Since 2001, my practice has mostly focused on the observation and drawing of one particular place. It's an island place, off the bigger island of Tasmania, and it is known as Tasman Island.

Below is some information about my story, the Friends of Tasman Island, some images of it, and a couple of historical articles. I hope you enjoy this little taster of Tasman and if your interested to know more, click on the link to the left of here and into my Blog where there are more stories and more images.

The old haulage and anchor rock

Tasman Island a small and remote island of no more than 150 hectares in size located off the southeast coast of Tasmania.

If you head over to my blog pages you will find my stories from the journeys that I have taken to Tasman since 2001.

I first travelled there courtesy of Parks and Wildlife Tasmania, then I made a few trips with the Rotary Club of Tasman Peninsula on their annual helicopter fundraising trips, but more recently I have gone there for longer periods after joining the Friends of Tasman Island (FoTI), a group affiliated with Wildcare Tasmania.

If traveling to Tasman Island sounds like your thing, then get in contact with the Friends of Tasman Island (see below for more info), or take a tourist cruise with Tasman Island Cruises and experience it for yourself.

Tasman Island and Cape Pillar, photograph by Joe Shemesh, 2001

Tasman Island and Cape Pillar, 2001, my version with a cheap portable camera whilst sitting next to Joe Shemesh and his professional camera hovering high above in a helicopter


The Friends of Tasman Island


The Friends of Tasman Island (FoTI) is a branch of Wildcare Inc., Tasmania's largest environmental action group. Formed in 2005 FoTI are a group of dedicated volunteers working in partnership with Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania to preserve, protect and enhance the natural and cultural values of Tasman Island.

Funding sources for projects on and off the island include sales from the annual Tasmanian Lighthouses calendars and other FoTI merchandise, successful submissions to the Australian and Tasmanian Governments, Wildcare Inc grants and corporate sponsorship.

FoTI welcomes individuals and organisations interested in either becoming members, joining one of the memorable ten day working bee teams or participating in any other activities.

They have a Facebook page that can be accessed by clicking here, or you can email them at: friendsoftasmanisland@gmail.com

Click here for an Australian Geographic story and video about FoTI and Tasman.

You can read more about FoTI and the activities it gets up to by clicking on the following Friends of Tasman Island newsletters.

Issue 9 - June 2012
Issue 8 - February 2012
Issue 7 - August 2011
Issue 6 - April 2011
Issue 5 - October 2010
Issue 4 - July 2010
Issue 3 - February 2010
Issue 2 - October 2009
Issue 1 - August 2009


Official Opening Tasman Island Light


From: Examiner, Wednesday 4 April 1906, page 3

The new lighthouse recently erected on Tasman Island by the Tasmanian Government under the supervision of the marine board of Hobart was officially opened on Monday last.

The S.S. Mahinapua, under charter to the board, left Hobart at 4 am, and proceeded to the island via Port Arthur, arriving at about 11am. On board were the Master Warden (Mr. A. E. Risby), Wardens T. M. Fisher, M.L.C. F. W. Lord, F. H. Picase, H. J. Condon, the secretary of the Board (Mr. J. Adams), the Harbormaster (Captain M. McArthur) and Messrs.’ H.K. Fysh, F. Lodge, A. D. Watchorn, F. H. Crisp, A. R. Huntley, S. Lord, Fincham (Engineer-in-chief to the Government), H. Knutson (contractor).

After having affected a landing, the party was conveyed to the summit of the island, up an average grade of about 1 in 1 half, by means of haulage trucks, controlled by a 6-h.p. oil engine.

The tower, which is situated at the south-east corner of the island, is constructed of iron plates, and erected on a 6 ft., concrete base, to which it is built on with 30 iron bolts of l and half in. diameter, and 6feet in length. The height of the tower is 85ft., and the whole structure weighs between 145 and 150 tons. The light is on the incandescent installation principle, and of 780,000 standard candle power. It shows a bright white flash of half-second duration every five seconds, and is visible in mean state of atmosphere at a distance of 36 miles.

The illuminant used is vaporized kerosene. The cost of material, which was supplied by Messrs. Chance Bros. and Co., Birmingham, England, including duty, co was £8851, and the amount of contract which was carried out by Messrs. Henrikson and Kuntson was £11,405; while it is estimated that the total cost of the work will be about £22,000.

The whole of the work was conducted under the supervision of the inspector of light houses (Mr. J. Meech). Mr. Geo. Johnson, late superintendent of Cape Wickham light, has been appointed to take charge of the new light, and Mr. J. McGuire, late of Swan Island, as senior assistant.

The following is a resume of the action of the board in regard to the Tasman Island light:
The first reference to the light was made on July 28, 1885, when the consolidated board decided that a lighthouse in the vicinity of Cape Pillar was desirable, and that Captain Stanley (who was at the time connected with tie board) should visit the locality, accompanied by an engineer, and report fully to the board as to the it best site and the probable cost of the construction. The locality was accordingly visited, and the report submitted, stating it would be a serious mistake to erect a lighthouse on Cape Pillar, as it would probably lead to a disaster.

The only admissible situation for a lighthouse in that vicinity was the southern an portion of Tasman Island, the exact site to be determined by further examination of the locality; also, that contingent upon the sum of £5000 being voted by Parliament in aid of the construction of the proposed light it be proceeded with. In September, 1886, it was resolved that plans should be prepared.

In 1887 the late harbormaster (Captain Riddle) recommended to the board that a light should be erected on South-West Cape before one was placed on Tasman Island. The latter he thought much too high. The board then decided to obtain the opinion of shipmasters as to where the light should be placed, and as a result of the nature of the report, received the resolution was rescinded with regard to placing it an Tasman Island, in favour of a light being erected in the locality suggested by the harbourmaster. That was subsequently, carried out, the light being placed on Maatsuyker's Island.

Sometime later related recommendations that a light I should be placed in the vicinity of Cape Pillar were made to the board. Some suggested the Hippolites, others favoured Cape Pillar.

In 1897 a petition signed by I8 shipmasters was received, suggesting the Greater Hippolite Rock to be the most suitable place, inasmuch as the difficulties in the way and objections to Tasman Island were very great.

In the same year, the Consolidated Board again agreed that a light in the vicinity of Cape Pillar was desirable, but could not recommend its immediate erection owing to heavy expenditure in other directions. The matter then hung on for some time, resolutions of "urgent necessity" being passed by the board each year, but their action ceased. However, in December 1903, activity in the matter revived, and an act was passed by Parliament authorizing the marine board of Hobart to pay the interest on the cost of construction out of the lighthouse fund. In the same month the construction of the light was authorised.

In January, 1904, the members of the board inspected Tasman Island, Cape Pillar, and the Hippolites, and as a result of the opinion expressed by the architects and a subsequent report from Admiral Fanehawe, Tasman Island was agreed on as the most suitable site in that vicinity for the light.

Having inspected the island, the party returned to the steamer, and again proceeded to Port Arthur, and there disposed of a substantial dinner, provided by Providore Walter Bennett. The following toasts were honoured:--"The King," "Success to the New Light," "The Contractors, coupled with the names of Mr J Meech, the Inspector of Lighthouse," "The Visitors," and "The Press."

Warden Fisher, in proposing the health of the contractors, added that the northern members on the Consolidated Board had in the matter of the Tasman Island light meet the southern representatives in a most liberal spirit. They realized that a light in the vicinity of Cape Pillar was most needed in Tasmania, but at the same time urged the necessity of one being erected on the N.W. corner of the island, and he (the speaker) was of opinion that that was the next light that should erected. He expressed his sorrow that the Federal Government were about to take over the lighthouse service, and urged that something should be done in order to preserve to themselves one of the few good things Tasmania still had to lose.

At 8 pm the Mahinapua proceeded towards Adventure Bay for the purpose of viewing the light. It was clearly visible, and those on board expressed the greatest satisfaction. Hobart was reached at 1.30 am on Tuesday.

The original of this article can be found by clicking onto Trove


The Maatsuyker Island Light


From: Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 3 June 1891, p3

(By Electric Telegraph) (From our own correspondent.)
HOBART, June 2, 1891

June 1 will be memorable in the annals of mercantile-marine matters, as it is the day on which mother beacon on the Tasmanian coastal line was formally ushered into existence. For the past six years the captains of all the direct cargo steamers and ocean cruisers which have paid the port of Hobart a visit at stated intervals have complained bitterly about the badly lighted part of the coast in the vicinity of the South-West Cape, which they asserted in addition to causing risk to their vessels delayed them considerably, as they were obliged to slow down when they made the coast at nightfall.

The first person to bring the matter prominently before the public was Captain Simpson, of the S.S. Australasian, who visited Hobart in 1885, and was of opinion that a light should be either erected on the South-West Cape or Tasman's Head, on the south-west part of Bruni Island. Captain Wright, of the S.S. Glenmorren, which visited Hobart after the Australasian, got extremely peppery over losing fully nine hours through not being able to make the land at night time and having to slow his vessel down till day broke. He informed the authorities that the light on South Bruni was practically useless to in coming vessels from the westward and urged the construction of a light on the S.W. Cape.

The next complaint came from Captain West, of the S.S. Port Adelaide, who six years ago had a very narrow escape from piling his vessel up on the precipitous shore line near the cape, upon which, he urged that a revolving light sufficiently powerful to cover the Mewstone should be erected. He impressed on the minds of the Marine Board authorities that if this was done steamers could haul up for the South-east Cape without getting too far to seaward. The matter was brought before the Marine Board, and was referred to a meeting of the Consolidated Board, who pondered over it for some time and then allowed it to sleep.

A practical turn was subsequently given to matters by the late Captain Stanley, R.N., who occupied a seat on the board about five years since. This gentleman, who had his attention repeatedly drawn to the insufficiency of light on an inhospitable coast, held that the fast increasing steam trade with London rendered increased light more a necessity than ever on the S.W. coast, and pointed out that whilst the ruling powers were pondering over what was the best thing to do a vessel might strike some part of the coast, and the chances were that others would not run the risk of calling in at Hobart at all either to coal or discharge.

The Consolidated Board met again, and decided that the best spot to select for a new light was the ‘little rocky island called after Tasman, which lies at the foot of Cape Pillar, and one fine morning the wardens chartered a steamer and departed in search of a new lighthouse site.' They discovered when they reached Tasman's Island that it was very high, very precipitous, and if accessible at all only at one point. Viewed from below it was a wild and desolate looking spot, and the wardens came to the conclusion that the person who had suggested the construction of a light on the top was not altogether ‘compos mentis’.

After a council of war had been held, Captain Stanley accompanied by one of the board's boat's crew, succeeded in climbing to the top of the island and mapped out a site for a light. Subsequently men were sent down to clear the site, and then operations were allowed to once more drift into a state of somnolence. "Lighten our darkness we beseech thee," said the ocean liner skippers, and in response to appeals the board decided that the beacon to light the hardy mariner on his way must go up on Tasman's Isle.

By this time opinions of men and things had changed, and those who knew all about the lighting of the coast pointed out that it was an absurdity to place a light on the island. Letters appeared in the journals of the day on the subject, the tenor of which was that the board knew as much about selecting a site for a lighthouse as, "a cow did about a concert."

The opinions of the various coastal and deep-sea skippers were invited and the upshot of the whole thing was that after interminable ' delay it was settled that the light should be placed on the S.W. coast, Maatsuyker and De Witt's Isle being selected as the most suitable spot for the purpose. Perhaps a more bleak or un- promising spot than the island, which is known to fisherman as the "outer witch," could not have been selected, and when Tasman sighted and named it on a rainy, foggy morning on the 28th November, 1642, the possibility of it being selected as a lighthouse site two centuries and a half after his discovery I don't suppose ever crossed the mind of the grim old navigator.

The island, which is of a high and precipitous character, and thickly wooded, lays about 15 miles to the eastward of the S.W. Cape, is about five miles distant from the mainland, which is like what a great deal of the coast line of Tasmania is, dreary, steep, and covered with jungles of scrub, as bewildering as the Cretan Labyrinth, as many a poor fisher man who has lost his little all on its shores can testify. Four or five miles S.E. of the cape, standing up in all its solitary grandeur, is the lion-headed shaped island particularly mentioned by Tasman, and named by Captain Tobias Furneaux, who made the S.W. Cape on March 9, 1773, the "Mewstone." Lying further out to sea ward is Pedra Blanca, and about 16 miles out from the mainland the Eddystone, so named by Captain Cook, who sighted it in 1770, from its resemblance to an awkward tower, rears up its head, and on these beat the ceaseless surges of the Southern Ocean.

The background of the coast line is filled in with lofty bare peaks, the bases of which are thickly wooded. Altogether Maatsuyker Island, even for a lighthouse keeper, is not altogether a pleasant place to sojourn in, and anyone having business relations with its inhabitants would not think of staying on it a minute longer than he or they could possibly help. Previous to its occupation by the Marine Board the island was only visited by fishermen, as its vicinity was regarded by them as a good fishing ground, but they very seldom landed, as they looked upon as a dangerous spot. The island has no antiquities, but it can boast of an event which at the time created no little stir in the Hobart community.

In April, 1880, George Blades and Frederick Butcher, a brace of carpenters, were engaged building a landing pier on the island; they finished their work on Good Friday Eve, and on the Good Friday, tired of gazing upon scores of water-worn rocks and miles of heavy westerly swells, determined to amuse themselves with a little penguin hunting. At the north end of the island where the penguin rookery was situated, they came across a cave, and whilst examining it discovered a human skull embedded in the floor about 1 inch deep. The face of the skull was turned towards the cave. Blades took the skull to his hut and washed it, and then made another search, with the result that he found human bones near where the skull was picked up. The men put the remains in a pocket-handkerchief and brought them on to town and gave the police a relation of their ghastly discovery. A coroner and seven good men and true sat in solemn conclave, and tried to solve the Maatsuyker Island mystery. Several asked themselves the questions, were the bones washed up by the mighty ocean or were they the remains of some poor fisherman to whom violence had been used or were they the remains of one of the early Dutch navigators, or aborigine.

Dr. Payne was called in by the coroner, and was of opinion that the bones were those of an adult black-fellow. This opinion led to all sorts of surmises and conjecture as to who the unknown could be. One old salt gave his solution of the mystery thus. The whaling brig Grecian was cruising off the SW Cape about 150 years ago, and sent out a boat in pursuit of a whale. In the boat's crew were three Maoris. The crew made fast to the leviathan of the deep, which soon took them out of sight of the vessel, which followed them with reefed canvas. Abreast of the Witches darkness came on, and those on the brig had just time to see the whale lash out, whirling boat and men in the air, when, owing to the violence of the weather, she was forced to make an offing. The brig never saw her men afterwards, and it is my opinion that one of the Maoris succeeded in getting ashore, sought shelter in the cave, and perished miserably for want of food.

The Curator of the Museum, who visited the spot, chanced to pick up the bowl of a clay pipe, but this did not elucidate the mystery much, as the smell of the weed in it was too new to warrant it being the property of the deceased. The jury in their wisdom came to the conclusion that certain bones and a skull of a human being, unknown, were found, but they did not push the enquiry sufficiently to discover who the unknown was. As I have before remarked the prospect on every side of Maatsuyker is dreary in the extreme, and the party who proceeded to the new lighthouse in the Flora, at an early hour on Monday morning, whilst admitting that the light was required in the interests of commerce, also came to the conclusion that the wild coast scenery is anything but a panorama of beauty.

The tower of the lighthouse is a solid structure of brick, cemented inside and out, and stands at a height of 32ft from base to summit. Its thickness at the base is 4ft 0in, and at the top 2ft 6in. The top is reached by means of a winding iron staircase very much after the principle of that excellent building in Watson's Bay, which guides the mariner through the Sydney Heads. The lantern, which is from the well-known firm of Chance Brothers, is supported on the top of a slate landing, its height being 350ft above the mean sea level, and, allowing 10ft for the height of the eye, will be seen at a distance of 25 miles in clear weather. The pedestal plates are sixteen in number, and on castings nearly 8cwt each, firmly bolted to 4in slates. On the same floor is the machinery case with its revolving machinery on top and the clockwork machinery inside protected from dirt by eight glazed doors. This machinery also works a gong, which sounds hourly, and denotes to the keeper that the time for winding has again come round. It is worked by weights about 4 1/2cwt to 5 cwt, and regulated by governor gearing. Above this is the dioptric apparatus with its lenses and prisms, in all 540 pieces of splendid clean plate glass which will show a quick double flash all-round the horizon as far as the land on the island. The burner has six wicks, and is designed to burn three wicks in fine weather. When only three wicks are used a reflector is fitted in place of the other wicks. The height of the flame is regulated by the keeper on watch by a damper in the smoke tube, and is on an improved style. The lantern has 48 panes of clear glass 1/2 in in thickness.

There are also storm panes on hand ready for use in case of accident, and these can be fixed in a few minutes if required. The whole of the tower and lantern is painted white in accordance with all other Tasmanian lighthouses, and whilst serving at night as an excellent guide the Maatsuyker tower should also be a good beacon in daylight, as it will show up well on a dark background.

The weight of the lantern and machinery is 26 tons, and to give an idea of the number of parts there were 96 cases, 17 packages, and several casks. The head keeper's quarters and those of his assistant, are perhaps more comfortable than at any other lighthouse station on the Tasmanian coast, the houses being roomy, well situated, and all connected with the tower by means of speaking tubes. The visitors to the lighthouse to-day ex pressed themselves well pleased with it.

Shortly after five o'clock last evening the Flora left the anchorage at Maatsuyker Island and steamed round the vicinity of the lighthouse towards the S.W. Cape waiting for nightfall. The lantern was set ablaze at 4 p.m., and as darkness came on the benefit of the light became apparent, it being seen to flash brilliantly at stated intervals. Before seven o'clock the Flora shaped a homeward course, and great interest was then manifested in the light, which was watched from the deck of the steamer, and plainly seen for a distance of 20 miles, when it was lost. The night was certainly a favorable one for the test, being pitchy dark and the atmosphere clear of fog. Taken all round the test was a most successful one, and the Consolidated Marine Board are to be congratulated on the result, Capt. T. M. Fisher, the Master Warden of the Hobart Marine Board, was amongst the passengers by the Flora and entertained the visitors royally.

The original of this article can be found on Trove