Other natural resources


(From the " Daily Commercial News and Shipping List " of recent date.

Situated at a distance of about 80 miles in a South south-westerly direction from Adelaide, Kangaroo Island presents some of the most picturesque spots that may be seen any where in Australia. It is an island roughly 90 miles in length, and its greatest breadth is 15 miles. A narrow strait (Backstairs Passage), separates the island from the mainland of South Australia, the crossing being barely more than 7 miles. A bi-weekly coast steamship service from Port Adelaide takes passengers and cargo on a six hours' voyage to the Island, and during most of the year the sea is quite calm, thus affording a pleasurable trip to tourists. The climate is particularly mild, being 12 degrees cooler in summer, and 10 degrees warmer in winter than is experienced in Adelaide. The first port of call on arrival at Kangaroo Island is Penneshaw. This little town is situated at Hog Bay, near the mainland end of the Island, and it was here that the first discoverer Captain Flinders landed 1802. The fresh meat supply of his boat, the Investigator, having been exhausted, it is reported that he and his men put ashore and killed a number of kangaroos, thus giving the Island its -name. The point at which he landed Flinders called Kangaroo Head, and on the spot a monument has since been erected to his memory. About a year later, (1803) a French boat under Commandant Baudin arrived At a point about two miles north along the coast and a monument was erected later over 'Frenchman's Rock' the landing place of this second party, to commemorate the event.
The Island is, of course, part of South Australia, and is interesting to note that the very first houses that were built in the State were erected at Kingscote, the capital, and the first well that was sunk, and the first fruit tree to he planted (a mulberry) all may still be seen near the town. The northern shores of Kangaroo Island are sheltered by the mainland from any rough seas, and it is on this side that the towns are situated. There are really two actual towns, Penneshaw and Kingscote, the population of the Island being mainly farmers whose homes spread right throughout. The north coast presents a number of pretty bays, such as Emu Bay, Nepean Bay, and Hog Bay, to which may added the mouth of American River.
In all of these excellent fishing may he obtained, there being an abundance of sweep, mullet, whiting, snook, bream, salmon, tommy roughs and schnapper. About 400 boxes of fish are exported from the island each year, each box containing about 1 cwt. of fish. In the shallows of Nepean Bay there is an extensive oyster bed, from from which particularly fine large shell fish are procurable. Some of the beaches afford very good bathing facilities, but care must be taken to heed the advice of the residents as regards the safety of the beaches, because sharks are very numerous round the coast. American River, the mouth of which opens between Nepean and Hog Bays is an ideal holiday resort. Well kept boarding houses provide the necessary accommodation, but numbers of camping parties frequently dispense with formalities and erect their own tents by the banks of the river, underneath the trees, of which there is a heavy growth throughout the greater extent of the river's banks. Although American River is only a few miles in length, it is one of the main beauty spots. Dotted here and there are numerous small islands overgrown with dense saltbush scrub, on which seabirds of all sizes and types make their homes. Pelicans, shags, sea-gulls, penguins, duck, swans and various others are to be seen in their native state. The river literally teems with fish, but here again sharks are a great menace, and to attempt swimming is little short of suicidal. There are several lagoons on the Island, and during the season some fine duck shooting may be obtained. Wallabies are fairly numerous in the back blocks, and so are opossums, but the once-plentiful kangaroo has been so rapidly destroyed that he is not very frequently met. The far too numerous rabbits of the mainland are quite foreign to the Island, and a very heavy fine is imposed upon anyone who may take one of these pests there. The South Coast is very rugged, having no protection from the storms and gales that blow up from the Southern Ocean. Here again the scenery is beautiful. Pennington Bay and Vivonne Bay are perhaps the finest from a tourist's point of view and to see the huge rollers beating in against the high cliffs is a Bight that no other seaside resort in the State affords. The cliffs on the South Coast contain vast quantities of lime stone, and it is most interesting to anyone geologically inclined to observe the roots of trees and shrubs that have been petrified, embedded in the earth. Petrified shells and some times fruits are found, and if excavations were made there is every reason to believe that calcified bones of animals may be discovered.

— Commerce. — Kangaroo Island is by no means solely of importance to the tourist. Although possessing total area of only two or three thousand square miles, it affords wonderful opportunities to any enterprising business men who have capital to invest in commercial ventures which offer good returns. The Island's main exports are wool, sheep, barley, salt, yacca gum, eucalyptus oil, fur skins, fruit, timber and fish. At present most of the land is rough and uncleared, being over grown with yacca, ti-tree, eucalypt and other timber, but those portions that have been cleared and prepared are mainly most fertile and will grow almost anything, but in some areas there are a few bad patches that are packed with limestone to such a great extent that they are almost worthless. A few of the farming inhabitants are wool-growers, favoring the merino for the greater part, and others utilise their land for wheat culture, but the most profitable industry at present is barley. Kangaroo Island barley is some of the finest in the world, and the prices obtained for the yields are exceptionally high,— which speaks well for the quality of the land under cultivation. In some areas there are quantities of fine timber ; red and sugar gums, and good stringy bark, known commercially as V.D.L. hardwood ; but owing to the present transport facilities nothing is done in this direction, and there is not a sufficiently large supply to warrant establishing a special service. There is no means of transport on the Island other than motor traction, and a small privately owned railway. The fur trade is particularly good for the size of the Island, opossum pelts being the main source of revenue, but wallaby, sheep, and kangaroo skins also do their part. To give an indication of the money that may be made in this industry the following will prove interesting. During the last open season, one man went into the scrub country of the Island and remained there for about two months. During that period he averaged 26 animals each day, and sold the skins at £4 10/ per dozen. This would average over £9 per day ! Fruit can not be regarded as a very large industry, but what there is grown is of very fine quality.

Yacca Gum. — Up till the last two or three years yacca gum was exported from Kangaroo Island in fairly large quantities. During a good year two or three thousand tons were shipped annually, mostly to Germany, and also to Eng land and France. The main product from yacca gum was picric acid, used in explosives. Recent tests that have been carried out with this Island gum have produced some very fine carbolic crystals, gum varnish, oils and spirits, and the latest experiments have shown that a thoroughly efficient motor spirit affording economic use good mileage may he obtained as a by-product from the distillation of the gum. During the last two or three years this industry has fallen off to a very appreciable extent, owing to the cost of gathering the gum and cartage to ports. But there is still an enormous supply on the Island only awaiting the attention of an enterprising firm to develop it to its fullest profitable extent, the only danger to fear being the possibility of exceeding the demand.

Salt— (this extract appears on our page "Salt")

Cement. — Not yet have we exhausted all the gifts with which nature has endowed the Island. For a distance of over two miles round the coast, from Kingscote these is an almost inexhaustible supply of excellent iron stone, also of a very fine quality. Sandstone is there, too, in great quantities. These minerals are the essential constituents of cement, and it was found a few years ago that a combination of those of Kangaroo Island formed a cement that, in every way, stood the most severe tests that could be imposed upon it. For durability in air and under water, for tensile strength and hardness this pro duct proved itself to be not only equal to the best cements that are manufactured, but vastly superior to the majority. It was not long ago that a company was formed to exploit this industry, but owing to lack of sufficient capital, and the heavy influence of the large cement companies already established in South Australia and elsewhere, the new venture died a reluctant death. If, however, a new company was formed with finances sufficient to withstand the expenses that would be entailed, a very profitable works could be set up, with supplies of the essential materials ever ready all on the spot.

Eucalyptus.— In addition to all these potential gold mines, Kangaroo Island possesses some of the very finest eucalyptus in the world. The Island is liberally overgrown with ti-tree and mallee, from the leaves of which the oil is distilled, and provided the market can be found to consume the output, as much as 300 to 400 tons could be produced annually. The narrow leaved mallee (Eucalyptus oneorifolia) contains the highest percentage of eucalyptol of any of the eucalypts in the world, that percentage being 87. The largest still on the Island is owned and worked by Mr E. Burgess, who produces from 10 to 12 tons of eucalyptus oil each year, and sends it to Messrs F. H. Faulding & Co., and Messrs A. M. Bickford & Sons of Adelaide, under the brand of " Dread nought" eucalyptus. "Kangaroo" brand is also distilled on the island, at Margrie's still, the next largest size to Mr Burgess'. Besides these stills there are several smaller which also send oil to the two firms mentioned. Mr Burgess has his home and distillery at Cygnet River, about 5 miles from Kingscote, and a description of the modus operandi of his still will suffice for the others as well, as all are worked on the same principle, which is simplicity itself. The essential apparatus in a cement still, conical shaped, 8 feet deep, top diameter, 8 feet, bottom diameter 7 feet. The reason why cement is used in preference to iron or copper or other metal is that cement is unaffected by the eucalyptol. Iron, on the other hand, is attacked by the acetic acid that is contained in the oil, and a yellowish tinge is imparted to the finished product. In the same way a copper still would cause the eucalyptus to be colored green. A charge of 3½ tons of ti-tree or mallee (or other eucalypt) leaves is placed in the still and an airtight cover is then fastened in position. Next to the still is boiler, generating steam, which is conveyed through pipes to the bottom of the still and circulates throughout the charge of eucalyptus leaves. The steam penetrates through the leaves and absorbs the eucalyptol, which at once volatilises and mingles with the rest of the steam in the still. A 3½ inch outlet at the top of the still releases the steam and volatilised oil, and a pipe 170 feet long running through a cold water trough conveys the steam and oil, both of which rapidly condense to a small tank. In this tank, she oil, being lighter than water (specific gravity at 15 deg. C 0.9229), floats on top, and the water is syphoned from below leaving the crude oil. The oil is then poured into drums and sent to the chemists. The used charge of leaves is extracted from the a till, and is utilised as fuel for the boiler. Now, here is an opportunity of forming quite a new industry and one that shows great possibilities. Mr Burgess says that since he has been using the spent leaves for fuel in place of wood, be has been obtaining better results. According to his estimation, one ton of used leaves from the still will produce six times as much heat as a ton of wood fuel. By compressing the leaves into briquettes, quite a profitable industry would be formed since the price of wood fuel at the present day is exceptionally high, and there seems to be every chance of the briquettes proving more efficient in thermal qualities. Referring again to the eucalyptol, quite recently an expert made tests with the Kangaroo Island product and pronounced it equal to the best procurable. The Eastern States of the Commonwealth are able to produce eucalyptus of inferior quality, which contains a certain percentage of philandrene [alpha-Phellandrene]. The lower the content of encalyptol, the higher will be the philandrene content, and even a small fraction of this drug is injurious to the medicinal value of the eucalyptus. The contracts drawn up between the chemical warehouses and the Kangaroo Island distillers state emphatically that no philandrene mast be present in the eucalyptus supplied. Quite recently Mr Burgess has been experimenting with the distillation of a small shrub that is native to the Island. He has been successful in producing a distillate which Messrs A. M. Bickford & Sons have been utilising in the manufacture of certain perfumes and for which they have been paying him a very high price. Here, again, seems to be an opening for further industry. If the eucalyptus industry were to be developed to its utmost capacity, the population of the Island would be increased 50 per cent and work would be provided for large numbers of men. Reviewing the possibilities that are afforded by the Island, it appears to us that it would be worth a careful investigation by the Government, with the object in view of placing some of Australia's intended immigrants over there to develop natural resources that are only awaiting proper attention to turn Kangaroo Island into a veritable hive of industry.

AS OTHERS SEE US (1924, September 20). The Kangaroo Island Courier (Kingscote, SA : 1907 - 1951), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article191549810

Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), Saturday 29 February 1908, page 7


OIL, GUM AND SALT. Valuable products.

[IV. —By our Special Reporter.]

The fame of Kangaroo Island does not by any means rest entirely upon its many historic associations. It is renowned for other important reasons. One of these is its wonderful eucalyptus oil. Who in South Australia has not used this valuable remedy for colds, lumbago, rheumatism, asthma, influenza, and the thousand and one other ills to which the human flesh is heir? Home without a bottle or two of the precious liquid is not like home. Most mothers have unbounded faith in its healing and cleansing powers, and travellers in the bush invariably carry a supply. The manufacture of the oil has provided lucrative employment for scores of islanders for years, and each passing day sees the gradual development of the industry. In practically every instance the makers are farmers, who seize upon the manufacture as a comparatively easy means to bring grist to the mill and occupy time which, in other circumstances, probably would be wasted. Nearly all the stills are primitive concerns, but they serve their purpose, and cost little or nothing (apart from labour) to run. The only steam boiler factory is that owned by Mr. G. F. Barnes, who resides about nine miles from Kingscote. This establishment has been in existence for 16 years, and formerly belonged to Mesara. F. H. Faulding and Co. At the time of my arrival Mr. Barnes was away for a load of leaves, which are cut within a three-miles' radius of the factory; but, on his return be explained the mysteries connected with the distilling of the famous oil. The narrow leaf— unknown anywhere else in the State— invariably, if not wholly, used, owing to the high percentage of eucalyptol which it yields. This ranges from 60 to 65 per cent., and sometimes reaches 70 per cent. The oilmaking is done in the summer only, because during the cold months the eucalyptol recedes from the leaves. In consequencc of the low prices which were ruling, Mr. Barnes allowed the factory to remain idle for the two seasons immediately preceding the present, and devoted his attention exclusivelv to mining. Now, however, the eucalyptus work is keeping him fully engaged.

—The Process.—

He has three stills—400-gallon iron tanks —which, under ordinary conditions, extract six or seven tons of oil in six months. At the busiest time 10 men are regularly employed in cutting and carting leaves, which realize 5/ a still at the factory. The distilling and refining processes are full of interest and instructive. After having been filled with leaves, so that the steam can easily percolate through, the stills are placed in position. Pipes which lead to the book condenser—this does not require so much space as the worm, and is considered to be more effective— are then screwed down on the top of them, and the steam is turned on from the boiler. A black, repulsive looking fluid issues from the condenser, and is placed in the refiner, where it is vaporized and afterward cooled in a worm. The result is a fine, clear oil, which is poured into tins, each containing 25-lb. weight, ready for the market. The residue, after the refining, is sold to various firms, who convert it into a substance for coating the inside of boilers to prevent them from corroding, and utilize it in the manufacture of horse ointments. Mr. Barnes is contemplating the bottling of the oil himself— hitherto he has forwarded it in bulk to Adelaide— and disposing of it under bis own name and registered brand.

—A Progressive Company.—

Mr. Barnes has done much to demonstrate the encouraging possibilities of the industry, and now his efforts are being ably seconded by the Kangaroo Island Eucalyptus Oil Company. Although inaugurated only recently, the company has rendered great service to the community by advertising the product, in all parts of the world. The local agent at Kingscote is Mr. A. E. Warren, an enterprising 'new-comer,' possessed of unmistakeable business acumen and foresight. In a pleasant chat he described the formation and progress of the company, and the steps it has taken to enhance the popularity of Kangaroo Island oil. After an extensive tour of the country about 18 months, he was impressed with the promising opportunity which presented itself for the successful exploitation of the oil industry, and at his suggestion a small syndicate was formed with that object. Difficulties, however, soon had to be faced. At the outset the syndicate was compelled to go on other persons' land for leaf, which was secured only on payment of a royalty, and on condition that the land cut upon should be cleared at the same time. Under this plan it was found impossible to make any headway, as the whole of the profits were swallowed up by clearing work.

When the Hundred of MacGillivray was about to be allotted the syndicate put its position before the Government, and a a result of the interview it was changed into a registered liability company. Subsequently an application was lodged for a section of land in MacGillivray, and several thousand acres, about 14 miles from Kingscote, were granted to the company. The leaf in the vicinity is said to be the best on the island. While distilling oil the company has men engaged in clearing its land, for it has proved that the highest returns arc obtained from leaf which has been grown on cultivated ground. Most of the other timber is being killed, so that the young narrow leaf, which is eminently superior for oilmaking, will have every chance to thrive. The company has four stills and a refinery, and as time goes on will augment its plant. A number of farmers sell oil to the company, which bulks the different lots, and consigns them to London and the Continent, so that there shall be less likelihood of any of the cases failing to come up to the test demanded by the British Pharmaceutical Society —a specific gravity of 910. The practice followed by the big purchasers on the English and foreign markets to sample one or two tins and accept the remits as a fair indication of the standard of the shipment. The necessity for and advantages to be derived from bulking the liquid are thus obvious. In the latest report published by Mesrs. Schimmel and Co., huge oil distributors in England, Germany, and America, is a statement that "for good globulous oil, which is manufactured on Kangaroo Island only, there is always a keen demand in London and on the Continent." For some time the company here has been selling bottled oil, guaranteed to be absolutely pure, and made from the narrow leaf only, at its distillery. Although the article is quite new to the Australian markets, it has considerable vogue, and its popularity is rapidly increasing.

Another constant manufacturer is Mr. A. C. Burgess, of White Lagoon, about four miles beyond the Kangaroo Island Oil Company's place. He has done the work for nine years, and exports on an average 5½ tons of oil to London each year. About 20 other settlers combine pot distilling with farming, and dispose of their oil to the company. The industry gives employment to nearly 200 men and boys during the summer, and the quantity of oil produced varies between 15 and 20 tons per annum.

— Yacca Gum.—

The yacca, or native grass tree, abounds in most ot the hilly parts of South Australia, but nowhere else does it produce gum to the same extent as on Kangaroo Island. Indeed, except on the west coast— where, by the way, the quality and quantity are not such as to give much hope of a permanent industry being established there scarcely any gum is found in the yaccas on the mainland. Every year, however, hundreds of tons is exported from Kangaroo Island. The bulk of it goes to Hamburg, Germany, where it is employed principally in the manufacture of explosives and varnishes. Generally speaking, the trees within a 15-mile radius of Kingscote— and there were million of them— have been stripped. Now the 'gummers' are working in the back country.

The gathering of the material is a simple matter. A specially constructed receptacle termed a 'boat' is placed beside the yacca to be treated. With a chopper the stripper then whittles away the surface of the tree to whatever depth may be necessary. Afterward the dust and chips, which have fallen into the 'boat' are sifted in a winnower. When passing through the machine the coarse gum takes one channel and the fine another. It is then bagged and sold in the proportion of one-third fine gum to two-thirds coarse. The price obtained varies from £2 15/ to £3 a ton afloat at Port Adelaide. Some of the trees obtain to a height of 25 ft., and that after they have been stripped they are of no more use for purpose of gum. Old settlers state that they make excellent fuel, and cannot be surpassed as an agency for dispersing mosquitoes from around a camp fire. It is further asserted that so intense is the heat which they create that a stone can be melted on the top of one in full blaze.

—Salt Production.—

All commodities necessary for the sustenance of human life may be obtained on Kangaroo Island. Breadstuffs of practically every description, vegetables, fruits, meat, water, wool, and leather require only to be grown or prepared, and salt of good quality appears on the surface of scores of lakes. On only a few of these, however, does it accumulate in sufficient quantities to justify gathering for consumption. The largest lake, known as Salt Lagoon. is half a dozen miles west of Mount Thisby. Its area is about 250 acres, of which, owing to the interposition of Nature's most powerful elements— wind and water— only a comparatively small portion can be scraped. For a long period intermittent operations have been carried on, but it has been left for the Commonwealth Salt and Refinery Company Limited, of Sydney, to establish the business on a broad, systematic basis. It is expected that within a week, or two over 30 men will be employed on the lake, and in connection with the construction of a tramway, from there to the shipping point on the American River. This convenience will materially facilitate the carriage of the salt which hitherto has constituted one of the primary obstacles in the way of the development of the industry. Mr. C. W. Butler has charge of the works; and under his guidance gratifying progress is being made. At present the salt is carted by teams to the primitive jetty, and stowed on ketches, which convey it to Adelaide and Sydney. When the tramline shall have been completed a vigorous policy on the part of the company should produce splendid results, because the salt is of an unusually high standard— 98 per cent.— and therefore needs less cleaning and purifying than if it were of an inferior character. Next to the company the largest salt producer is Mr. Gobell, who has a lake on his property, nine miles from Salt Lagoon, He scrapes several hundred tons each year. The best return secured from the company's holding in one season was, approximately 2,000 tons. Next year, with favourable weather, that quantify ought to be easily exceeded.

KANGAROO ISLAND. (1908, February 29). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), p. 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56977955