Day 1 - Sunday 9 November 2008

Arrival Day

I wake up at 6.30am. We are on! The day previous we had to abort due to 100km winds registered on Tasman Island. But today itís down to 20 km. Bob and Pat pick me up, and we drive to Johnís house. John is an ex-relief light keeper from Tasman, having undertaken 9 trips for 6 weeks at a time on the island. On his last trip to the island he left 2 days before the station was decommissioned and the light automated, a lovely gentle man.

We drive on a glorious day down to Taranna Parks office where senior ranger Luke Gadd is waiting for us. We load up the trailer attached to a government Parks Ute, before making the 20 minute drive to Safety Cove, and the lone paddock where we meet our helicopter for the short trip to Tasman. There are a few high clouds in the sky; the sun is at its usual blistering dry and hot Tasmanian heat. The wind is slightly up but overall itís a fine day.

When leaving Hobart I see a ĎTasman Island Ė Wild and Ruggedí van and think to myself, perhaps this is a good omen. The helicopter arrives as we climb out of the cabin of the Ute; we load up the helicopter with most of the stuff going over into two sling nets that hang underneath the helicopter. In it we pack all of our food, fuel and all of our bags for the 9 days ahead. The NZ chopper pilot takes off and ever so slightly drags the heavy laden sling load along the ground doing a test to make sure the load is ok and doesnít shift too much, then heís off, appearing again in about 20 minutes to take the second sling load consisting of a 1,000 litre bright shiny silver steel water tank. The final load is for us, during which I video the whole trip sitting in the middle of the backseat of the chopper for the entire 10-minute trip to the island.

What an incredible place this is, itís so dramatic, Cape Pillar feels like it is sitting on top of me, and thereís this strange sense of vertigo in the knowledge that Iím 1000 foot up in the sky, landed on a big rock. After a while we are all sitting around the old Formica table in Q3 where Bob and Alena give us an induction talk, followed by a walk down to the northern end of the island. We stop to look at the other 2 houses along the way. I take my bags with me as we go and I decide to base myself in Q2, which when we take a closer inspection discover that two walls right at the back have blown completely off, leaving the toilet half inside and half out. Itís quite a funny sight and makes for a lot of photographs. The walk continues slowly as we look for new weeds where previous weeding and poisoning has occurred during the last trip of which there is little evidence. We hear stories from John about what things were once like here when people lived here as lighthouse-keepers. We visit the old tip site, which is basically a 50 metre sojourn west from the main track shortly before reaching the top of the Haulage-way. The walk takes us past a couple of the notoriously legendary Tasman sink-holes, to the remarkable looking edge and beyond. A feature of the view is the gigantic rocks lying down in the Lost World at 45 degree angles with intermittent platforms of grass and small scrubs sitting in between. The rocks look small from the vantage point above, but they arenít, and there are hundreds of them lying on their side in an orderly fashion like a procession of soldiers marching off to war together. I take many photos of rocks, the sea beyond and the nearby long-grass. On the way back up to the main track we come across the grave of a wallaby that was buried here by John Cook, a past head-lighthouse keeper, in 1970.

We head back to Q3, have lunch (of rolls, salad and cheese) then Mike and I start work on replacing the old rusty water tank sitting next to the Oil Store with the shiny new one that we just bought over with us. First we attach a pump and commence the transfer of water from the old tank into the new one, when suddenly the tap at the bottom of the old tank bursts. We grab some buckets out of the Oil Store and commence manual handling of the water whilst simultaneously continuing with the electric pump and hastily installing a tap to the bottom of the new tank. After a while Sue, Alena and John come over to help, and once everything is working again we spend the next few hours bucketing and pumping the transfer of water from to the other.

Within these hours I spend my time often looking around at the view not just in front of me, but all around. I marvel at being here, I think about what it would be like to be right next to the cliff edge and find myself often gazing off into the horizon and deep out to sea. We eventually finish with the water tanks and head back the short distance over the flat grassy section of the island past the massive imposing lighthouse to Q3. Dinner is about an hour away so Pat and I head off south west to take some very late afternoon photographs. We donít get very far because of the thick vegetation and long grass, but we do manage to get a few photographs. Some low-lying clouds make up tonightís sunset, they slowly change from yellow to orange, but due to the lack of cloud-coverage itís not very spectacular although it is very calm and moody. Cape Pillarís usual grey coloured rock formations turn orange with darker shadows in between. We all go out the back of Q3 to soak it in before dinner. We eat dinner (a vegetable curry) as the sun goes down. The conversation around the table slows and I get a sense that everyone is tired. Itís time to make my way down to Q2 and go to bed.

Itís very dark, quiet and calmly eerie and there is a mild wind. The light from the lighthouse is going but experiencing it on for the first time I am surprised that it doesnít radiate around the island brighter that what it does. I fumble around in the darkness of Q2, clean my teeth, get myself settled and go off to sleep, waking many times during the night with the windows and doors rattling. Just when it starts to get annoying the wind changes and it stops. It was a strange uneasy feeling sleeping in Q2, on this island, on this place of slightly sloping plains of grey yellow and green scrub, native bushes, old fence posts, blown down buildings, wild winds, full open sky, broad sweeping clouds, surrounded by sea, blown over water tanks, broken clothes lines, old timber, smashed glass, broken flooring and rotting furniture.