Fremantlebiz - Paul's Letter from Australia
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Saturday, October 8th, 2011
Nice mention of Rottnest in new State Herbarium history
I had a thrilling present arrive in the mail this week. It was a copy of a new 275 page book titled
A botanical journey. Thestory of the Western Australian Herbarium
by Roger Underwood and published by the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation. One of my photos of Fish Hook Bay on Rottnest Island was used with permission toillustrate a page describing the work of Irish marine botanist William Harvey (1811-1866) who spent eight months collectingin Western Australia during 1854-55. The photo first appeared in my
weblog on17 October, 2008. Dr Harvey spent some time on Rottnest Island collecting terrestrial flora and seaweeds. He eventually published a fivevolume
description of Australian seaweeds. It still remains an important reference work for modernmarine botanists. Amongst his observations of Rottnest he wrote:
“Many of the detached reefs are shaped like round tables or mushrooms, being fixed on a slender central stalk, often only a few feet indiameter, the horizontal shelf or table spreading out many yards on all sides. Sometimes two or three of these tables are joined together bynarrow stone bridges, and sometimes large holes, through which you may look down two or three fathoms into the clearest water, arefound in the table, and the swells rise through them and flow over. I often wondered how these filigree reefs could so long withstand thebeating of the waves in winter storms. Almost all of them offer good harvest to the algologist, and beautiful pictures to anyone who canappreciate the loveliness of living vegetable forms. At every few yards deep basin-like hollows of greater or lesser size, break the surfaceof the reef, and afford well-sheltered rocks for a variety of beautiful algae. The water in these basins is always intensely transparent, thebottom frequently of white sand and the steep and craggy sides clothed with algae vegetation in which the brightest tints of green, purple,ermine and olive, and the most graceful waving forms are mingled in rich variety. Here is the favourite locality of some eight or ten speciesof Caulerpa of several distinct forms, every one a beautiful object. All these are green, but the tints vary from darkest bottle-green to thepale fresh green of an opening beech leaf. Some resemble soft ostrich feathers, others branches of the Norfolk Island pine, and othersstrings of beads, squirrel’s or cat’s tails, and
is like a double saw.” (Underwood, R. (2011). p.65.
We collected, pressed and identified some seaweeds ourselves while we were on the island last year, but I didn’t get towriting about them on
. A couple of weeks ago we were back at Fish Hook Bay when there was a 4-5 meterswell running outside. I took another photo of the bay which surely would have interested Dr Harvey. The water looksrelatively calm, but on the right side of the image below you can see that there is a strong gyre corresponding to the shape of the reef platform. The implication for undercutting over time seems obvious.
FromRottnest September 2011
There's still lent to discover