Goose Island African boxthorn

In the 1840s when the Goose Island lighthouse was being constructed, the consignment of stores included wood and coal for fires

 As the island did not then apparently support trees.  Goose Island is a windy exposed island and it is understood that the building of numerous stone walls and the planting of boxthorn by the lightkeepers, to create windbreaks for livestock, gardens and people, occurred early in the history of settlement. There are references in Kathleen Stanley’s, Guiding Lights : Tasmania’s Lighthouses and Lighthousemen to boxthorn being used as fuel for fires in an attempt to alert people in Whitemark to news of a lightkeeper’s sick wife. That was sometime in the 1930s.  Since the automation of the light and the de-manning of the station, the boxthorn has proliferated across much of the island, to the detriment of the native seabirds.

The working bee to control boxthorn on Goose Island from 3 to 15 May 2010, with nine volunteers, was the second collaboration undertaken between the TCT and Friends of Bass Strait Islands (FOBSI), a branch of Wildcare Inc. The funding for the trip was sourced from Caring for Our Country, NRM North and a community grant for equipment.

The first working bee was in May 2005.  Considering the interval between the primary control work and the follow-up, there was relatively little work required. The area that previously took five days of work took a day of follow up. Efforts during this trip concentrated on additional primary, control work.

Some memorable aspects of the recent trip were: the raucous calls of penguins at night – not good neighbours – as they party long and hard at night; the clearing of ruins of one of the lightkeeper’s houses and associated stone walls; the very fine damper prepared in cooking fires fuelled by boxthorn; and the calm favourable weather for boat trips out to and from the island with unrelenting wind every day in between.

The cooperative energy required to successfully tackle both enormous old individual boxthorns and large gnarly tangled thickets has engendered mutual respect within the group.  The rolling strategy to ensure that all roots have been cut certainly requires cooperation.  This trip was very physically demanding but still very rewarding.  It is evident that the earlier work has been effective, though clearly considerable effort is still needed to complete primary control work across the entire island. Ensuring this work continues relies, of course, on finding further funding.

Karen Ziegler