The Artists


print: wood engraving
Engraved by F.A. Sleap and M.A.C.
Published in the Illustrated Australian News
Melbourne: David Syme & Co., July 9, 1884
Collection: La Trobe Picture Collection
State Library of Victoria

1. Distant view of Gabo Island
2. The Monumental City Memorial
3. Happy Valley, the burying ground of Gabo
4. Landing Place, showing the wrecks of the Little Nell steamer and schooner Gippslander

Gabo Island is located to the east of Melbourne, approximately fourteen kilometres to the east of Mallacoota and approximately eight kilometres south west of Cape Howe, which is the extreme south east tip of Victoria. The island, which is south of Telegraph Point, is the southern extension of the Howe Range of red granite and was once connected to the mainland by a sand-spit. It is now separated from the mainland by a narrow, less than one kilometre wide, shallow channel.

Explorer and navigator, Captain Cook named Gabo Island on 20 April 1770. Cook also named Cape Howe that same day, after Admiral Richard Howe, the first Earl Howe, who was Treasurer of the Royal Navy at that time. A story is told that when the local Aborigines were asked the name of the island, they replied 'gabo', which is generally accepted as the Aboriginal for 'island'. However it has been suggested that what the Aborigines meant by 'gabo' was 'we do not understand' or 'do not know'. Whatever the case, the name 'Gabo' was recorded by Captain Cook.

Gabo Island is two and a half kilometres in length and one hundred and fifty hectares in size, with a small sandy bay and jetty on its north west coastline.

Little is known of the wood engravers F.A. Sleap or M.A.C. who produced these images of Gabo Island. We know that Sleap and M.A.C. produced a number of wood engravings for the series 'Sketches on the Coast' for the Illustrated Australian News in 1884. Sleap often worked with J. Macfarlane, and this is possibly to whom the M.A.C. refers.

Sleap produced many wood engravings for the Illustrated Australian News and the later Illustrated Australian News and Musical Times. The wood engravers Samuel Calvert and Albert Charles Cooke also produced illustrations for these publications.

The first of the four wood engravings by F.A. Sleap and M.A.C. reproduced here depicts a distant view of Gabo Island from the south west of the island. You can make out the lighthouse on the point and to the far right smoke can be seen rising from a steamer as it passes the island.

The second wood engraving is of the Memorial that was built on the island following the sinking of the steamship 'Monumental City' in 1853, with the loss of thirty-three lives.

The third wood engraving is of Happy Valley, site of the small Gabo Island Cemetery, and the fourth wood engraving is of the settlement on Gabo Island as it was in 1884. It depicts a number of the early settlers huts, a small jetty, with hoist for landing provisions, and the wrecks of the steamer 'Little Nell' and the schooner 'Gippslander'. To the left, built on the hill above this quiet bay, is a structure like a mine head, which may have been part of the old quarry diggings, worked for the red granite needed to construct the lighthouse in 1862.

Today, Gabo Island has its own airfield, and visitors to this remote flora and fauna reserve can now fly, rather than risk the sea journey as they did in 1884.

Andrew Mackenzie

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Left: Arthur Streeton - Above Us The Great Grave Sky, 1890
Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

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