Robbins Island

Robbins Island is one of the islands of the Hunter Group, off the north-west tip of Tasmania. It is the seventh largest island of Tasmania, with an area of 99��km2, is the largest freehold island in Tasmania and lies south of adjacent Walker Island. Over the years it is has changed ownership and to this day remains privately owned.

The eastern and northern coasts of Robbins offer a variety of sights and wildlife. There are hills, cliffs, rolling paddocks, a lagoon, sand dunes, and surf beaches and a six square km inlet that dries up entirely twice a day with every low tide. The other islands are quite small.

Robbins Island is named after Charles Robbins, first mate of HMS Buffalo, whose main claim to fame was to lead a small party of men to thwart any attempts by the French to colonise Van Diemens Land (Tasmania). On 13th December 1802, while mapping Bass Strait, Robbins entered Sea Elephant Bay, King Island to find French explorer Nicolas Baudin���s ships at anchor off shore near the present site of Naracoopa. Panic struck, Robbins launched a long boat with a party of men and made a dash for the shore, Union Jack in hand so as to beat the Frenchman in claiming the island.

Robbins made a shambles of it; after hoisting it in a large gum tree and firing three volleys in salute low over the nearby French tents (Robbins had to borrow the gunpowder for the salute from the French as he had not brought any with him), he made a garbled proclamation of possession, and then realised that in his haste he had raised the flag upside down. Luckily, the French, who numbered nearly one hundred, compared to the 17 of Robbins and his crew from the Cumberland, treated the incident with ridicule and not with force. Baudin tartly remarked to Robbins that he had ���no intention of annexing a country already inhabited by savages���.

It was during a subsequent trip in 1804 to retrieve two Spanish ships which had been captured by a NSW trader���s privateering expedition and hidden off the coast of Deal Island, that Robbins discovered Robbins island, which is named after him. Upon his return to England, age 24, as master of the Integrity, Robbins set out on an assignment to South America. Neither he nor his ship was heard of again.

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The island was used for livestock to graze on, primarily for wool production before the 1850s. William B. Reid leased the island for 43 years commencing in 1873, when native animals on the land were used as wild game, farming and dairy products were made. Bill and Norah Holyman then bought the island in 1916 using it for sheep husbandry, selling off the island in 1958. In 1961, H. E. Hammond was the owner of the island, and it remains in family ownership today. His descendants, Keith and John Hammond currently produce on Robbins Island wagyu beef, which is exported to Japan and mainland Australia.

Commercial aquaculture industry from Circular Head (Stanley) presently harvest rock lobster and abalone in waters around the island.

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