Victorian Naturalist 1893



Landing at Fotheringate Bay.

November 12th “We were informed that smooth water would soon be reached, and we began to feel much better in receipt of this intelligence. Passing Goose (with its lighthouse), Badger, and Chappell Island, we cast anchor off Green Island, where, through the kindness of Mr. Carstairs, a fellow passenger and whose boat was lying here, we were soon put ashore”……

November 13th “We soon had our luggage ashore, being assisted by Mr. Carstairs and his friends. Bidding goodbye to these kind people, we were not long in choosing our camping ground.”

The Victorian Naturalist Vol X page 168-69.

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A.J. Campbell back row on left



15 November on Strzelecki,“During our ascent we gathered several botanical specimens, Mr. Campbell finding on a rocky ledge, a fine clump of the orchid Dendrobium striolatum in full bloom.”



Taken at Camp, Fotheringate Bay, Strzelecki in background.



Big River south Flinders Island looking toward Cape Barren and in later years the home of William Holt junior son of Skipper William Holt. Big River is located near Holt’s Point.



This backwater is from the creek at Fotheringate Bay, not far from campsite. Apparently the mouth of the creek is not where it is today. In the 1950’s a local redirected the creek to where it now flows out to the bay. Rumour has it the Holt’s used to run their boats (raising centerboard) at high tide into the backwater for safe mooring.



Fishing at Fotheringate Bay on the west side of the rocks.



Fishing at Fotheringate Bay east side of the rocks.



The top of iconic Strzelecki – named after Count Strzelecki.


377703-largeThis is in all probability is around the Reddins Creek area where I think they stopped to drop off young Fred.



Photo was taken 18 November 1893 on Samphire Island

“Towards the end of the Sound we visited a reef of Samphire River finding several nests of the Pacific and a pretty rookery of Silver Gulls. Of the latter we took two pictures.” The Victorian Naturalist Vol X



Photo of Ed and Maria Jane Stephens with daughters Adeline seated and Maud Lemin. Ed and Maria Jane being the second government teachers to Cape Barren until 1896. Ed and Maria Jane’s youngest son Charles and wife Maggie took over the teaching post. Charles called on sister Maud to help when wife Maggie forced to take extended sick leave.


377759-mediumSandford (after Bishop Sandford) Bay on Cape Barren looking toward the home of Ed Stephens.



Taken 29 November 1893 off Curtis Island

“We soon headed for Melbourne, passing Pyramid Rock about 3 p.m., and Curtis Group about 6.30, taking photographs of each as we went along. Little did we think that delightful evening, when taking the picture of Curtis from her deck, that the Alert would so soon founder and go down, not far from the locality, leaving her gallant officers and crew struggling with the waves for dear life, and all save one finding a watery grave.”The Victorian Naturalist Vol X



The Alert by which the party travelled to and from Flinders 1893

William Holt and the Syren


William Holt 39 is standing at the bow of his boat with trousers rolled up. Enlarging this photo reveals the name of his boat, Syren. Museum Victoria’s recent upgrade gives the catalogue of photographs greater clarity and detail once enlarged, possibly better than the originals. William’s cap is easily picked up in three of these catalogued photos when enlarged – MM971762 and MM97108.

A.J. Campbell is standing next to the mast and possibly H Gunderson closer to the stern.

Isabella Rock in Franklin Sound is probably named after the 1844 shipwreck Isabella near Woody Island (West Anderson Island). Placenames Tasmanian indicates Oyster Rocks as Isabella Island number 2 on the

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“18th November. – Weather abated at last. We started for the Sound about 6am., when Mr. Holt soon landed us upon Isabella Islet, which he rents from the Tasmanian Government. We were soon gratified in finding the beautiful little White-faced Stormy Petrel (Procellaria fregata) in their burrow.” The Victorian Naturalist Vol X page 170

The second mention of young son (Fred) was visiting a family on the way to Babel, a possibility he left Fred behind whilst he was to be away at Babel.

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This photo was taken either November 20th or 21st 1893 from Cat or Storehouse Island looking toward Babel.

Captain William Holt in dinghy returning to the Syren after dropping his four passengers, a group of ornithologists into the rookery of either Gannets or Cormorants.

The following extracts, were published in March 1894 in the Journal of the Victorian Naturalist Volume X and includes additional references with a point of difference to the published newspaper articles found in The Argus 23/12/1893, 2/1/1894, 10/1/1894, The Australasian, The Mercury and The Daily Telegraph.

Valuable Holt/Robinson family history is located in the journal and portrays the affable characteristics of Bass Straits William Holt 39 a local identity well known for his marine and navigational capabilities.

Reading the finer details of the unpredictable conditions encountered on this five-day adventure to the Gannett Rookery on Cat Island reiterates the navigational challenges in and around Bass Strait.

19th November “The remaining portion of the day was spent on the bosom of an ocean swell, sometimes making a little headway, meals under difficulties, some scientists squeamish, crockery wandering on deck, raining, and Captain Holt not swearing – very nearly though. But, in spite of it all, Babel Island was reached about 6pm., where we anchored, between Cat and Storehouse Island. Supperless we went to bed. A low barometer made Mr. Holt very anxious, because we were lying in a very exposed position; moreover, with the stiff westerly breeze the cutter tugged and plunged at her cable all the live-long night.”

20th November “At Daybreak I was called by Mr. Holt, to find the boat swinging by two cables and the wind blowing half a gale, but fortunately not from the dreaded quarter- viz, the east. I took watch so as to allow Mr. Holt to have a rest, he having been up all night. Soon after breakfast we had a consultation, as we were very dubious of landing, on account of the high sea running. To make matters sill more annoying, we could see the Cormorant rookery on Storehouse Island, and the Gannet rookery on Cat Island, in full swing. This latter we had risked all and ventured so far to see. But our anxiety was soon set at rest by Mr. Holt, who, with our willing assistance, heaved up the anchors and sailed under the staysail to what turned out to be a more sheltered spot nearer Cat Island. We landed with some difficulty per dingy at 10am., and soon found our way to the Gannett rookery. Here all our troubles and seasick qualms were soon forgotten and amply repaid by the wonderful sight which stood revealed before us”

“As the wind was still rising we hurried on board, and soon left the dangerous anchorage, very nearly getting onto the rocks in making our first tack, just being saved by the excellent seamanship of our skipper. After boating about in a nasty, choppy sea for three or four hours, we succeeded in getting shelter in a snug little cove under Babel Island”

“A hasty tea and a climb up the Babel like tower was the order before turning in for the night. We were fast asleep, only however to be turned out at 3am.”

21st November “The wind had changed and was blowing right into the cove, so that there was nothing for it but to kedge the boat our far enough to get an offing, when we set sail again for Storehouse Island, anchoring within 100 yards of the Cormorant Rookery. While we were having breakfast we were deeply interested with the movement of these birds. Landing we soon got to work. Our sportsman bagging a brace of Swamp Quail; our leader taking a long tramp around the island, when he returned he found the artists had finished photographing and recording observations of the rookery.”

“After collecting some Polyzoa we hurried on board, as the wind this time was slackening, and started back for Franklin Sound. Afterwards we noticed a shoal of Mackerel being pursued by porpoises. It was interesting to watch the cunning manner in which the porpoises swam round and round, much after the fashion of a dog shepherding sheep, so as to keep the shoal together, while at frequent intervals one would dash in for a mouthful, resuming its original position immediately in rounding up again. Little wind and slow sailing was again experienced on our return. When we approached the bar we became very anxious; the wind had almost died away, but after considerable difficulty, not unattended with danger, we succeeded in getting through the rip, or the ‘’pot-boil’ ‘as it is locally called. We had to take to rowing in turns with a long oar.”

22nd November “Between 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning, at the first faint streaks of dawn the wind and the tide changed in our favour. Taking advantage of this we weigh anchor and at once spin up the sound with a free sheet. We enjoy being on deck before sunrise. However, the morn is chilly, and the fragrant scent from inland shrubs wafted across the Sound is most delightful and invigorating. At a glorious sunrise the favourable wind slackens: nevertheless we are able to make our camping quarters at Trousers Point in time for breakfast, thus ending an adventurous trip of five days to Babel Islands.” The Victorian Naturalist Vol X pages 171 – 4.

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William Holt:1893


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Enlarge this photo to see William Holt and son looking into the camera. The earliest known photo of William to date.

Museum Victoria’s online catalogue of photographs was upgraded a few weeks ago and I realised on enlarging the above photo that William and young son Fred Holt were present in this group photo of the Victorian Naturalists taken at Trousers Point. The earlier online catalogue impossible to enlarge due to the distortion. What a family treasure for Williams descendants. I knew he’d be in 91772 again the old format hard to tell, the new format it’s clear William is at the bow of the boat and protecting her so close to the rocks. When I enlarged this one in the new format  91762 William would be the guy in dinghy heading back to the Syren, he wouldn’t want to be separated from the Syren in that particular neck of the woods, so to speak. These boats the most important objects our forbears would own!!! A life line to their communities and emergencies, and the generator of income. I wonder what they would make of our cars, planes, trains and boats, the modern waterproof fabrics and………. the computer!

The boy about 9 beside William likely to be Frederick Louis Holt/Robinson born 1883. The other lad appears slightly older and likely to be Master Gunderson as his attire consistent with a boy from the city. Item 91725 ‘off Green Island’ beside the closest man (bowler hat) a younger person can be seen. H.J. Gunderson (consul to Norway and Sweden) and Master Gunderson were named in the expedition.

 William Junior 15, Jessie 14 and Phillip 12, Harold John 11 months and how I conclude the lad is Fred, having similar features to the older Fred seen on Ancestry.

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There are only three references to a young son and ‘only mate’ the first on arriving to Trousers Point November 16th.

The second was the day they left for Babel where they called in on a family if not Big River then possibly the smaller Reddins Creek. The last reference to young son was leaving Trousers Point heading for Cape Barren on November 24th.

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William is very well dressed as is his son, who as ‘only mate’ is out with his father, were they visiting Dave Maynard and family for a specific reason. Did William deviate from his original plan what ever they were? to make a quid in those days. What would his wife Ellen make of him not coming home, she wouldn’t know he was heading Babel, did William request the family they visited on transit to call on Ellen while he was doing the Babel job. No phones or laptops in those days……everything worked out in due course as it did or didn’t happen. A wife and mother in those days and circumstances would farewell a husband and pray for a safe return. A young son learnt his boating skill from a very early age…….

What I really like in the photo is William’s cap (and fob chain) a well-worn cap assisting to identify William. (William’s elder brother James always wore a bowler hat)

The Syren whilst it doesn’t look overly large used to cart hundreds of barrels of salted mutton to Launceston.  (Holt’s fishmongers shop expanded to birds way back in the 1860’s) William regularly sailing with elder brother James and younger brother John. They would have carted thousands across their lifetimes in boats of a similar size.

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The following are extracts from The Victorian Naturalist volume X.

The journal has additional information as a point of interest to the published articles

15th November

“On getting back to camp we found Mr. Gunderson with a friend, had come round from Pat’s River” The Victorian Naturalist Vol X

16th November

“Mr. Ashworth departed with our visitors for Pat’s River to try and arrange with a resident there about a boat, but found he was away, and would not be back until Sunday. Fortunately for us however, Mr. William Holt, of Cape Barren Island sailed round to us with the Syren, a fine double-ended cutter rigged boat of about 9 tons, and fitted with fore and aft cabins. We soon arranged with him to take us about to the different islands. We were fortunate in gaining Mr. Holt’s services, for we found him a most capable and obliging man, and we were indebted to him for much valuable assistance and information – for instance, that of the nidification of the Mutton Bird being of exceptional value, as his notes were based not only on what he had observed, but by dissection of the birds, male and female, at different periods.” The Victorian Naturalist Vol X

Coincidently, William his wife Ellen and their adult family would later own Trousers Point and were known as the Trousers Point Holts/Robinson’s.

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Jessie owned land at Trousers Point  and surname incorrectly spelt.

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This last article was penned by Ed Stephens, my GG Grandfather on his journey home to Samphire River via Badger Corner.

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Ed notes they spotted the Syren near the Heads, William must have well and truly beaten the Linda to Flinders.

Ed as always entertaining with his tales………