this actually is? As an artist who has slowly drawn and has been drawn to coming to this island, becoming this island, who uses place, island and landscape ideas to focus himself intensely into its elements, then re-translating them through visual arts techniques focused around drawing. (I need to think and do some more on this)

3.39pm Ė ďI have a great deal of company in my house especially in the morning when nobody calls.Ē Henry David Thoreau from Walden. I read this today in Australian Geographic quoted midway through an article about a writer who took a wilderness survival course that lasts for a year whereby she goes into the bush and survives. I love these coincidences. I just only just purchased Walden from Amazon about 4 days before leaving for Tasman. I am now very much looking forward to it arriving.

In the same magazine was photo-essay from an adventurer made up beautiful images with small captions against them. What took me was one caption explaining the education component of this chaps adventures. It said; ĎLearning; Geography, Culture, An Exploration of Australian Geography, and understanding biodiversity.í I like this, and it kind of relates to the words in the previous paragraph and how I could potentially model some ideas around making sense of these trips and the drawings I make of Tasman.

5.06pm Ė I have a lot to think about, what is meaning of being here, the true meaning of what I am trying to get out of this, and what will do in the future? I feel like I seem to be gathering data and then fumbling around for a bit trying to work what Iíve got and then how to use it.

Chris said to me the other day, ďWhy are we doing this?Ē In particular coming from him this is curious. He is the one person who comes on just about all of these trips. He is the most absorbed into this island. He really loves this place and you can sense that it gives him a lot back. Itís his love affair with place, his collection of stories, his mechanical knowledge of the past and present and his enthusiasm that keeps him coming back. Perhaps this is similar to my feeling of Tasman as place, and for those others like Chris and I who keep coming back, we all have a personal connection to it, but we come here for our own reasons that are ours alone. Like the edges of the island that are contained within our immediate view, this place letís one explore the essence of who one is allowing for much space and privacy. Like life, each time I come here new experiences breath different life into me enriching my quest for knowing Tasman as place, even though I feel like I have trekked over and over it many times over many years and seem to have a good understanding it.

A passing storm makes for great tonal values
8.55pm Ė The end of the day is here. Today seemed to go quickly and I enjoyed it even though it was spent mostly indoors and was bitterly cold, windy and wet. There were some glorious skies and weather changes, and about 3-4 hours of solitude working and writing. It was very grey, damp, and yet another face of the island revealed itself.

Another spectacular sky, filled with wild looking cloud formations, Q2 bottom right.
For some reason when Iím here on Tasman I tend to count the people that are around me at any given time, and I do it a number of times each day. I like it when there are all 10 of us together. I suppose itís quite odd that I do this, but its something Iíve done on every trip to Tasman. Perhaps it makes me feel better when we are all together knowing that someone hasnít fallen down a sinkhole or off the edge. Or perhaps itís more philosophical, as I think about how we all ended up here together at this time in life. It also triggers my thoughts to one of the really likable things about being contained, or imprisoned on Tasman. That everything is accessible; everything is contained within the boundaries of the cliff edges. Rather than walls there is edges, big drops off edges onto the rocks and wild seas below, a long way below. Iím isolated by these edges, trapped by the edges and imprisoned by the edges, but I like it like that.

Iíve just finished reading another Australian Geographic article but this one was about about Tasman. In it Chris mentions that the reason for people like us coming here is their (our) Ďlove of wild placesí. (Australian Geographic No. 90, April June 2008 pp86) How very true.

The wind is howling tonight, rain is dropping outside in another of the many storms that have hit us today, half of which have dropped hail. The chimney in my room is very noisy, ringing a low dull hum, occasionally blasting into a deafening crescendo as the wind turns. The Scott Bell Symphony is whistling away outside. (The Scott Bell Symphony refers to a previous where Mr Bell removed the tops off the steel fence posts outside - no longer is there any fencing, just posts standing silently guarding Q2. Each post is set into the ground at a different height to the uneven terrain and when a strong wind passes over each of the posts they whistle in various pitched tones that are very pleasant, even quite soothing to listen to.

Earlier today, whilst reading through Australian Geographicís, I came across an article about Kangaroo Island; a few things struck me about Kangaroo Island in relation to Tasman. Firstly, on Tasman there are no inhabitants - except for when the lighthouse was manned from 1906 until 1977. There has also been evidence of Aboriginal impact on the island hypothesised by biologists researching its vegetation in relation to evidence that a fire had once totally consumed the island during a time that pre-dates the 1885 commencement of surveying the island prior to building the lighthouse. This was in one of the weed reports I read but is unverified. Another report, A Seal Hunters Site on Tasman Island, states that early keepers found evidence of Aboriginal middens on the northern side of the island near the whim, and on a previous trip, we found a dark stone on the Zigzag track that had the edges broken off suggesting some sort of cutting tool. It was a type of rock not found anywhere near Tasman. Anyway, there is no tourism on Tasman, no mice, no foxes, no rabbits, no snakes or no cats. Thereís only birds, lots of healthy insects, cantankerous Mother Nature and occasionally a few humans such as myself.

The Kangaroo Island article said, ďTherefore the unique natural balance of life is [mostly] preserved.Ē Iím not totally convinced that this is the case on Kangaroo. I canít help think of the tourism, the introduced animals, and its accessible coastline in comparison with where I am now on Tasman. Tasman is difficult to access due to its inhospitable coastline but there is still introduced pests that year after year takes a lot of effort to eradicate or control. Thereís no 5-star hotel experience to go with your daily choice of planned adventure, hiking, riding or canoeing. Thereís no gourmet food to which one pays exorbitant prices for (although the food we are getting served each day is extraordinary). ďMother nature was [is] your boss,Ē the article says, in some way I agree and there are some lovely little passages in this article, but I guess Iím a little cynical due to my current circumstances. The same article also said, ďIslands are always an invitation to see the world differentlyĒ I concur wholeheartedly.

Reading this also makes me think that thereís no need for a wallet or money on Tasman, thereís no need for keys, the doors are always left open, and there are no newspapers. I love these things, or lack of things that make island life, isolated island life something unique.

What does one find when one is not conditioned for but immersed within great immensity? A challenging question that I ask myself after reading Australian Geographic today. I think of what people find out about themselves when perhaps in the dessert (I once read about an artist who bought a house on the edge of a desert for that reason. I must look it up and find the name of the person who wrote of this?). I think of Barry Lopez in Arctic Dreams a desert in the same sense but of frozen tundras, etc., then thereís Thoreau at Walden, Peter Hill and Stargaziní writing about his time in the 1970ís as young Lighthouse keeper in Scotland, then thereís the Antarctic explorers and I guess the list can go on and on, but Iím tired once again and I must sleep now. More tomorrow.