Logging threat to French explorers’ site in Australia

14th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

SYDNEY, Oct 14 (AFP) - Efforts to preserve a site where French explorers conducted some of Australia's first scientific research more than 200 years ago were branded inadequate by environmentalists Thursday.

SYDNEY, Oct 14 (AFP) - Efforts to preserve a site where French explorers conducted some of Australia's first scientific research more than 200 years ago were branded inadequate by environmentalists Thursday.  

The Tasmania state government said it was creating a 100 metre (330 feet) exclusion area around the ruins of a French observatory and garden at Recherche Bay, on the island's rugged south-east coast.  

It said logging would be allowed elsewhere on the Recherche pensinula, aside from a coastal strip, prompting conservationists to claim the government was taking a "pocket handkerchief" approach to one of Australia's most significant historical sites.  

"This is a tragic, wasted opportunity," Wilderness Society national forest campaign coordinator Sean Cadman said.  

French explorer Bruni D'Entrecasteaux landed two ships, La Recherche and L'Esperance in the Tasmanian inlet in 1792, more than 10 years before British settlers arrived on the island.  

The expedition's primary mission was to search for compatriot Jean Francois Galaup de Laperouse, whose party had disappeared after visiting Botany Bay, in NSW, in 1788.  

But during two five-week spells at Recherche Bay in 1792 and 1793, the French carried out ground-breaking observations about the Earth's magnetic fields and carried out botanical surveys that are still used as reference works more than 210 years later.  

The French also enjoyed cordial relations with local Aborigines, unlike British settlers who eventually wiped out full-blood indigenous people on the island, and it is estimated that a quarter of modern knowledge of pre-European Tasmanian Aboriginal culture comes from their observations.  

When the remains of a garden and observatory wall were uncovered at  Recherche Bay early last year, it was heralded as a site of national and international significance.   Tasmanian Heritage Minister Ken Bacon said the heritage area, which will be in place for five years, would allow archaeological surveys to be carried out while maintaining logging interests.  

"I have made a decision that I believe is the best outcome for both our historic heritage and the rights of private landowners to access and enjoy their land," he said.  

Historian Edward Duyker, the author of a biography of Recherche's botanist Jacques Julien Labillardiere, last year said the prospect of logging at the site was "obscene".  

"It's a bit like this notion of having (a) historic building where you just keep the front wall, the facade, and you gut the interior. Well it loses all its contextual significance and the building is lost," he told ABC television.

 

© AFP

Subject: French News

 

 

 

 

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