Sailing from Sydney to Newcastle via Pittwater, this special botany themed voyage features two very special guests from the Gardens, Dr Matt Renner and Dr Trevor Wilson.
Dr Renner and Dr Wilson kindly sat with us to tell us what they were most looking forward to about their maiden voyage.
Question: Is there anything particularly special and unique about the flora around Pittwater/ Hawkesbury area?
The Pittwater and Hawkesbury area are almost entirely surrounded by national park, a large portion being world heritage listed. This means a combination of outstanding natural and indigenous value to Australia.
This land belongs to the Sydney basin bioregion, which is one of the most species diverse in Australia. The wilderness of this land has ocean and twisting creeks that meet with mangrove, rainforest, woodland, and heath. The sandstone cliffs, deep gullies, and generally impassable rocky terrain have likely preserved this area by making it difficult to access by land.
As a result relatively few botanical collections have been made here, leaving this wilderness as a potential area to find rare or new plant species.
Question: How do you think Joseph Banks would have felt seeing the Australian bush for the first time?
The uniqueness of the Australian landscape and biota would have enforced itself upon his perception as just about everything in Australia would have been novel.
Some of the bewildering massive floral diversity would have been at least familiar, such as the mints, peas, and some Myrtles. However others, such as the Banksias that now bear his name, would have astounded with their new structures and floral conformations found nowhere else in the world.
Aboard the cramped scientific vessel Endeavour, these thoughts would have been mixed with dread, knowing that he and his colleague Solander were the only ones charged with a single chance to cram as much as they could in a small boat.
Question: What are you both looking forward to the most on your voyage?
As botanists our job is focused on plants and describing new species as well as making greater scientific discoveries based on this research. This can be based on a lot of fieldwork that requires travelling, communication and technical understanding.
We’re looking forward to collecting from a ship and experiencing the associated challenges with it. We’re also looking forward to getting into the rigging, and firing a cannon.
Question: What can the voyage crew expect from your talks and activities?
The voyage crew can expect a hands-on experience. Everyone will have a hand at doing what Banks and Solander did at Botany Bay on Cook’s first voyage.
Everyone will be trained and equipped so they may participate in making botanical collections for an underexplored area near Sydney. The specimens collected will be lodged at the herbarium of NSW. Seeds gathered will be added to one of the nation’s important conservative initiatives at PlantBank.
Question: How important is it to collect seeds for the seed bank?
Seedbanks perform an insurance role against total extinction of plant species. They won’t prevent the extinction of plants in the wild, but in that worst case, the seeds to sow new wild populations will be available (in a nutshell).
Around 10 per cent of Australian plant species are threatened with extinction and the collection of seeds for this insurance initiative has only recently begun. This is why collecting material for the PlantBank facility is valuable for the future.
SYDNEY TO NEWCASTLE VOYAGE
Dates: 8 – 12 September 2014 (5 days sailing)
Departs: Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney
Captain: John Dikkenberg
Voyage crew berth: $275 per day, $1,375
Supernumerary berth: $495 per day, $2,475