Islanders, Far South

Book Cover: Islanders, Far South

Three feature pieces and one column piece, events in the lives of southern fishing communities in Tasmania.

Pride of the Crayfish Fleet.

Life in the Bass Strait Islands, out of the Port of Lady Barron.

THE CRAYFISH I HOLD in my hand is forty years old. By whatever system of temporal measurement crayfish use, it is a very old man. In a few weeks its tail will be sliced into the white discs restaurateurs like to call medallions, and moistened with sauces. By then it will be in America. But now it is still beefy and vigorous. I hold it high off the deck so the skipper can see it’s a bull. I can barely make out his face through the salt runs on the wheelhouse window. He won’t be smiling. Talk in town has it that buyers are to lower the price for very large crays. If I were to weigh this now, the scale would show somewhere around six kilos. The average, for this part of the Tasmanian shelf, is two.

The Oldest Abalone Diver in the Business.

The Oldest Abalone Diver in the Business is the man who began the abalone fishery in Australia. To better understand the pattern of natural distribution, he swam from south of Adelaide city to the Wilson’s Promontory, a journey of a thousand kilometers.

The weather under the sea changes every few hours. Ebbtide here brings a warm current, hazy with microscopicdebris of the shallows, and as fitful as a hot and dusty wind.
When it turns to flood, the temperatures will drop and,whatever the true direction, will feel as if it comes from the cold south.

Digging Holes in the Sea.

Working throughout the night at sea, fugitive from un-named troubles in Ireland, Dublin Danny joins the crew, showing skills as a seaman, heavy smoker and chef.

Two of us stand on the rear deck, resting against thewheelhouse, poses much like nonchalance, but we’releaning there because the steel plates are warm fromthe heating inside. We wear woolen caps and ourwaterproofs are bulky with hidden sweaters. Aprons,shiny and black, give us the appearance of wet navies.We don’t feel like fishermen right now, and there’s atrue sense in which we are not, for catching scallops isnot at all like fishing. More, we are mining the seabedfor protein.

Tasmania, a Lovesong.

Families, communities and voyages, beginning in Hobart Town.

SNOW ON THE MOUNTAIN above, and awash with the tides are Waterman’s steps, where a pretty Gaff Trader lies forever in state, on show to the modern world, built one hundred and ten years back, so plying these Hobart wharves in 1912, in commission loading lumber, when a Norwegian anchored alongside, this the Fram, an adventurer, leaky and gouged from the ices South, lying back on her chain while a longboat ferried quiet Amundsen for the Dockside, he loosing his greatcoat for the walk to the telegraph, composing the words to be sent to his King.