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

Lobster Tale # 8 – Life Underground

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.

Read about it in FortySouth Tasmania.

Van Diemen History Prize 2021

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

Funchal Harbour, Madeira Portugal, by Henry Hellyer from ‘Voyage to Van Diemen’s Land’ 1825

Lobster Tale #6 – Gould’s Creek

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.

Gould’s Creek – County of Dorset, parish of Kay, Survey Map 1864