Watch out for snakes (in the USA)

Watch out for snakes placed 9th in the Sixfold November 2023 short story competition run out of Newtown, Connecticut. My story made it through two cutthroat rounds of preliminary voting by the 237 submitting authors and finished 9th out of the 18 finalists. I received some lovely compliments and really useful feedback. I thoroughly recommend Sixfold – you get to read some quality writing, and even if you don’t progress past the first round, you still get to hear what at least six other authors think about your writing.

Rattlesnake – Wikimedia Commons.

Lobster Tale #14 – Old Cobbers

Tasmania’s first and only Australian prime minister – Joseph Lyons – hailed from “lobster country” in the northwest. He and his lifelong pal Horace Pithouse spent many happy an hour fishing for lobsters and blackfish in the rivers and creeks around Smithton. Lobsters feature prominently in Pithouse’s “historical romance” The Luck of 1825 published in 1922.

Smithton Debating Society. Left-to-right: Chester Ward, Joe Morton, Edwin Poke, Joe Lyons, Horace Pithouse, George Allen, Alfred Heathorn, A E ‘Bert’ Grey. Front – Ernest Bonhote. Libraries Tasmania, eHeritage Collection

Lobster Tale #13 – Waratah 

Tasmania’s first mining “rush” began in Waratah 1871 when James “Philosopher” Smith discovered tin on nearby Mt Bischoff. Today, sleepy Waratah belies its bustling past. Most visitors stop here to walk to Philosophers Falls on the upper reaches of the Arthur River 11 km from town. The Arthur River marks the southernmost extent of the range of the lobster.

Photo Terry Mulhern – Bischoff Hotel Lobster

Lobster Tale #12 – After the flood

Lobster lovers rejoice – The short-tailed rain crayfish is NOT EXTINCT! The dedicated team at The Bookend Trust have rediscovered the STRC in the creeks and gullies that feed Lake Burbury, near Queenstown. This species has not been observed since 1980 and was though extinct after its only known habitat was drowned under the hydroelectric scheme lake in 1991.

Short-tailed rain crayfish (Ombrastacoides parvicaudatus) – photo Niall Doran

Winner of 2022-23 Van Diemen History Prize!

A difficult Birth: The Van Diemen’s Land Company 1824-25

I’m so thrilled to win the VDHP for a second time. My essay will be published in the Van Diemen Anthology 2023, which will be launched mid next year at the Hobart Writers’ Festival.

Van Diemen’s Land Company Act 1825. Records of the VDL Co. National Library of Australia

Lobster Tale #11

Fiona Marshall leads the from the Giant Freshwater Crayfish Project for the Cradle Coast Authority’s Natural Resource Management (NRM). I accompanied her on a day out, visiting landholders who are helping to conserve the lobster and its habitat. I visited some of northern Tasmania’s “Secret Rivers

2.5 kg female lobster (approximately 25 years old) tagged and released – photo provided by the landholder.

Lobster Tale #10 – Mr Gray’s Mysterious Collector Part-2

The second candidate is the giant found in Launceston’s City Park. The giant of Tasmanian botany Ronald Campbell Gunn. Gunn emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land to be his brother’s right-hand man -quite literally! His brother had his arm amputated after being shot pursuing the notorious bushranger Matthew Brady. From 1830, the Gunn brothers worked together and separately as superintendents of convicts in Hobart and Launceston. Whilst in Launceston, RC Gunn developed a passion for Tasmanian botany and collected specimens for some of the great natural scientists of 19th century. But RC Gunn didn’t collect just plants and it seems most likely that he is the collector of the “type” specimens of Astacopsis franklinii in the collection of the natural History Museum in London. Read more RC Gunn at FortySouth Tasmania

Type specimens of Astacopsis franklinii – held by the Natural History Museum, London. Photo Miranda Lowe, reproduced with permission of the Trustees of the natural History Museum.

Lobster Tale #9 – Mr Gray’s Mysterious Collector Part-1

In the British Natural History Museum are two specimens of ‘tayatitja’ (pronounced tie-yah-tee-tchah) the smaller southern cousin of lutaralipina, the giant fresh water crayfish or “lobster”. They’ve been there since the late 1830s, but the Museum’s “Keeper” of Zoology, John Edward Gray, didn’t record who sent them to him. After some sleuthing, I’ve narrowed it down to two candidates. The first is Gray’s nephew, Commander Alexander Smith RN.

Read about Smith’s eventful life here at FortySouth Tasmania

Alexander Smith, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Castlemaine, 1861-1864. Reproduced with permission, Parliament of Victoria