The charter boat Roxette at Vansittart Island. Originally known as Gun Carriage Island, Vansittart is uninhabited by humans, save for one cottage open to visitors. 

    Vansittart is one of about 100 islands that make up The Furneaux Group. Evidence of Aboriginal history reaches back some 40,000 years, but the group is named after Captain Tobias Furneaux, an English navigator who sighted some of the islands in 1773, but mistook them for mainland Australia.

    Photo Credit: Cameron Cope

    Granite boulders on the shore of Vansittart Island, daubed with orange Caloplaca lichen. Roxette, the boat Chris Rhodes ferries tourists on over to Vansittart Island, can be seen in the background.

     

     

    Photo Credit: Cameron Cope

    Vansittart Island is 800ha and unusually uninhabited. Besides Rockjaw Tour’s cottage, the crumbling remains of a post office and store are the only buildings on the island. They serve as reminder that the island was once central to the Furneaux Group.

    Photo Credit: Cameron Cope

    Vansittart Island’s Gun Carriage Hill is visible in the distance. Pleenperrenna and other Aboriginal women would light fires at the top of the hill to send smoke signal messages to their clanspeople at Mt William on Tasmania’s north-eastern coast.

    Photo Credit: Cameron Cope

    A sheep in the distance on Vansittart Island. The island was settled from 1820 by sealer John Smith and his Aboriginal wife, Pleenperrenna. 

    Photo Credit: Cameron Cope

    The view from Gun Carriage Hill on Vansittart Island towards Cape Barren Island.

    Cape Barren Island is one of the Furneaux Group’s largest islands at 478sq.km, with a population of less than 300. The largest island in the group, Flinders Island, lies to the north of Cape Barren.

    Photo Credit: Cameron Cope

    The view from Gun Carriage Hill on Vansittart Island towards Cape Barren Island. From the hill’s peak, there’s a 360° view of mainland Tasmania, Flinders Island’s Strzelecki Peaks and the Furneaux Group’s nearby Great Dog and Tin Kettle islands.

    Photo Credit: Cameron Cope

    On the west coast of Flinders Island is Killiecrankie, a popular tourist destination with a population of 15 in winter. Forty kilometres north of the Flinders Island settlement of Whitemark, many make the journey to visit Killiecrankie Bay, a crescent of chalk-white sands with a towering backdrop of granite peaks.

    Photo Credit: Cameron Cope

    Chris Rhodes, who runs tours of Vansittart Island with Rockjaw Tours, has multiple 4X4 motorbikes on the island. They’re the best way to get around.

    Photo Credit: Cameron Cope

    A bird’s silhouette on a rock on Vansittart Island. Flinders Island and Mt Strzelecki can be seen in the background.

    Photo Credit: Cameron Cope

    Rusting car at an old soldier settlement farm near Badger Corner on Flinders Island. Flinders Island is the largest island of the Furneaux Group, the remnants of a land bridge that once joined Tasmania to the Australian mainland. The peaks became islands after the last ice age, roughly 12,000 years ago.

    Photo Credit: Cameron Cope

    Private residence on the edge of Mt Strzelecki National Park. The 783 Stzelecki Peaks dominate Flinders Island, which is fringed by 1000 largely deserted beaches.

    Photo Credit: Cameron Cope

    Helen “the Lettuce Lady” Cassidy in her greenhouse at Mountain Seas Art and Wilderness Retreat on Flinders Island. Helen’s wasabi ice cream is a must-try on the island, while the Retreat is regarded as the islands most luxe accommodation.

    Photo Credit: Cameron Cope

    Helen’s wasabi flower. Her wasabi crop has celebrity chef fans such as Shannon Bennett and Kylie Kwong.

    Photo Credit: Cameron Cope

    Mt Strzelecki National Park covers 4316ha in the south-west of Flinders Island. Photographer Cameron Cope pictured.

    Photo Credit: Cameron Cope

    On the menu today and everyday at Flinders Island Meat in Whitemark, the island’s administrative centre and main port of call for most tourists. Muttonbirds (Puffinus Tenuirostris) are migratory birds that breed on headlands and islands around Tasmania from September to April – and their meat is beloved by locals.

    Photo Credit: Cameron Cope

    A Scottish dance night is a weekly event in Whitehall on Flinders Island. While the population is small, the locals keep each other entertained.

    Photo Credit: Cameron Cope

GALLERY: The secret scenes of the Bass Strait

By AG STAFF | October 25, 2016

Huddled in the unforgiving Bass Strait is a remote cluster of islands with fewer than 900 residents. The Furneaux Group is a quiet place of ancient rituals, stunning scenery and a violent history. All photos by Cameron Cope. Read more about life on the islands and The Furneaux Group’s history in Sandy Guy’s feature in AG#135, out now.