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.
Some funny looking “chimneys” down the gully led me to “dig” into the life of Adolphus Schayer, a German in the employee of the Van Diemen’s Company who was an avid collector of invertebrates. A specimen of a burrowing crayfish he sent back to the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin caused a crayfish kerfuffle that has only recently been resolved.
My 2020 lockdown project of transcribing the 1825 manuscript ‘Voyage to Van Diemen’s Land’ by Henry Hellyer led me down some unexpected paths. I found myself drawn into historical detective work. I rediscovered lost letters and paintings in a museum at Yale university and pieced together a hitherto untold tale of sex, violence and mutiny on the high seas…
My prize-winning essay ‘Insubordination and Improper Intimacy‘ is available online at FortySouth
The world’s largest freshwater invertebrate (Astacopsis gouldi) is named after Charles Gould. Hidden in the hills behind Scottsdale in northeast Tasmanian is ‘Gould’s Creek’ where Gould studied the lobster in the 1860s. But you won’t find Gould’s Creek on any modern map… Read about it in FortySouth Tasmania.
On Christmas Day 2020 I accompanied Invertebrate Biologist Niall Doran on an adventure up, down, around and inside kunanyi in search of some quirky prehistoric relics of Gondwana – the intriguing mountain shrimp and the elusive Tasmanian cave spider. Read about it in FortySouth Tasmania
Freshwater crayfish lurk beneath the surface of Tasmanian literature. Read about reading about lobsters in FortySouth Tasmania
Astacopsis tricornis, from south-west Tasmania, depicted as “Freshwater Crayfish” by W.B. Gould, from the Sketchbook of Fishes (c1832). A. tricornis features in Richard Flanagan’s novels ‘Death of a River Guide’ and ‘Gould’s Book of Fish’.