D’Entrecasteaux Channel: Tinderbox Beach History
Wrecks and Ancient Litter
A silver memento
Up on the hills, Tinderbox Peninsula is often so dry it’s pretty reasonable to assume that’s why it got this name, but the story is actually more interesting.
In the early 1800s Joshua Fergusson, who lived on the land just above the beach, saw a business opportunity and planted tobacco here with a view to supplying the local pipe smokers.
One day he found a silver tinderbox inscribed in French, an indication that some thirty years before early French expeditioners, perhaps with Baudin, maybe with Bruny D’Entrecasteaux, had visited this beach and most likely made a fire, and stood around talking, perhaps exploring a little. Maybe this tinderbox slipped out of someone’s pocket or maybe it was left on a stone and forgotten. There’s also a chance that it had been traded or that it had washed ashore. Regardless, it’s owner sailed home to France but the tinderbox remained in Van Diemen’s Land.
One day Joshua Ferguson came beach combing, picked it up, and thought, ‘I know – I’ll name this beach after it.’
Bruny Island may protect the channel from the vast fetch of the Southern Ocean but the wind can funnel up and down this waterway, aided and abetted by the hills and valleys, descending with rapid speed upon the unwary.
Tinderbox Beach lies close to the northern (Storm Bay) entrance and the gap between the island and Tasmania is particularly narrow and also shallower here. As a consequence, a few boats have been caught out and come to grief on its shore.
On 6 July 1822 a government vessel (name unknown) sailed from Hobart and capsized in Tinderbox Bay. Two men drowned.
On 21 May 1887 the Alice, a ketch, dragged her anchors and went ashore in Tinderbox Bay.
On 12 March 1925 the Rebecca, a ketch (but officially a ‘barge’), heading from Hobart to Strathblane, was overwhelmed off Tinderbox Point by a massive squall, blew out her mizzen sail and drifted on to the rocks. She’d been built by Thomas Inches and James McLaren further down the channel on the Huon River in 1853 and was owned by Edward Knight.
As a small group of yachts moor off just offshore, and as the channel is a popular place to sail, there have doubtless been more nautical dramas on this little beach.
Back in 1948 the Government planned a vehicular crossing between Tinderbox and Dennes Point. This made sense – it was reasonably close to Hobart and this is, after all, the narrowest point. But again a storm came raging and this put paid to that idea* and so this beautiful spot (along with Nevada Beach on the Bruny Island side) remains intact – in fact, more so than most others as Tinderbox Beach was declared a marine reserve in 1991.
Up above the beach and a little to to east there used to be a pilot station at Pierson’s Point. This beach would have been a great adventuring place for the children living there, and for parents to relax or mess about in boats, in much the same way as today. For more about life at the station, see Bill Harvey’s remembrances on the Beach Stories page.
* Tasmanian Year Book – Issue 23 – Page 228
Wrecks: Source http://oceans1.customer.netspace.net.au/tas-wrecks.html