A world away from modern life, Deal Island is Tasmania���s most remote national park. There are no mod-cons here, and the phone and TV only work when the wind blows in the right direction. Home to Australia���s highest Lighthouse, the island has a resident population of two ��� volunteers who come to spend three month-long stints weeding and looking after its spectacular natural heritage ��� who are joined by boaties and fishermen who visit the island from time to time.
Location:��80km off the coast of Victoria, and 80 kilometres north west of Flinders Island, Tasmania
Situated in the middle of Bass Strait between Wilson Promontory in Victoria and the north eastern tip of Tasmania, Deal Island is the biggest (nearly 6km long and 4km wide) of the mainly granite islands that form the Kent Group, which makes up Tasmania���s northernmost National Park. It is also its most remote.
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 telecommunications are provided. The main role for caretakers is to provide a ���presence��� on the island and maintain a maintenance program for the structures on site (such as the island���s museum) and continuing weed control works and other tasks required at the time.
How to get there:
The island is accessible only by boat or helicopter, so visitor numbers stay at about 1,000 a year, mostly coming from the Victorian mainland. With the weather patterns of Bass Strait, most visitors arrive from September through to Easter, with some times up to eight yachts anchored in East Cove during calmer days. Visitors who come ashore visit the museum and lighthouse and often have a barbeque at the end of the jetty at East Cove.
The Kent Group of islands were once mountains in a strip of land that connected Victoria and Tasmania. Between 10,000 and 14,000 years ago, some of the polar ice melted and the land bridge was flooded.��There are traces of aboriginal inhabitation, but the greatest changes occurred after Europeans arrived. Matthew Flinders and George Bass first came here in 1789, and then sailed past again a year later during their circumnavigation of Tasmania.
The advent of sealers probably coincided with an increase in fire frequency on the island. Nearby Dover Island is densely vegetated and has never burnt, whereas Deal Island and Erith Island have both been burnt and grazed, and there are introduced plants including weeds like sea spurge, ragwort and arum lilies and snowdrops.
Since the lighthouse was built in 1846 there have been grazing animals on the island, with associated pasture improvement, which explains the large expanses of open areas today. Of all the different plants recorded on Deal, about a third are introduced. Rabbits were put onto the island for wrecked sailors so that they wouldn���t starve to death.
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Numerous wrecks occurred in Bass Strait in the colonial era, and about 20 shipwrecks have been recorded around the Kent Group. The most well-known are the wreck of the Bulli, which sits upright on the bottom of West Cove near Erith Island, and the steamship Karitane, which crashed into cliffs near Squally Cove below the Deal Island lighthouse on Christmas Eve, 1920. During the Second World War an RAAF Airspeed Oxford twin-engine training plane also crashed on Deal Island near the light, killing four crew, and there are still parts of the wreckage visible.
With an elevation of 305 metres, the Deal Island Lighthouse is Australia���s highest. Its tower is not very high (22 metres), but its location high above the island���s cliffs gives it its elevation. The lighthouse is in fact so high that at times it has been unable to function adequately as its light is often shrouded in mist. Built of local granite in 1846, it is starting to deteriorate as no maintenance has been carried out since it was deactivated and demanned in 1992. One of the lighthouse keeper���s cottages houses a museum.