CARETAKERS FOR AN ISLAND    By David and Trauti Reynolds

Deal Island lighthouse

Deal Island is part of the Kent Group of islands, in the recently formed new National Park and Marine Protected Area - Kent Group National Park situated 72 kilometres west of Flinders Island in Bass Strait and 70 kilometres due south of Wilsons Promontory on the Victorian mainland. Deal Island is about 1,450 hectares in size, consisting of granite cliffs rising to 260 metres on the southern side, gradually descending over the island northwards in rolling hills and grasslands to several white sandy beaches. The interior of the island consists of limestone layers with a thin layer of top soil on the upper reaches.

The island has a lightstation with existing buildings dating back to the opening of the lighthouse in 1848, Superintendent's House (now a museum) and other buildings in a fenced compound 3.5 kilometres from the lighthouse. The caretakers house was built in 1962 and previously used as a keepers residence. The lightstation was de-manned in 1992, and is now serviced by 2 offshore automatic lights on North East and South West islands.

The lighthouse on Deal Island is the highest in Australia, standing 320 metres above sea level, even though the lighthouse itself is only 20 metres tall!

Caretakers house and ancillary buildings
In 2000 the Parks & Wildlife Service (PWS) started a caretaker role for the island, with  caretakers staying for 3 months on the island with transport by boat from Flinders Island  (4 hours) and return provided by Parks. Caretakers have to be self sufficient in food for 3 months and all requirements are brought on the boat to the island. The house is fully self contained and radio and tele.communications are provided. The main role on the island for caretakers is to provide a 'presence' on the island and maintain a maintenance program for the structures on site and continuing weed control works and other tasks required at the time.
Stylidium graminifolium
The plant lists for the island are quite extensive with 185 vascular flora recorded but these lists are being added too with ongoing collections being completed by some caretakers collecting for the Tasmanian Herbarium. Three significant plant species occur on the
island in limited numbers: Pratia irrigua, Centrolepis pulvinate and Ixiolaena supina.

The Eucalyptus nitida forests cover about 47% of the island on the more rugged of the hills with granite substrata. In the low open forests and woodlands, Allocasuarina verticillata covers 25% of this area and is the dominant vegetation in these areas. The tussock grasslands consists of 20% Poa poiformis and this area was where past lightkeepers had cleared the land for the cattle and sheep grazing on the island in the era prior to 1992 and the de- manning of the lightstation. At the present time the open grasslands are now occupied by the grazing of the Rufus wallaby and the occasional rabbits.

The number of exotic species on the island, amounts to about 25% of the existing flora species on the island with Ragwort, Sea Spurge, Horehound and Arum Lilies being the dominant weed species with a weed control program in place, with caretakers and working 'bees' on the island utilising spray/cut and paste methods to control these species.
The island being accessible only by boat or helicopter, visitors number about 1,000 a year, mostly coming from the Victorian mainland. With the weather patterns of Bass Strait the time for visitors is from September through to Easter, with some times up to 8 yachts anchored in East Cove during calmer days, with visitors ashore visiting the museum and lighthouse and even having time for a barbeque at the end of the jetty at East Cove.

East cove, Deal island
We are looking forward to our third stint as caretakers from Sept - Dec 2006# and the Spring flowers, the island has a lot to offer, with some challenges, a lot more to do and see and explore and the possibility of more plant collecting, this time maybe the challenge of collecting fungi and lichens - permits are required.

#SEE PART TWO - DEAL IS. FLORA                                      PHOTO GALLERY