Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Transport of Driftwood from South America to Tasmania and Macquarie Island


IN February 1955, a log about 10 ft. long and 5 ft. in girth was found washed up on a sandy beach just inside Port Davey harbour on Tasmania's south-west coast. It was lying between two logs of Huon Pine (Dacrydium franklinii Hook f.), an endemic conifer of Tasmania. Unlike these logs which were well covered with marine growth it was free from such growth although the surface was ‘woolly’ with many pebbles embedded in it. The ends of the log were sawn and one end grooved for towing by a wire rope. The wood was identified from its anatomy as a species of Nothofagus, which genus is represented in Tasmania, the south-eastern portion of the Australian mainland, New Zealand, New Guinea, New Caledonia and South America1. Anatomically the genus can be divided into two easily distinguishable groups, the one covering the species of New Guinea and New Caledonia, and the other the remaining species2. The log in question was derived from the second of these two groups and, because of the presence of spiral thickenings in the vessel elements, its specific identity could be narrowed down to one of three possibilities, namely, N. moorei (F. Muell.) Krasser of northern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland, N. pumilio (Poepp. and Endl.) Krasser and N. obliqua (Mirb.) Oerst. from South America. The spiral thickenings in N. moorei differ from those of the two South American species; those of the unknown resembled the thickenings observed in the South American species. Both N. pumilio and N. obliqua are restricted to South America, the former occurring from Tierra del Fuego north to latitude 36° S. on the western side of the Andes. N. pumilio, N. antarctica (Forst.) Oerst. and N. betuloides (Mirb.) Oerst. are logged commercially in the southernmost tip of the continent3. All the anatomical evidence thus pointed to a South American origin of the log in question although this conclusion met with some initial opposition.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout


  1. van Steenis, C. G. G. J., J. Arn. Arb., 34, 301 (1953).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Dadswell, H. E., and Ingle, H. D., Aust. J. Bot., 2 (2), 141 (1954).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Paddon, T. W., Rev. Bois, 8 (5); and in “Timber Progress”, edit. by Bruce, W. E. (Cleaver Hume Press, London).

  4. Cockayne, L., “The Vegetation of New Zealand” (Engelmann, Leipzig, 1921).

    Google Scholar 

  5. Matthews, I. H., “The Sea Elephant” (Scientific Book Club, 1952).

    Google Scholar 

  6. A.N.A.R.E. (unpublished log books).

  7. Heyerdahl, T., “American Indians in the Pacific” (Allen and Unwin, London, 1952).

    Google Scholar 

  8. Sverdrup, H. U., Johnson, M. W., and Fleming, R. H., “The Oceans” (Prentice-Hall, New York, 1949).

    Google Scholar 

  9. Darwin, C., “On the Origin of Species” (John Murray, London, 1875).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

BARBER, H., DADSWELL, H. & INGLE, H. Transport of Driftwood from South America to Tasmania and Macquarie Island. Nature 184, 203–204 (1959).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing