Tired of the rat race? Fancy ditching your daily life routine for a life-changing experience? This is exactly how Hannah Sutton and Grant Ryan felt in their nine to fives, which is why they decided to sign up for a completely new adventure. One so brave that it would leave many of us wanting to stay safely warm and dry on our hamster wheels!
The couple, who have previously braved crossing the Tasman by boat, have signed up to become volunteer caretakers on Maatsuyker Island Lighthouse for six months on behalf of the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. The 186-hectare island, which comprises part of the Southwest National Park and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Site, sits 10 km off the southern-most coast of Tasmania. The pair will be living alone on Australia’s most southerly lighthouse, starting tomorrow.
The ultimate sea change
Hannah and Grant will follow in the footsteps of former lighthouse keepers, Jesse Siebler and Taylor Stevens, who took on the role of volunteer caretakers and weather observers on the island off the south coast of Tasmania for six months from September 2017. And how did the pair get on? Well, here it is in their own words:
“We are changed now. We may have had these “selves” in us all along, but here, they have been exposed. Peeled back. They stand naked now before our eyes. Impossible to ignore. The new life we crave and strive for. The life of the caretaker. The Keeper. The watcher. The one happy to exist in an existence they do not rule.”
Deep stuff. But they’d be lying if they were to say it had been easy.
Conditions on the island are extreme, to say the least, with the constant thrashing of the Roaring Forties coming off the Southern Ocean. The island that averages 250 days of rain a year, with an annual average rainfall of 1.2 metres. There is also a constant gale with winds averaging between 50 and 60 knots, while the highest recorded speed is 112 knots! Yikes. We will be keeping a close eye on the Bureau of Meteorology to see how the weather is treating the couple.
It’s not all bad, though. Maatsuyker Island is a really important habitat for short-tailed shearwaters and breeding marine mammals such as Australian and New Zealand fur seals and elephant seals, which means there will be lots of beautiful wildlife to keep the pair company. But despite the local animals and beautiful flora and fauna, many might wonder what could have possessed Hannah and Grant to sign up to live at the lighthouse in such treacherous conditions for half a year of their lives. We decided to find out.
Boody meets Hannah and Grant
We’re fascinated with your plans to become lighthouse keepers on Maatsuyker Island. Tell us how this adventure came to be.
It all started with an article in the ABC calling for applications to look after Maatsuyker Island. The article stated how Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service was on the lookout for two volunteer island caretakers to live on the remote island for six months. The deal includes a return helicopter flight and the opportunity to develop an “intimate knowledge of local weather, and a guarantee to get up-close and personal with native wildlife.” How could we say no?
Long story short, here we are a day away from departure feeling extremely lucky to have been given this opportunity to join the list of amazing caretakers before us.
Hannah, we understand you're a keen sailor. What is it that you love about being on the waves?
There is nothing quite like being at the complete mercy of the wind and elements surrounding you. Mother nature is an incredible force and the feeling of harnessing it to get from A to B is both impressive and exciting. Ocean crossings allow time to sit in the middle of the ocean feeling tiny and insignificant floating among waves and the encompassing blue sea, trusting the boat will carry you safely. You have time to reflect, observe migratory wildlife and imagine what lies in the depths beneath you. It is pretty addictive!
Grant, we hear you love to surf. What other interests do you have?
I like growing most of my own food, cycling, tennis and squash. Living simply and keeping active are both very important to me.
You both traded in your nine to five jobs in search of something more meaningful. What were your day jobs?
Grant: I owned a company that specialised in fire sprinkler protection. So this will be quite a change of lifestyle!
Hannah: I was completing my thesis living in Indonesia based on community development and sustainability.
Talk us through what a typical day might look like at the lighthouse.
Two weather observations a day, growing our own veggies, assisting with the general upkeep of the island, maintaining fire breaks, brush cutting, mould prevention, weed control, migratory animal monitoring and more. But mainly just finding ways to keep warm!
What will you miss most about being on the mainland?
Swimming at the beach, sailing, surfing, or even just popping down to the local coffee shop (and of course, our family and friends).
What are you most looking forward to about your adventure?
Watching the incredible force of nature and experiencing the high winds, tending to the vegetable patch, watching the migratory birds and animals come and go and challenging ourselves with the seclusion and solitude the island may bring.
And having a house to call home! We have been travelling around Australia from Perth to Tasmania (the long way, via Darwin) for the past seven months living out of our troop carrier, so it will be nice not to drive long distances and to have a proper bed, kitchen, lounge room. It's the simple things in life!
We know you're both big Boody fans. What is it about our everyday essentials you love?
They're just so comfortable and long-lasting, which is obviously down to the bamboo fabric. We also love your general eco-friendly ethos as it aligns with our own values. We will definitely be taking our Boody undies to the lighthouse!
Follow Hannah and Grant’s exciting adventure on Instagram.