Mount Chappell Island

Found in the Bass Strait off the north-eastern tip of Tasmania, Mount Chappell Island (also known as Chappell Island) and Badger Island form part of the Furneaux Group of islands. It is a mainly dolerite island, with a distinctive central hill and with an area of 323 ha. It is part of Tasmania���s Badger Island Group, lying in eastern Bass Strait just west of Flinders and Cape Barren Islands in the Furneaux Group. It is private property, used for grazing sheep and Cape Barren Geese, and is a classic example of natural habitat degradation caused by human activities.

The intense exploitation of the islands for their natural resources started in the 1790s, following the exploration voyage of George Bass and Matthew Flinders through the Bass Strait on behalf of the colonial authorities. Sealers following in their wake had destroyed the seal colonies by 1838, and soon started to harvest mutton birds, particularly on Chappell Island.

The islands have long been regarded by Aboriginal people as an important part of the seasonal food-gathering cycle, and the Tasmanian Government handed them back to the Aboriginal community in 1995. The two small islands are now managed as Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.

Communities of Aboriginal families had been visiting Chappell Island regularly for mutton-birding during the breeding season ��� archaeological evidence of occupation in the region dates to at least 20,500 years ago. By the 1850s many families were living permanently on nearby islands, earning a regular income from the mutton-bird industry up until the 1950s. Commercial mutton- birding declined after this time, with the last major season in 1975.

Sheep grazing, which was introduced by colonial settlers in the early 1860s and continued to 1995, contributed to the gradual decline of bird rookeries. Sheep trampled nesting birds and native vegetation (which gave the birds some protection) was cleared for pasture.

The 350 hectares (3.5 square kilometres) of Chappell Island, as it is commonly known, are dominated by the sugarloaf-shaped Mount Chappell which rises 198 metres above narrow coastal plains. Low-growing shrublands and grasslands originally covered the island, with few large trees. In contrast, nearby Badger Island (1,244 hectares) was once well-wooded.

Mount Chappell Island is a small pyramid shaped island named by Matthew Flinders after his wife Anne Chappell, who was still in England at the time. Not far from Mount Chappell Island are Chappell Islands.

Badger Island and Mount Chappell Island were handed back to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre as part of the land settlement in 1996. The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre declared Badger Island, along with Chappell Island as Indigenous Protected Areas in September 2000.

Of significant cultural heritage value, the islands once had a sustainable harvest of button birds and seals. However, the prior exploitation of the island natural resources by Europeans, as well as the degradation of the land by grazing, has seen the island suffer. Mutton birds numbers were further reduce as a result of weed incursion, predation by cats, competition with Cape Barren Geese, and burning by graziers to promote grass growth for their sheep.


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It is a mainly dolerite island, with a distinctive central hill and with an area of 323 ha, in south-eastern Australia. It is part of Tasmania���s Badger Island Group, lying in eastern Bass Strait just west of Flinders and Cape Barren Islands in the Furneaux Group.

The island was originally named "Mount Chappelle" by Matthew Flinders for his wife's maiden name. Ann (1772���1852) was sweet-natured, clever and dignified and came from a modest though genteel home. Having lost her seagoing father at a tender age, Ann wanted no attachment with a naval man. He was personable, steadfast and ambitious and was making his mark as a navigator in the Pacific. He was torn between his love for the sea and his love for her. They married at Partney, Lincolnshire. Three months later Matthew left for Australia, where he surveyed the southern coast and circumnavigated the continent. Flinders had hoped to bring her with him to Port Jackson. However the Admiralty had strict rules against wives accompanying captains. Flinders even brought Ann on board ship and planned to ignore the rules, but the Admiralty learned of his plans and he was severely chastised for his bad judgment and told he must remove her from the ship.

As a result, Ann was obliged to stay in England and would not see her husband for nine years. It was a time of hostility between France and England. En route home, he was detained by the French - for six years - on the Isle de France (Madagascar), a French possession.

When they finally reunited, Matthew was a sick man. They had only four short years of married life together before Matthew died on 19 July 1814. Matthew and Ann had one daughter, Anne, born 1 April 1812, who later married William Petrie (1821���1908) and was the mother of the eminent archaeologist and Egyptologist, William Matthew Flinders Petrie.

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