David Collins (1756–1810), founder of Hobart, was well equipped as a colonial administrator when he arrived in the Derwent in February 1804, having spent almost nine years in New South Wales as judge-advocate and secretary to the colony.
Late in 1802, as a result of his persistent lobbying of Lord Hobart and Sir Joseph Banks, Collins was appointed lieutenant-governor of a new British penal colony to be established in Bass Strait. After an unsuccessful attempt to settle at Port Phillip, Victoria, with 300 convicts, he began moving his party to the Derwent, intending to join John Bowen’s camp at Risdon Cove.
On arrival Collins made three significant decisions: he selected Sullivan’s Cove as the site for his settlement; he had John Bowen’s troublesome party at Risdon recalled to Sydney; and he persuaded Governor King not to use the Derwent as a dumping place for hardened recidivist convicts. However, a policy he adopted at the outset – to avoid hostility with the Aboriginal people by having as little contact with them as possible – was to prove impractical and ineffective.
So was Hobart founded in 1804, when Lt-Governor Collins moved the main southern settlement from Risdon to Sullivan’s Cove. Collins named the new settlement in honour of the then Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, Robert Hobart, 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire, the Lord Hobart. It was originally referred to as ‘Hobart Town’, which was often shortened to ‘Hobarton’, but by 1842 it had grown large enough to officially be recognised as a city, and from 1 January 1881 the ‘Town’ was formally dropped from its name, leaving the modern name of simply ‘Hobart’. From the foundation of the settlement, Hobart has remained the administrative centre of Tasmania, and from the time that Tasmania was granted responsible self-government in 1856 it has been the capital city of Tasmania.
Collins named the Cove which was the initial landing site, Sullivans Cove after John Sullivan, Permanent Under Secretary to the Colonies. Collins travelled to the shore via what was then a rocky island named Hunter Island. The connection to the shore was developed and is now known as Hunter Street. The island now has a building directly above it. The cove area itself is now known as Macquarie Wharf and serves as the main port for the city. Many of the original buildings along the esplanade are still standing.
Collins arrived at the Cove on the Lady Nelson. The Lady Nelson was commissioned in 1799 to survey the coast of Australia. At the time large parts of the Australian coast were unknown and only part of the continent had been claimed by Britain. The Lady Nelson left Portsmouth on 18 March 1800 and arrived at Sydney on 16 December 1800 after having been the first vessel to reach the east coast of Australia via Bass Strait. Prior to that date all vessels had to sail around the southern tip of Tasmania to reach their destination. For the next few years the Lady Nelson was kept busy sailing as a tender under the British flag. After her arrival at Port Jackson in December 1800 she sailed again in 1801 and 1802 under the command of John Murray to explore Port Phillip Bay. In 1802, she sailed to Risdon Cove in the River Derwent under the command of Lt. John Bowen, who established the first settlement in Van Diemen’s Land. Later in 1803 she sailed to Sorrento in Port Phillip Bay and then to the River Derwent under the command of Lt. Col. Collins.
You can see a full size replica of the Lady Nelson in the picturesque waterfront of Hobart. The replica was launched from Ray Kemp’s ramp at Margate Tasmania in 1988, 200 years after the First Fleet landed at Botany Bay. The replica sails on the harbour each weekend and is also available for private charters. Passengers are offered the opportunity to enjoy a tall ship sailing experience – help set sails, take a turn at the helm or just enjoy the feel of a traditional sailing ship at sea. Next time! Beary sailors 🙂
The Cove was an excellent site for a settlement, with a good port, good fresh water, and the shelter of Mount Wellington. From that date Hobart has been the capital and administrative centre of first southern Tasmania, then from 1812 all Tasmania. This meant parliament and government departments, major educational establishments and the headquarters of churches and many businesses and groups were established in Hobart.
Although Collins had left England well supplied, Hobart Town made little material progress during his six-year administration. A change of government in Britain – which deprived him of Hobart’s protection – and its preoccupation with the war against Napoleon, caused him to be neglected. None of the first 23 despatches he sent to England was answered, and his attempt to promote the whaling industry met with no response. No further shipments of convicts arrived, and the settlement often faced starvation. Collins was forced to obtain food from the government stores at Sydney, and to purchase supplies from visiting traders. A scheme he organised to kill kangaroos for meat antagonised the Aboriginal people.
Collins’ situation was exacerbated in 1807 when the government ordered him to receive some 400 settlers (almost equal to the population of Hobart Town) from Norfolk Island, and provide them with houses, farms and convict labourers. At the same time he was admonished for his expenditure of public money, told to stop writing to England, and to apply to Sydney for all his needs.
Collins faced a further difficulty when Governor Bligh arrived in Hobart Town in March 1809 and began to undermine Collins’ authority. Hostility between the two ended only with Bligh’s departure in December. By this time Collins was ill and disheartened. He died of a heart attack three months later.
Although Collins scandalised some by his open liaisons with convict women, he was generally popular and regarded as lenient, tolerant and personally honest. Collins was also a thoughtful, well-read man, who understood the power of the written word. He left behind little in the way of public buildings but he made an important cultural bequest in the form of Tasmania’s first printing press and its first newspaper, the fortnightly Derwent Star and Van Diemen’s Land Intelligencer. Collins has given his name to Collinsvale in Tasmania, Collins Street in Melbourne CBD, and Collins Street in Hobart CBD.
Lack of food and equipment dogged Hobart’s first years, but gradually a town developed. The port grew, home to sealers and whalers – whaling began in the Derwent in 1804. By 1811, when Governor Macquarie ordered a town plan, Hobart, though still small, boasted hotels and shops, a church, hospital, quarry and newspaper, and some substantial houses. Local industries were established, such as milling, brewing, tanning and shipbuilding. The 1820s saw development, with more efficient administrators and some energetic free settlers and ex-convicts.
German publisher and patron of the Arts, Friedrick Justin Bertuch, published a ‘Picture Book for Children’ in 1821 which included a hand-coloured copper plate print of Hobart Town.
This is his description of the scene depicted.
Hobart Town Van Diemen’s Land
Our picture shows the capital of the colony established on the great island of Van Diemen’s Land, situated south-west of New Holland. Although founded in 1804, by 1821 Hobart boasted more than 400 houses and 2.700 inhabitants.
The town features a government building, a church, some barracks and a secure prison-because the population is largely made up of criminals.
There is a hospital, and the town is defended by a battery. On Mount Nelson there is a signal telegraph station. The river Derwent on which this is built is navigable by the largest merchant vessels.
The European colony so close to the South Pole already has everything it needs to conduct a thriving trade. With a mild and healthy climate, the land produces an abundance of everything needed for a happy existence.
This will certainly be one of the most flourishing colonies that England has established.
Merchants developed trade, with Hobart a major port for the developing wool trade; shops grew; and fine Georgian sandstone buildings were erected, such as a Presbyterian church (1824), Salamanca Place warehouses (1830s), the Theatre Royal (1837) and private homes like Narryna (1828) and Westella (1835). Settlement extended to outlying areas such as Sandy Bay, South Hobart, West Hobart and New Town. As the seat of government, Hobart also gained official buildings such as the Treasury. Recreations developed: cricket, an annual regatta, and yachting on the Derwent. The busy port and the preponderance of convicts in the population meant that Hobart was still ‘wild and unruly’ with a high crime rate. By the 1840s, it ‘began to take on the guise of a town’, and it was declared a city in 1842.
Old Hobart Town is a unique multi award-winning model village depicting life in Hobart as it was in the 1820’s. Individually handcrafted with passion by Andrew and John Quick over a three year period, the authentic model village has been reconstructed from original plans and it gives a unique glimpse into the tough life of Australia’s convict past.
Designed and built from actual historical plans, the model village is an accurate representation of Hobart would have looked in the early 1800’s. It shows how the early town differs considerably from the modern city we know now, yet recognisable features and buildings can still be seen.
Old Hobart Town buildings have been constructed to a scale of 1:16. They are covered in cements and plasters into which are moulded stones, bricks and shingles. Plans for many of the buildings came from the Tasmanian archives, the Lands Department of the day, the Tasmania section of the library and the Tasmanian museum all assisted with information. The miniature trees are Tasmanian myrtles, a large rain forest tree. They have been trained and clipped using bonsai techniques. The people have been individually created in clay, fired and painted. The display opened in 1991.
Hobart Town was first settled by a small group of 300 people, mostly convicts and soldiers. There were many problems, the convicts were, as Collins described them, “a collection of old, worn out useless men or children equally as useless”. Little wonder that when Collins died in 1810, Hobart Town had hardly grown. Buildings were already crumbling because of bad workmanship. Not until Gov Sorell arrived in 1817 did Hobart Town began to change from a rough settlement to a town.
Isabelle! Careful not to step on anyone… everyone is so tiny! They’ve already been fired, it would be really bad luck if they were crushed as well!
The Hobart Rivulet flows from Mount Wellington, through Hobart’s city centre and into the River Derwent. For centuries it was a permanent source of drinking water; first for the Mouheneener band of the South-East people and then, after 1804, the first European settlers – for whom its clean water was an important reason for settling at this site. However it became polluted very rapidly, and typhoid epidemics during the 1880s and 1890s prompted local government to improve the quality of the Rivulet. Floods are frequent on the Rivulet and some, such as that in 1960, have severely damaged the city centre. The Rivulet was also a significant source of energy for early industries and so its history reflects the development of the city.
Lt Gov David Collins died 24 March 1810 and was buried at St David’s burial ground (now St David’s Park). St David’s Church constructed of wood was erected over David Collins’ grave as a temporary place for public worship. Within a few months it was blown down in a storm. In February 1813 Lt Gov Thomas Davey gained approval from Governor Lachlan Macquarie of New South Wales of plans for erection of the second St David’s Church. With other projects taking precedence, the foundation stone was finally laid in February 1817 on the corner of Murray and Macquarie Streets. The Church was a long time in building and St David’s Church was consecrated on 9 January 1823. When Hobart was declared a city in 1842, the existing St David’s Church became St David’s Cathedral.
The current St David’s Cathedral was built between 1868 and 1936 and is in the Gothic Revival style. The building sits on the corner of Macquarie and Murray Streets and forms one quadrant of what is considered to be the finest Georgian streetscape in Australia.
From the time of its foundation as a port in the early 1800s, Sullivans Cove has witnessed extensive land reclamation. Land has been extended by up to 250m seaward in the southern and western parts of the cove. Much of this occurred over the course of the nineteenth century. The northern part of Sullivans Cove, encompassing the railyards and port facilities on Macquarie Point, has seen the greatest reclamation. Here land has been extended up to 600m from the original 1800s shoreline. Much of this reclamation took place between 1900 and the 1970s, resulting in horizontal stratification of port infrastructure, with older buildings now situated inland behind modern wharves and terminals, limiting vistas across the cove. Beneath the current port facilities are former land forms and cultural material which have been buried during the various phases of land reclamation undertaken over almost 150 years.
Today, the waterfront of Sullivans Cove has largely become a tourist destination with a high concentration of cafes, restaurants, hotel and apartment accommodation, speciality shops, art galleries and is the location of the popular Salamanca market. While many modern buildings impose on the waterfront vistas of Sullivans Cove, a number of nineteenth century and early 20th century warehouses and port-related buildings have survived relatively intact, especially along Hunter Street and Salamanca Place. Most of these buildings have been adapted for tourism purposes and have become an important tourist drawcard for Hobart and Tasmania.
Let’s go to the full size Sullivans Cove! There are cakes there!
Just kidding, this is armchair travel for the moment… But only for the moment! Turns out South Korea is a very beary place!
We are unclear how many teddy bear museums are in South Korea. In 2011 there were five and the number has likely gone up, not down. By now, they are not exactly a novelty! The teddy bear museum is the official brand of JS&F, which operates the branches in Jeju, Seorak, Paju, Namsan and Seoul with different concepts and themes. Each teddy bear museum has a distinct theme and focus where thousands of custom-designed and antique Teddy Bears are showcased in elaborate exhibits, costumes and set designs to depict world-famous historical and current events, people and landmarks. We definitely like some of the costumes. We are not clear yet where we can get them from, but Honey and Isabelle will take the matter into their own paws. If you should visit any of the museums and come across naked bears, then you know we got there before you 🙂
JS&F is a toy manufacturer, resort and theme park operator with headquarters in Seoul, which was established in 1984. The teddy bear museum formula was so successful in South Korea, that JS&F opened a teddy bear world in Honolulu, Hawaii. They have an Elvis theatre 🙂
The Flagship Museum in South Korea is in Jeju-do, Jeju Island (2889 Saekdal-dong, Seogwipo, Jeju-do 697-130, South Korea). It opened in April 2001. About the time that Puffles took over my life…
The Teddy Bear Museum lives up to its name, boasting quite an impressive variety of teddy bears that have been loved for more than a hundred years the world over. Inside the two galleries you can view the teddy bears from various countries. You can also enjoy yourself at the museum shop, café, restaurant or the outdoor park where you can view the spectacular Jungmun Sea. The gallery is grouped into three sections: the History Hall, the Art Hall and the Project Exhibition Hall. In the History Hall, you can witness the 100-year history of teddy bears including famous scenes, popular teddy bears of different eras, and antique teddy bears. The Mona Lisa teddy bear and the teddy bears of the “The Last Supper” (Leonardo Da Vinci) will especially catch your eyes. Not necessarily in a cute way. Yes, I did say that! Some things look weird even to us 🙂 In the Art Hall are the latest artworks of world’s famous designers, and you will also find animation characters beloved by children. A section not to miss is where you can find the smallest Teddy Bear in the world at the size of 4.5mm. In the Project Exhibition Hall you can meet teddy bears grouped to suit the theme of each exhibition. The museum bar is a luxurious space only for adults (and special bears!!), which is open in the summer. In the museum garden there are teddy bear sculptures and models. The garden decorated with various themes such as the Korean Black bear family and the magical pond is also a great sight to behold.
From Jeju, the teddy bear museum concept has extended to other regions with specific themes and different stories. I’m told that in South Korea, teddy bears are also a notable part of the television drama GOONG (Princess Hours). At the end of every episode, there is a teddy reenactment of the important highlights in the episode!! Cuteness overload. And the Jeju museum has apparently featured in the series.
In 2008, a Teddy Bear Museum opened in the centre of Seoul, in the N Seoul Tower at Mt. Namsan.
The museum narrates with teddy bears the past, present and future of Seoul. With the future in the paws of teddy bears, it can only be good! There is a history gallery and a special gallery where a teddy bear is dressed as a king of Joseon Dynasty (1392~1910) and also shows a wide variety of early images of Seoul in the old days. The museum also features models of major Seoul tourist attractions, such as the Cheonggyecheon Stream, Myeongdong, Insadong, and Dongdaemun, allowing foreign travelers to see at a glance what Seoul has to offer.
The museum in Paju reinterprets South Korean television dramas and celebrities and the royal family through teddy bears.
Located in Sokcho, the Teddy Bear Farm Gallery offers a glimpse into the unique lifestyle of Sokcho through teddy bears: teddy bears are displayed mountain-climbing, skiing, playing golf, riding a boat from Abai Village to downtown, working hard on a squid fishing boat, sun tanning, or even defending the country. Visitors can purchase teddy bears at the gift shop and there are also some learning programs for teddy bear fans. The address is 15, Haksapyeong 2-gil, Sokcho-si, Gangwon-do (Nohak-do).
There is also a teddy bear museum in Pattaya, Thailand… and Taipei (Songshan Cultural and Creative park), Taiwan… Any travel plans, anybody?!?
In Taipei, they have reimagined some of the famous paintings with teddy bears in them 🙂
The teddy bear eco village in Takayama, Japan, will get a personal visit from THE bears in less than three months…
All photos from the museum in Paju courtesy of a pawsome friend 🙂 Thank you muchly!
A team from NASA working with light, have undertaken a project for IYL2015 called “Light: Beyond the Bulb”, mainly an online collection of beautiful images, with the goal to showcase the enormous spectrum of things that light does. It would be impossible to represent everything that light can do, but the image collection provides some of the most stunning examples they could find: from brain imaging to bioluminescence, from lasers to light pollution, and from auroras to astronomy.
These are some of our favourite images. You will find the entire collection, and the credits for all the images, at http://lightexhibit.org
Astrocytes are the star-shaped cells found in spinal cord and the brain. In fact, they are the most abundant cells in the human brain. In this image of astrocytes, the nucleus of each cell has been stained blue while the cytoplasm (the fluid that fills the cell) has been colored green. To achieve this, the process of immunofluorescence was used. Immunofluorescence is a staining technique that uses antibodies to attach fluorescent dyes to specific tissues and molecules in the cell.
While most people are familiar with “grey matter” associated with the brain, many people may not know about white matter. This is a network, made up of nerve fibers, that connects different parts of the brain and spinal cord to one another. This image was made using diffusion spectrum imaging (DSI), which is a variant of magnetic resonance imaging. In DSI, radio waves from water molecules energized by a magnetic field map the water contained in neuron fibers, which, in turn, reveals their criss-crossing patterns. Scientists are using this technique and others like it to make a comprehensive map of neural connections—a “wiring diagram,” so to speak—in the brain.
Most objects do not emit light. Rather, they reflect it from a source like a light bulb or sunlight. This common process allows us to see these things that are all around us. In fact, one of the fundamental laws of the physics of light involves reflection. Reflection consists of two rays: an incoming or ‘incident’ ray and an outgoing or ‘reflected’ ray. All reflected light obeys the rule that says the incident ray strikes a surface at the same angle that the reflected ray bounces away from it. In the case of a smooth surface like a mirror or, in the case of the photograph, the calm top of a lake, a clear identical image is produced.
At sunrise and sunset, light from the Sun must take a much longer path through the Earth’s atmosphere than it does during the middle part of the day. This means more of the blue and indigo light of sunlight is scattered away because these shorter wavelengths of visible light are more affected by air molecules in the atmosphere. This often allows more of the red and orange light to reach the Earth’s surface. Other factors — including dust, pollution, haze, and cloud formations – may also affect the colors of a sunset, creating a more complicated palette of light as the Sun dips below the horizon.
Some of the most famous light shows in the world are called auroras or, more commonly in the Northern Hemisphere, the “Northern Lights.” What causes these spectacular displays? Streams of particles with electric charge are continually leaving the Sun and traveling through the Solar System. As these particles approach the Earth, some of them are channeled by the planet’s magnetic field toward the North and South Poles. When these particles collide with atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere, the atoms in the atmosphere are excited give off light of a particular color tied to that type of atom.
Streams of particles with electric charge are continually leaving the Sun and traveling through the Solar System. As these particles approach the Earth, some of them are channeled by the planet’s magnetic field toward the North and South poles where they collide with atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere. This produces the famous light shows we call auroras, or, more commonly in the Northern Hemisphere, the “Northern Lights.” The array of colors in auroras is due to the fact that different atoms emit different colors when they get pumped up with energy from collisions. Oxygen, for example, will create a greenish-yellow or a red light. Nitrogen will generally give off blue.
Many people have been lucky enough to see a “shooting star.” However, this name is misleading because these brief streaks of light seen in the night sky actually have nothing to do with stars. Rather, these are tiny bits of debris usually left behind by a comet traveling through the Solar System. If the Earth passes through this debris trail, hundreds or even thousands of these cosmic bits enter the Earth’s atmosphere. When these meteors enter the atmosphere, they are moving at speeds ranging from 11 km/sec (25,000 mph) to 72 km/sec (160,000 mph), and collide with numerous air molecules. These collisions create a vapor of atoms that is a mixture of energized atoms from the meteors and the atmosphere. As the electrons in these atoms fall back to their normal orbits, light is emitted, creating the bright trail light visible from the ground below.
As a so-called spiral galaxy, our Milky Way galaxy contains majestic arms of stars, dust, and gas that emanate from a central bulge area. Our Solar System resides in one of the outer arms of the Milky Way. When we look toward the center of the Milky Way, as we do in this photograph, we see a swath of starlight across the sky. This, however, is only a small percentage of the total stars there, as the dust and gas block much of our view in visible light.
Despite being 150 million kilometers from the Earth, the Sun delivers approximately 5 trillion giga-joules of energy to the Earth’s surface every year. This is a tremendous amount of energy. In fact, if we could harness just one day’s worth of the Sun’s energy that reaches us, we could power the entire planet’s energy needs for seven decades. Of course, it’s not technologically feasible to try to capture all of the Sun’s output, but the Sun holds enormous potential for providing energy to the Earth’s inhabitants. As solar panels gain in efficiency and other advances are made, look to the Sun and its light to play an important role in powering the planet and its needs.
This galaxy is so bright in the southern night sky that navigators for centuries have used it to help guide them across the ocean. Modern telescopes reveal there is much more to this object than just being a bright prick of light seen from sea. This image combines three different types of light to give us this spectacular view of this neighboring galaxy to the Milky Way. In this view of the so-called Small Magellanic Cloud (named after Ferdinand Magellan), X-ray light is purple, infrared light is red, and optical light is red, green, and blue. Together, these different slices of light give us a more complete picture of a stellar nursery where stars like our Sun are being born.
New Chandra observations have been used to make the first detection of X-ray emission from young stars with masses similar to our Sun outside our Milky Way galaxy. The Chandra observations of these low-mass stars were made of the region known as the “Wing” of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), one of the Milky Way’s closest galactic neighbors. In this composite image of the Wing the Chandra data is shown in purple, optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope is shown in red, green and blue and infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope is shown in red. Astronomers call all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium – that is, with more than two protons in the atom’s nucleus – “metals”. The Wing is a region known to have fewer metals compared to most areas within the Milky Way. The Chandra results imply that the young, metal-poor stars in NGC 602a produce X-rays in a manner similar to stars with much higher metal content found in the Orion cluster in our galaxy.
The Orion Nebula, a region just to the south of the belt in the constellation bearing his name, is an active and boisterous stellar nursery. This image of the Orion Nebula is in infrared light, which, in contrast to light at visible wavelengths, passes through the dust that pervades the nebula, and reveals the very young stars buried within.
This wide-field view of the Orion Nebula (Messier 42), lying about 1350 light-years from Earth, was taken with the VISTA infrared survey telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. The new telescope’s huge field of view allows the whole nebula and its surroundings to be imaged in a single picture and its infrared vision also means that it can peer deep into the normally hidden dusty regions and reveal the curious antics of the very active young stars buried there. This image was created from images taken through Z, J and Ks filters in the near-infrared part of the spectrum. The exposure times were ten minutes per filter. The image covers a region of sky about one degree by 1.5 degrees.
It’s a cake! It comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, all yummy!
No story today?
After I get my cakes!
The story goes…
…that the lamington was created as the result of an accident by a maid on the staff of Lord Lamington, the 8th Governor of Queensland. While working at Government House in Brisbane, the maid accidentally dropped the Governor’s favourite sponge cake into some melted chocolate. Lord Lamington was not a man to waste food and suggested it then be dipped in coconut to avoid getting chocolatey fingers.
In 1998, an elected delegate by the name of Paul Tully, suggested that from his research on the previous Australian Governors, the colonies and states had produced evidence of only “one, single, solitary, positive achievement of any Governor since the First Fleet arrived in 1788” – Lord Lamington’s creation of the lamington 🙂
Time to celebrate and eat cake!
A lamington is a dessert of Australian origin. It consists of squares of sponge cake coated first in a layer of traditionally chocolate sauce, then in desiccated coconut. Lamingtons are sometimes served as two halves with a layer of cream or strawberry jam between.
The chocolate coating is a thin mixture, into which cubes of sponge cake are dipped, and the chocolate is absorbed into the outermost layers of the sponge where it sets. (Similarly, the strawberry jam or chocolate icing is absorbed into the sponge.) The cubes are then covered with coconut and left to set.
Most accounts of the creation of the lamington agree that it was named after Lord Lamington, who served as Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901, although it might have been named for his wife, Lady Lamington. One account claims the dessert resembled the homburg hats that he favoured. Another claim has them named after the village of Lamington, South Lanarkshire in Scotland. As the title Baron Lamington itself derives from the village, however, the question of this connection is merely whether it is direct or indirect.
Even among those who attribute the name to Lord Lamington, there are different claims as to the exact location and creator of the cake itself. According to one claim, Lamingtons were first served in Toowoomba when Lord Lamington took his entourage to Harlaxton House to escape the steamy heat of Brisbane.
In another claim, Lamington’s chef at Queensland’s Government House, French-born Armand Galland, was called upon at short notice to provide something to feed unexpected guests during the busy period leading up to Federation in 1901. According to the Melbourne newspaper The Age, Galland cut up some left-over French vanilla sponge cake baked the day before, dipped the slices in chocolate and set them in coconut. Coconut was not widely used in European cooking at that time, but was known to Galland whose wife was from Tahiti where coconut was a common ingredient. Lady Lamington’s guests then asked for the recipe. And here it is!
3 1/2 cups icing sugar mixture
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/2 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Grease a 3cm-deep, 20cm x 30cm (base) lamington pan. Line with baking paper, leaving a 2cm overhang on all sides. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition (mixture may curdle).
Sift half the flour over butter mixture. Stir to combine. Add half the milk. Stir to combine. Repeat with remaining flour and milk. Spoon into prepared pan. Smooth top. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in centre comes out clean. Stand in pan for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack. Cover with a clean tea towel. Set aside overnight.
Make icing: Sift icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl. Add butter and boiling water. Stir until smooth.
Cut cake into 15 pieces. Place coconut in a dish. Using a fork, dip 1 piece of cake in icing. Shake off excess. Toss in coconut. Place on a wire rack over a baking tray. Repeat with remaining cake, icing and coconut. Stand for 2 hours or until set. Serve.
It makes stars of little chefs! By the way, you don’t have to coat the sponge cake in chocolate, you can coat the cubes in other yummy flavours, like strawberry.
A further alternative claim is that Lord Lamington’s cook, presumably Galland, accidentally dropped a block of sponge cake into a dish of chocolate. It was later discovered that desiccated coconut, sprinkled over the top, made the cakes more appealing.
Most of these claims are based on relatively recent reports. First known mention of “Lamington cake” appears in an 1896 newspaper account of a “Lamington Function” at Laidley in Queensland. The event was in honour of Lord Lamington (although it appears he did not attend) and also featured “Lamington Tea”, “Lamington Soup” etc, so, in the absence of any description of the cake, the name of the cake might signify nothing more than the name of the event. A 1900 recipe for a cream-filled lamington has been found in the Queensland Country Life newspaper. While the recipe appears to originate in Queensland, it spreads quickly, appearing in a Sydney newspaper in 1901 and a New Zealand newspaper in 1902. However, none of these recipes indicate the creator of the recipe nor the reason for its name. The earliest reference located so far to the naming of the lamington is in October 1933, where the name is linked to Lord Lamington.
Ironically, Lord Lamington was believed to have hated the dessert cakes that had been named in his honour, referring to them as “those bloody poofy woolly biscuits”.
21 July is actually National Lamington Day in Australia, or at least in Queensland 🙂
By the way, there is a Lamington National Park on the Lamington Plateau of the McPherson Range on the Queensland/New South Wales border. It is 110 kilometres south of Brisbane. The Lamington National Park is known for its natural beauty, rainforests, birdlife, ancient trees, waterfalls, walking tracks and mountain views. We didn’t even know it existed until a minute ago! We’ll have to check it out for ourselves. Road trip! I wonder if they have lamingtons growing on trees 🙂
One of the most striking aspects of the Port Arthur site is the beauty of the surrounding landscape and its contrast to the horror of the events and penal-industrial system of 19th century convictism. By some accounts, the beautiful landscape works against the conservation and interpretation of the main messages and related historic and social values of the site. However, this quality of the site was noted early on — indeed by the convicts themselves — and thus could be considered one of the important historic elements in the site’s past. For some visitors, the serenity of the landscape makes it difficult to imagine the brutality of the convict period. For others, that same serenity actually helps them reflect on the site’s past. Buildings such as the penitentiary and the Separate Prison — where the convict experience is immediately felt — have the most potential for conveying the historic experience.
Port Arthur was a convict site for 47 years, but it has been a historic site for more than a hundred years. Today, the site entry pass is valid for daytime entry for two consecutive days and includes a 20 minute ferry cruise in the inner harbour and a 40 minute guided walking tour, a great introduction to Port Arthur, its people and its past. You really need a minimum of four hours on site to explore more than 30 historic buildings, ruins, gardens and restored houses on site. There is also a museum, with written records, tools, clothing and other interesting things from convict times. There were over 1000 convicts at Port Arthur at any time and they were encouraged to educate themselves, through two hours of voluntary schooling every evening and by using the prison library and its 13,000 books. Given the strict hygiene standards, the premature death rate at Port Arthur was apparently two and a half times lower than in squalid London. You probably need all day if you intend to go on the optional daytime guided walking tours on Point Puer and the Isle of the Dead. And an evening if you are interested in the late night “ghost tours”!
The twenty-minute ferry cruise sails past the dockyards, the site of the Point Puer boys’ prison, and the Isle of the Dead.
Only scattered ruins remain of the former boys’ prison at Point Puer (1834), located across the harbor from Mason Cove. Point Puer was created to separate boys ages eighteen and under from older prisoners. One of the lesser known aspects of Port Arthur was its reformist approach to juvenile crime. Incredible as it may seem, in England in the 1830s, childhood for the poor was considered over by the age of four, when the child would be put to work. By the age of just seven, a child legally became an adult. At the age of eight a child could be executed, and, at nine, transported.
The boys’ prison ceased operations in 1849 and 3000 boys, some as young as nine years old, some sentenced for crimes which today would be considered insignificant, were sentenced to the Point Puer Boys’ Prison between 1834 and 1849. An optional daytime guided walking tour takes you around Point Puer boys’ prison. Located across the harbour from Port Arthur, Point Puer was the first reformatory built exclusively for juvenile male convicts in the British Empire. It was renowned for its regime of stern discipline and harsh punishment.
Some say the voices of young boys can still be heard at Point Puer. Legend has it that two of the boys committed suicide by jumping into the sea. Some claim to have heard their screams… or was it the cry of the sea gulls?
An optional daytime guided walking tour takes you on the Isle of the Dead. This small island was the final resting place for more than 1000 convicts, military and civil officers, women and children who were buried here between 1833 and 1877. During the guided walking tour you discover some of their stories. The island’s name was officially changed to the Isle of the Dead, from Dead Island, at the request of the ferry operator!
It was the custom to use one of the convicts as a resident gravedigger. Mark Jeffrey, Irish and short tempered and serving a sentence for manslaughter, lived in a small hut on the island. He was brought over to the mainland on Saturday night to attend the Church service on Sunday, returning to the island on Monday.
One morning mid week a signal fire was spotted and when the authorities sent a boat over to investigate them found Jeffrey in a distressed condition, begging to be taken off the island. He related how on the previous night his hut had been shaken and rocked by an invisible force and a fiery red glow had lit up the walls and surrounding ground. According to Jeffrey when he went to investigate he was confronted by the Devil, its red eyes smouldering, horns erect and encircled by sulphurous smoke. Jeffrey was diagnosed as becoming “unhinged by crime and suffering”.
Back on land, the guided walking tour points out the major historic buildings on site.
The Commandant’s House (1833) was home to the highest-ranking official at Port Arthur, once occupied by the notorious O’Hara Booth. It was enlarged several times, extending up the hill. It served as the Carnarvon Hotel from 1885 to around 1904, and then as a guest house until the 1930s.
Today the guests are four little bears and a Feep…
… enthralled by stories from the guide.
There are perplexing occurrences at the Commandant’s House… like the gate which opens by itself… and a window which seems to like to be sky-high. The caretakers’ last duty of the day is to secure all doors and windows, yet many early morning workers have arrived to find the windows wide open.
The front bedroom also holds its mysteries.
The room was the sleeping place of the former Commandant, O’Hara Booth. His bed is kept meticulously made and smooth. It is also roped off from the public. Yet guides speak of the occasions when they have found the imprint of a large body on the bed. And after they have smoothed out the covers, the shape reappears. It is said that the ghost of Commandant Charles O’Hara Booth stands at the window of his bedroom, looking out over the settlement as he weeps silently.
Guides also tell of the sound of footsteps, and the sound of someone reading. And someone rocking.
The rocking chair is in the room at the end and to the left of the long corridor. It is a simple colonial chair which stands in the corner, looking innocent enough. Yet, on occasions when the Commandant’s Hose has been empty, the distinct sound of rocking has frequently been heard. Some have even discovered the chair to be moving… as though an occupant has just disappeared.
The front bedroom also holds one of only three item known with certainty to be from the Port Arthur convict days, a chest of drawers.
Port Arthur has the best example of a “Separate Prison” system. This system was started at Pentonville prison in London. The Separate Prison (sometimes called the Model Prison) was started in 1848, finished in 1853 and made bigger in 1855. It has 80 prison cells built in the shape of a cross, where prisoners were isolated for 23 hours per day. In the centre is a hall and a chapel. There are exercise yards built between the arms of the cross where the prisoners had access for one hour a day.
The Separate system was a change in the way that prisoners were treated. Instead of physical punishment the system used psychological (mind) punishment. It was thought that physical punishment, such as whippings, only made prisoners worse. It did not turn bad people into good people. In the Separate prison they used the “Silent System”. Prisoners wore a hood over their heads. They were not allowed to talk or make any noise. The guards wore special shoes and walked on mats so they wouldn’t make any noise. Even in the chapel, each prisoner was kept in a separate wooden box where they could only see the altar. The prisoners were supposed to use the quiet time to think about the bad things they had done. Port Arthur was seen as the best prison in Australia.
Port Arthur’s Model Prison is filled with ghosts. Even in bright daylight, the suffering of those who were imprisoned seems to seep from the stone walls. Standing alone in the corridor, one can imagine the shuffling line of cowled figures as they filed into chapel, the hollow voice of a guard echoing off stone, the despairing clang of a cell door shutting… the silence.
But at night, ghosts rise. To step through the door is to step into what seems like Hades. On either side, two rows of cells mock gapingly, their doors empty, black sockets. At the furthest end is the black hole of a fireplace surrounded by blank eyes. In the dim, flickering light, one thinks of a death mask. Was that soft footstep an echo? Or was it something else? And that sigh… What was it?
There are stories associated with the Model Prison which verify the eerie feelings. Those gaping cells seem to lure the visitor to step inside. But once in, the natural urge is to step right back out. Few humans would want to stay surrounded by those cold walls of silence and solitude. As in the case of the prisoners who were condemned to the Model Prison, only a power greater than the person could compel them stay.
That is why the happenings in cell no 4 are so strange… and also why the doorway has been boarded over. The story has only been recorded twice, but the occasions are so similar in detail, and so compelling, that the cell has been made out of bounds. In the words of the tour guide, “people get frozen in there”.
In both cases, the people who had stepped inside to view the cell found themselves trapped – not because the door had closed, but because something had made them feel powerless. And that something was a terrifying thing… a horrifying someone. Not only were they powerless to move or speak. Both individuals were found in the same corner. Both were in the fetal position. Both were rigid with terror. Both had to be literally carried out of the cell and away from the prison.
But that is not the end of cell no 4.
It is the belief of some that tampering with the stones of old buildings releases the spirits. Perhaps this explains the following story. A restoration crew had been engaged to work on the Model Prison. The workers were taking a break from their task of repairing some of the cells. The group had gathered around their leader, who was leaning against the wall of the corridor – right next to the doorway of cell no 4. A few jokes were made. A few directions were given. The workers were just being like workers on their mid morning break… When, suddenly, the group leader felt someone… or something… grab his arm. Not just grab, it was a clutch. A hard clutch! Looking around, he saw that the muscular arm came from the door of cell no 4. And he had the bruises to prove it!
If cell no 4 doesn’t provide quite enough in the way of ghostly stories, there is the deaf and dumb cell. Recalcitrant prisoners were placed here for what must have been the most terrifying punishment of all. Not a ray of light pierces the darkness; not a sound penetrates the maze of stone walls. Here the prisoner was kept for up to three days. Some emerged raving mad. Today, as they experience their three minutes of darkness, some visitors report hearing sighs and moans. The work of sensitive imaginations? …Or the muted spirits of men caught in stone?
The asylum (1867) housed the mentally ill, older convicts, and ex-convicts — some transported from locations other than Port Arthur. From 1895 to 1973 it was home to the Carnarvon Town Board (later known as the Tasman Municipal Council). Today it houses a small museum and a cafeteria.
It is easy to imagine the demented cackling of old men as one wonders the old Asylum. Men made crazy by long periods in solitary confinement, or separation from friends and family, or too much brutality, were incarcerated here. Some say their wild laughter can still be heard… or is it the sound of wind through the ruins?
The church, constructed in 1836-37, was gutted by a fire in 1884 that left only its walls standing. The ruins of the church are perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Port Arthur today.
The Port Arthur Church has been haunted since it went on fire in 1884. The bell tower rings randomly, and strange lights are seen emanating from the bell tower. During the church’s construction, two convicts got into a fight and one of them fell to his death. When ivy began to grow on the wall, it did not grow on the spot where the man fell and died on.
The structures remaining along the Civil Officers’ Row housed civilian officials at Port Arthur. These include the Accountant’s House (1842); the Junior Medical Officer’s House (1848); the Parsonage (1842-43), which housed the Anglican parson; and the Magistrate’s and Surgeon’s Houses (1847).
The Parsonage is one of the most haunted buildings in Port Arthur. A nineteenth century writer, George Gruncell, described a number of strange events that occurred at the Parsonage in the 1870s. The Hayward family had been visiting Melbourne, the Reverend Hayward had to come back early leaving his family to follow.
One night after his return, the doctor at the settlement, seeing lights from the upstairs rooms of the Parsonage, thought that the parson’s wife and children had returned. When he went to welcome them home, he found only the Reverend Hayward and a servant. No one had been upstairs and when the rooms were inspected they were found to be in darkness. But others in the settlement had also seen the lights and assumed that the family had returned.
On another occasion the Reverend and his wife were sitting in the drawing room when they became aware of an intense light shining under the door of the study across the landing. When they peered through the keyhole the room appeared to be brilliantly illuminated, yet when they opened the door it was in complete darkness.
A few months later they had Judge Flemming staying with them and they told him the story of the mysterious lighted room. He was not inclined to believe the story, but that same night the lights appeared again exactly as they had before. They all peered through the keyhole at the brightly lit room but when they opened the door it was in complete darkness.
The guest chamber gained a reputation as a haunted room. A lady guest was driven from her bed one night by unexplained knocking noises that seemed to come from the walls and floors in the room. When she fled up the stairs she heard the patter of feet behind her on the stairs.
Some months later, a servant was sent to check the fire in the guest room, suddenly she let out a terrific shriek and collapsed senseless in the middle of the room. When she was revived, she explained that she had seen the figure of a man looking at her through the window. He had a knife or dagger in his hand and he held it as though about to strike. She would never again enter the room after dark.
Shortly before the penal settlement was disbanded, Mrs Hayward’s mother and sister came to visit. One night Mrs Price’s mother was unable to sleep. The moon was shining through the window and as she lay with her eyes open she became aware that somebody had entered the room. It was a human figure draped in white. She lay still and watched the figure through half open eyes, afraid that it might be a burglar after her jewels. The figure appeared to strike a match and then made its way to a cot in which a child was sleeping. After looking at the sleeping child for a moment the apparition turned and glided out of the room.
The hospital, which housed up to eighty patients, was opened in 1842. It served convicts and soldiers in separate wards. The structure was severely damaged by bushfires in the 1890s, leaving only the ruined façade and northwest wing standing today.
Soldiers lived, ate and engaged in recreation at the military compound. It included a parade ground for military exercises. The compound also housed civilian officers and military families. The soldiers’ barracks were demolished after the settlement was closed, and other buildings in the precinct were lost in bushfires in the 1890s. One of the dominant structures today is the guard tower (1835). Other extant structures are Tower Cottage (1854), which housed married officers and their families, as well as some wall sections, two small turrets and some foundations.
Moans are heard from the tower, and apparitions of observing soldiers have been seen dressed in their uniforms. There is also the spirit of one soldier who walks the hallway and grabs visitors by the arm as they pass by. In the Tower Cottage, directly behind the watch tower there have been sightings of a soldier in red uniform.
Private Robert Young was drowned near the jetty in 1840. Some years ago, a guest at Jetty Cottage woke in fright to see a figure of a man with straight black hair and wearing a ruffled white shirt in her room. Other guests have seen the same figure sitting on the front steps of the cottage and on the jetty.
Ex-convicts who were too old or infirm to work gathered at the Paupers’ Mess, built in 1864. Only the walls of the building remain today.
The Penitentiary, a substantial four-story structure was built between 1842 and 1844 and originally served as a granary and flour mill for about a decade. In 1857, it was converted to a penitentiary and held prisoners until the closure of the Port Arthur convict settlement. It housed 136 convicts on its first two floors in separate cells and 348 in dormitory-style accommodations on the fourth floor. The third floor housed a library, mess, and Catholic chapel. Sometime after 1877, the structure was ravaged by fire and looted. Today, several of its main wall sections have been stabilized to prevent collapse, and it is visually the most dominant structure in the Mason Cove area.
Smith O’Brien’s Cottage, built to approximately its present configuration in 1846, was named for the Irish political prisoner held there in 1850. It also was once a stable and the military hospital.
Wait a minute, where are the little bears?
They’ve decided to escape the haunted place and take a nice stroll on White Beach… No ghosts here! Just cute little bears 🙂 And a stunning view.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, England implemented a policy under which convicted criminals were sent to Australia to serve out their sentences and be reformed through work. Prisons, support communities, and small industries were established in Australia to punish, employ, and equip the incoming convict population.
Port Arthur was to be the center of this new convict system, organized in the remote area now known as Tasman Peninsula. There, repeat offenders and the recalcitrant served out their terms — often life sentences at hard labor. Now in a ruined state, Port Arthur is of great significance to contemporary Australians, particularly Tasmanians. The site is one of the best-known symbols of the era of “convictism”, which played such a formative role in Australia’s history and identity. In designating a site for its penal colony, England chose the Tasman Peninsula for its remoteness and isolation.
Port Arthur is a complex and rich heritage site. Dozens of buildings occupy the site, some in ruins, some restored as museums, others adapted for reuse in a variety of ways. Some structures date from the convict period (1830‒77), and others represent later eras. The site is also rich in archaeological resources.
Aboriginal peoples are believed to have inhabited the island of Tasmania for at least 36,000 years prior to the arrival of the first Europeans in the mid-seventeenth century. Dutch navigator Abel Tasman led the first European expedition to Tasmania in 1642 and named the island Van Diemen’s Land after his sponsor, the governor-general of the Dutch East India Company.
Under the British Empire, the convict system was formally initiated through the Transportation Act of 1717, which stated that the “labor of criminals in the colonies would benefit the nation.” Convicts were once auctioned to British colonists in North America, but the American Revolution put an end to this practice. In December 1786, Orders in Council identified, among other territories, the east coast of New Holland (Australia) and its adjacent islands as the colonies that would receive transported criminals. The first fleet that sailed from England the following year to settle the Australian state of New South Wales carried a significant number of convicts. In 1790, Governor Phillip of New South Wales introduced the policy of assigning convicts as indentured laborers or servants to free settlers. Phillip believed that providing convict labor for a period of two years at the expense the Crown would encourage settlers to the area. The practice soon spread throughout the colony and became known as the assignment system.
In 1803, Governor King of New South Wales sent a fleet, which included convicts, to establish the first British settlement in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) near the present city of Hobart. King had chosen the island to ward off the threat of French settlement and to monitor American whaling ships. Hobart soon became an important port and the seat of government for the island. Van Diemen’s Land, which originally was not a separate colony but an outpost of New South Wales, and its isolated location was viewed as suitable for the containment of hard-core convicts. The island’s first penal settlement was established at Macquarie Harbour, on the island’s west coast, in 1821. A second station was created at Maria Island in 1825. Both facilities were secondary penal stations that held prisoners who had committed new offenses since their transport to Australia.
Demand in Hobart for wood was high, particularly for shipbuilding, and in September 1830 the first convicts were sent to Port Arthur to cut timber. Soon thereafter, the island’s third secondary penal station was constructed at Port Arthur. Following the closure of the penal settlements at Maria Island in September 1832 and at Macquarie Harbour a month later, Port Arthur’s population, infrastructure, and importance grew rapidly. The following year, a small island within sight of Port Arthur was selected for burials. The island, which would over time receive approximately one thousand interments, was then known as Dead Island. In 1834, prisoners’ barracks were built and the first juvenile prison in the British Empire was constructed at Point Puer, across the bay from Port Arthur. Its purpose was to separate young male convicts from the “bad company and example” of the adult convict population. Construction began on the settlement’s first permanent buildings, which included a church. By 1836, the settlement contained almost one thousand convicts and Point Puer nearly three hundred boys. Port Arthur had become an important industrial center, the site of ship and shoe manufacturing, lime making, saw milling, stone quarrying, coal mining, brick and pottery manufacturing, leather tanning, and agricultural production.
An 1838 British House of Commons Select Committee on transportation severely criticized the arbitrariness of the assignment system. Consequently, convictism in Australia changed markedly. The committee proposed replacing the assignment system with a new approach known as the probation system. Committee members believed new convicts should complete various stages of incarceration and labor and eventually earn their freedom through good behavior. Under the new system, newly transported prisoners would initially spend a portion of their sentences working at a probation station. They then would be organized into gangs to work on roads, to clear land, and to provide agricultural labor in remote areas. To incorporate the probation system, housing for the convict gangs had to be constructed quickly.
Immediately following the adoption of the probation system in 1841, Van Diemen’s Land was chosen as the location of several probation stations to be administered from Port Arthur. These stations were established at Saltwater River, the Coal Mines, Cascades, and Impression Bay. Additional stations were set up on the adjacent Forestier Peninsula. When criminal transport to New South Wales ceased after 1842, the number of convicts sent to Van Diemen’s Land increased significantly. By this time, Port Arthur had entered a significant period of development, marked by construction of a hospital (1842), flour mill and granary (1842-45), and houses for administrators. The start of construction of the Model Prison (later known as the Separate Prison) in 1848 signaled a shift in the settlement’s approach to the administration of prisoners. The new approach was based on ideas from Britain and the United States at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century that prisoners should be reformed through a regime of total silence and anonymity. In the 1820s, experiments in separate and silent incarceration were carried out in the United States, most notably at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia system was refined in Britain and later at Pentonville Prison in London, which served as the model for the design of the Separate Prison at Port Arthur. Among the system’s more prominent components were its solitary cells used to isolate prisoners from the corrupting influences of other prisoners, and its “dumb cells”, wherein problem inmates were deprived of light and sound. These prisoners were allowed outside their cells only once a day for one hour. They were forced to wear hoods to avoid being recognized by other convicts and felt slippers to muffle the sound of their footsteps. Other changes at the settlement during this period included the closure of the Point Puer boys’ prison in 1849 and the conversion of the flour mill and granary into a penitentiary from 1854 to 1857.
The number of transported convicts to Van Diemen’s Land decreased over the years, and the practice finally ceased in 1853. Three years later, Van Diemen’s Land was renamed Tasmania. Although probation stations on the island gradually were shuttered as the last convicts passed through them, Port Arthur and its outstations continued to operate for some time. The settlement evolved into a welfare establishment, housing paupers, invalids, and the mentally ill, as evidenced by the construction of a Paupers’ Mess in 1864 and the asylum in 1868. In 1871, control over Port Arthur was transferred from the British Imperial to the Tasmanian State government. The cessation of Imperial funds signaled the impending decay of Port Arthur’s structures. Six years later, the Port Arthur penal colony was finally closed down. This event signaled the end of the free labor supply that Tasmania had relied on since the beginning of the 19th century. From 1830 to 1877, more than 12,000 sentences were served out at the settlement.
After the end of convictism in Tasmania, the physical remains of the convict system were often referred to as “blots on the landscape.” Reminders of the island’s sordid past, they were routinely demolished and their materials reused. In 1877, the newly dubbed Tasman Peninsula was opened to private settlement, the former prison site was renamed Carnarvon, and the government attempted to auction the land lots and buildings to the public. At first, local residents resisted buying property at Carnarvon, but by the early 1880s a small community with a school and post office had been established. Some of the penal buildings were demolished and sold as salvage, and others were converted to serve new purposes. Carnarvon became the center of the Tasman Peninsula community, functioning as a gathering spot for sporting events and other functions. Tourism grew, benefiting the local economy.
Although the establishment of the Carnarvon community was slow to take hold, both local and outside interest in the former penal site had grown, nurtured by curiosity about its dark past. Many locals wished the remains of the penal settlement would crumble into oblivion; at the same time, they realized its potential for income. Thus began Carnarvon’s evolution into a tourist town.
The first concerted effort to benefit financially from the site’s tourist potential came in 1881 — only four years after the closing of the penal colony — when the Whitehouse brothers launched a biweekly steamer service between Hobart and Norfolk Bay to transport visitors to Carnarvon. Two years later, the brothers opened the first hotel at the site of the former Commissariat Store. In 1893, the volunteer Tasmanian Tourist Association was formed to promote and develop Tasmania as a tourist destination. The association prepared and distributed leaflets about Carnarvon, focusing on the scenic qualities of the region. The site’s sordid past was rarely mentioned, an omission that became a recurring pattern in the promotion of Carnarvon and the rest of Tasmania. The 1890s also witnessed the opening of the Port Arthur Museum in Hobart at the photography studio of J. W. Beattie, which exhibited numerous period photographs of the site as well as convict-era relics.
A series of fires in 1884, 1895 and 1897 destroyed and damaged several structures. Many of the remaining convict-era buildings were gutted, including the church, asylum, hospital, prison, and penitentiary. Concurrently, however, many new buildings were being constructed, symbolizing the steady growth of the Tasman Peninsula community around Carnarvon.
In 1913, the Tasmanian Tourist Association submitted the first proposal to the Tasmanian State government for the management of the ruins at the site. Later that year, the government drafted the first set of recommendations for the site’s management, including physical repairs to the church, and began to implement them the following year. This move marked the first effort of the Tasmanian State government to actively preserve a historic site.
The government then established the Scenery Preservation Board (SPB) in 1915 to manage parks and reserves across the state, including the Port Arthur site. The following year, the SPB laid the groundwork for the first formal protection of the ruins at Port Arthur through the creation of five reserves: the church, the penitentiary, the Model Prison, Point Puer and Dead Island. The SPB was directly responsible for Port Arthur’s management, but its secretary and field staff — all state employees — were based in Hobart. It is worth noting that the board’s main function was to protect the site’s natural environment and scenery rather than its cultural heritage. These reserves were Australia’s first gazetted historic sites — a measure of Port Arthur’s long-standing importance in Australian culture. Gradually, the SPB acquired land at the site, appointed guides, and conducted a few small-scale preservation projects. Over the next two decades, Carnarvon was widely publicized and its notoriety spread quickly. By 1925, the SPB, its financial resources running low, accepted the Tasman Municipal Council’s offer to assume management of the reserves, subject to certain conditions set by the SPB.
In 1926, a remake of the 1908 film ‘For the Term of His Natural Life’ was shot at the site, despite protests that it would result in negative publicity for Tasmania. Released in 1927, the film was a box-office success and had a significant impact in promoting tourism to the site. That same year, Carnarvon was renamed Port Arthur in an effort to help outsiders identify the site’s convict history. The Port Arthur Tourist and Progress Association was also formed for the purpose of further developing the site into a tourist center.
The Tasman Municipal Council managed the site until 1938, when control was turned over to the Port Arthur and Eaglehawk Neck Board, a new group within the SPB, as a result of the Tasmanian State government’s renewed financial support for the SPB. Over the next two years, the government acquired the Powder Magazine, the Government Cottage, the Commandant’s House, and the cottage in which Irish political prisoner William Smith O’Brien was held in 1850. As before, the justification for purchasing the properties was their economic earning potential from tourism. However, during World War II, visitation to the site plunged. The SPB had its budget slashed at the same time it was assigned the task of managing sixteen new reserves. As a result, the buildings at Port Arthur were allowed to decay even further, and losses due to theft and vandalism only added to the toll.
Following the recommendations of a document known as the McGowan Plan, the Tasmanian State government took a bold step in 1946, purchasing the town of Port Arthur for the sum of£21,000. In a stark change from the past, the plan called for valuing the history and architecture of the site rather than focusing primarily on its economic value. Tourist visitation to the site grew rapidly once again after the end of World War II. Access to the site remained free, however, and the SPB had difficulty developing and managing the site with the small amounts of income generated from guide fees and building rentals. Nevertheless, some conservation and ground beautification projects moved forward. In the 1950s, the SPB managed to purchase the town hall/asylum building and leased it to the Tasman Municipal Council, which had been using the building as its chambers. Encountering licensing problems at Hotel Arthur, located in the former Medical Officer’s House, the SPB approved construction of a new motel on the hill behind Civil Officers’ Row overlooking the rear of the Model Prison and the whole site. After years of delays, the motel finally opened in 1960. Two years later, the Tasman Peninsula Board, a new group within the SPB, assumed responsibility for site conservation after years of ineffective management.
In 1971, the Tasmanian State government dissolved the SPB and replaced it with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), which then assumed responsibility for the management of Port Arthur. In 1973, the Tasman Municipal Council vacated the town hall/asylum building and moved to Nubeena. At that time, the NPWS had a policy that excluded residential use within the historic site. The council’s relocation and conversion of the town hall to a visitor center was symbolic of the community’s displacement from the historic site. The 1970s and succeeding decades saw increased state investment in conservation and creation of more dedicated management regimes for Port Arthur as a heritage site.
In 1979, the Tasmanian State government announced the first substantial commitment of monies from the Commonwealth and the state (A$9 million over seven years) to conservation at the site in the form of the Port Arthur Conservation and Development Project (PACDP). This project, which continued until 1986, funded the extensive restoration of historic buildings, the stabilization of ruins, and the development of visitor related facilities and infrastructure, and provided for the conservation and development of historic resources throughout the Tasman Peninsula as well. Based on input from Australia ICOMOS, the NPWS revised and expanded the recognized significance of Port Arthur as a historic site to include the township period (roughly 1880 to 1930). The PACDP was at the time the largest heritage conservation and development project undertaken in all of Australia. It also served as a significant training ground for Australian heritage professionals. This training component has produced a nationwide interest in the ongoing conservation work and protection of the cultural resources at Port Arthur.
As the seven-year project came to a close, the Tasmanian Minister of Arts, Heritage and Environment refused to provide further funding. The Tasmanian Parliament responded in 1987 by passing the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority Act. This act created and transferred authority over the site to the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA), a government business enterprise (GBE).
In late April of 1996, tragedy struck when a gunman killed thirty-five people at Port Arthur, twenty inside the Broad Arrow Café and fifteen in the immediate vicinity. Most of the victims were tourists, but the remainder both worked and lived at Port Arthur. The event proved to be traumatic to the site staff and the local community. In December of that year, the Broad Arrow Café was partially demolished. The tragedy forged a new chapter in Port Arthur’s, and Australia’s, history by almost immediately catalyzing the passage and enactment of national gun control legislation in Australia. The Australian prime minister also tapped funds to build a new Visitor Centre to replace the Broad Arrow Café.
Shortly thereafter, the Tasmanian authorities commissioned the Doyle Inquiry into the management of Port Arthur. This investigation looked at the workings of PAHSMA since its establishment, including the PAHSMA Board’s handling of the development of the new Visitor Centre and parking area, its relations with employees in the aftermath of the tragedy at the café, and the conservation and maintenance of historic resources at the site. The inquiry resulted in amendments to the PAHSMA Act as well as the reconstitution of the PAHSMA Board. With the 1998 change in the Tasmanian legislature from the Liberal Party to the Labor Party, the state government adopted policies encouraging tourism to improve the economy. This new stance also led to the appointment of high-profile individuals to the PAHSMA Board, including a former executive director of the Australian Heritage Commission (AHC).
In 2000, the Tasmanian premier announced that PAHSMA would receive A$10 million in funding for conservation over the ensuing five years. A condition of the funding was that PAHSMA would submit a new conservation plan to the AHC. The premier also announced that state and Commonwealth funding would be provided for the creation of “The Convict Trail”, which would reconnect the historic site at Port Arthur with the convict outstations throughout the rest of the Tasman Peninsula, including those at Eaglehawk Neck, Cascades, Impression Bay, Saltwater River, the Coal Mines, and Norfolk Bay. PAHSMA, the Tasman Municipal Council, and local businesses formed a partnership known as Port Arthur Region Marketing Ltd. (PARM) to market the Port Arthur region as a tourist destination. After much debate, a memorial garden also was created in the spring of 2000 at the site of the former Broad Arrow Café, which is now in ruins.
The most recent restoration project at Port Arthur has been to restabilise the penitentiary and ensure its conservation for future generations.
In 2011 parts of the building were inundated with water following an extreme weather event. This event triggered a reassessment of the structural integrity of the Penitentiary and confirmed the requirement for a major stabilisation project. Commencing in early 2014, and completing in late 2014, the project has seen the implementation of a suite of structural interventions. The Tasmanian Government contributed A$3 million to the project, the Federal Government A$1.5 million, with the balance of the A$7.2 million cost being covered by PAHSMA through revenue raised by its tourism operations.
We’re on the Arthur Highway from Hobart to Port Arthur. What a grand aventure is ahead!
The first stop along the way is Dunalley, a quiet fishing hamlet. Imlay Street on the left near the school takes you to the Abel Tasman monument, recording the explorer’s carpenter’s planting of his nation’s flag across the bay on 3 December 1642 and claiming this land for the Netherlands. A claim which, of course, the English ignored. But the land Tasman claimed was a small island he thought was part of the mainland.
The lively history of Dunalley is presented in a shelter in the town park by the Denison Canal. This canal was gouged over three years from 1902 as a safer and shorter route for boats going between the East Coast and Norfolk Bay rather than going around the Tasman Peninsula. A pioneer Irish named the town after Baron Dunalley in 1838.
From Dunalley we continue on Arthur Highway and 20km later, at the top of a rise, we turn left on to Pirates Bay Drive for a marvellous view of the Tasman Sea, Pirates Bay and Eaglehawk Neck from the Seacliff Coast Lookout.
Little bears are most distressed that they are not dressed appropriately for Pirates Bay. How can they pose for photos when they are not wearing their pirate costumes?!? Well, they can’t!
So from the Seacliff Coast Lookout we continue on Pirates Bay Drive to access the Tessellated Pavement – a naturally occurring intertidal rock platform formed by unusual geological conditions resulting in a rare, tiled rock formation.
In geology and geomorphology, a tessellated pavement is a relatively flat rock surface that is subdivided into more or less regular rectangles, blocks approaching rectangles, or irregular or regular polygons by fractures, frequently systematic joints, within the rock. This type of rock pavement bears this name because it is fractured into polygonal blocks that resemble tiles of a mosaic floor, or tessellations.
The Tessellated Pavement on the shores of Pirates Bay is the most well known example of a tessellated pavement and consists of a marine platform. This example consists of two types of formations: a pan formation and a loaf formation.
The pan formation is a series of concave depressions in the rock that typically forms beyond the edge of the seashore. This part of the pavement dries out more at low tide than the portion abutting the seashore, allowing salt crystals to develop further; the surface of the “pans” therefore erodes more quickly than the joints, resulting in increasing concavity.
The loaf formations occur on the parts of the pavement closer to the seashore, which are immersed in water for longer periods of time. These parts of the pavement do not dry out so much, reducing the level of salt crystallisation. Water, carrying abrasive sand, is typically channelled through the joints, causing them to erode faster than the rest of the pavement, leaving loaf-like structures protruding.
A little south along Arthur Highway, we reach a narrow isthmus connecting the Tasman Peninsula to mainland Tasmania, the once notorious Eaglehawk Neck.
Locally known as the Neck, the isthmus itself is around 400 metres long and under 30 metres wide at its narrowest point. It forms a natural gateway to the peninsula. Eaglehawk Neck itself is a tie bar made of sand carried by currents and waves from the floors of Pirates Bay to the east and Norfolk Bay to the west.
Governor Arthur chose the peninsula for his main penal settlement because it was an isolated virtual island with handy access by sea from Hobart. Convicts were told the waters around here were thick with sharks, ready to eat escapers who tried to swim to freedom. So their only land passage to liberty was by Eaglehawk Neck. To discourage this, a row of kennels was installed from the seashore, across the isthmus and extending on anchored floats well into Eaglehawk Neck Bay to the west. At every kennel was a fierce dog. They were on chains just short enough to prevent the hounds fighting one another. Day and night nearby were soldiers with muskets.
An enterprising convict named William Cripps was sentenced to the lash for selling on the black market flour he stole from ingredients he cooked. So he took off from Port Arthur, evaded his hunters and, one night, arrived at the Neck’s dreaded dog line.
Cripps walked up to the canine cordon to be greeted by an array of wagging tails. The dogs knew and liked him. For William was a former Eaglehawk dog handler. He let two dogs loose. They followed him past the soldiers’ shed and into the forest to the north.
The dogs helped him do quite nicely on the loose for 18 months catching and trapping forester kangaroos and wallabies. He built a hut of bark. Now and then Cripps sneaked back past the friendly dog line to Port Arthur to steal food including more flour for baking bread. He was caught by chance by a soldier who also happened to be the stolen dogs’ owner. The Imperial Government auctioned 1800 bundled kangaroo and wallaby skins found at Cripps’ hut while the errant cook copped 100 lashes. He might have gone to Norfold Island, but William Cripps saw out his days a free man in Hobart. A prominent and multi-generational family of bakers in Hobart today is called Cripps but there is no proven connection to William Cripps.
Beyond Eaglehawk Neck, along Blowhole Road, another deviation to the left from Arthur Highway,are more striking geological natural formations, the Blowhole, Tasman Arch and the Devil’s Kitchen, and a quirky little place, the holiday village of Doo Town.
Doo Town was established in the 1830s as an unnamed timber station which eventually developed into a shack community. In 1935 a Hobart architect, Eric Round, placed the name plate Doo I 99 on his weekend shack. A neighbor, Charles Gibson, responded with a plate reading Doo Me then Bill Eldrige with Doo Us. Eric Round later renamed his shack Xanadoo.
The trend caught on and most of the homes have a plate that includes the name Doo. There is also a Gunadoo, Doodle Doo, Love Me Doo, Doo Nix, Wee Doo, Rum Doo and, of course, Doo Little.
The Tasman Blowhole is an unusual rock formation carved by the sea through the sheer rock face of the eastern coast of the Peninsula and creating a tunnel through which the force of the sea causes periodic ruptures of the water which can spurt to 10 metres high.
It is best seen at high tide, but is attractive at any time.
In the Blowhole carpark you will find the Doo-Lishus seafood van that sells, among other things, the Fisherman’s Special. Filled with chips then stacked with fish pieces, calamari rings, scallop bites and a wedge of lemon, this is heaven in a paper cone. The seafood is not battered but crumbed, making it light and non-greasy – thanks also to the use of cholesterol-free rice bran cooking oil. Ice-cream, hot dogs, oysters and crayfish also tempt you from the Doo-lishus menu.
Just a short drive from the Blowhole is the Tasman Arch. It is a natural arch which is really a greatly enlarged tunnel running from the coast along a zone of closely spaced cracks and extending inland to a second zone perpendicular to the first. The roof at the landward end of the tunnel has collapsed but the hole is too large and the sides are too high to form a blowhole. The tunnel was produced by wave action.
Transformation by waves is a fate shared by the Devil’s Kitchen. This geological formation sports a lookout point a little further down the road, and shows what happens when a tunnel roof collapses into the sea. With the roof now gone, you can see how the water has shaped and enlarged the original sea cave into a huge chasm, complete with new tunnels forming. The information board tells us that this is “one of several such coastal landforms in the Tasman National Park that have developed in the Permian-age siltstone.” If Tasman Arch collapsed, it would lead to the creation of a landform like the Devil’s Kitchen.
The rocks in which the Blowhole, Tasman’s Arch and the Devils Kitchen occur are permian in age (about 250 million years old) and were deposited as silt and sand on the floor of a shallow sea. It is probably that ice floated on the surface. Most of the pebbles from the ice were dropped as it melted.
Couldn’t leave this wonderland of geological formations along Pirates Bay without a photo of the bears’ visit. Pirate costumes notwithstanding, it was a very, very windy day and a bit dangerous for little bears.
Back on Arthur Highway, 9km south besides pretty Norfolk Bay, is the old settlement of Taranna.
Australia’s very first railway run from here in 1837. It carried non-convict passengers, stores and even coal for about 7km to and from Port Arthur penal stations on wooden tracks. Most of the arriving cargo came on ships from Hobart which tied up in the sheltered bay at Taranna. And why use valuable horses or oxen to propel the wooden railway’s box cars when there was such a supply of convicts? After all, the wretches had become used to being shackled like beasts of burden to plough furrows on new fields on the peninsula. Four running convicts pushed each box car. At least they could jump on board to ride down hills.
Isabelle and Feep were particularly thrilled at the prospect of a devilish experience 🙂
Wake up little devil, it’s play time!
Who’s disturbing my daytime slumber?
Four little bears and a Feep!
You want to play? Catch me if you can!
Feep, it’s a good thing you learned to eat cake, the scraps Neville is eating don’t look appealing at all!
Tasmanian devils have a notoriously cantankerous disposition and will fly into a maniacal rage when threatened by a predator, fighting for a mate, or defending a meal. Early European settlers dubbed it a “devil” after witnessing such displays, which include teeth-baring, lunging, and an array of spine-chilling guttural growls. Feep has been suitably retrained by Isabelle 🙂
These famously feisty mammals have a coat of coarse brown or black fur and a stocky profile that gives them the appearance of a baby bear! Most have a white stripe or patch on their chest and light spots on their sides or rear end. They have long front legs and shorter rear legs.
The Tasmanian devil is the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial, reaching 76 centimeters in length and weighing up to 12 kilograms, although its size will vary widely depending on its specific range and the availability of food. Its oversize head houses sharp teeth and strong, muscular jaws that can deliver, pound for pound, one of the most powerful bites of any mammal.
Tasmanian devils are strictly carnivorous, surviving on small prey such as snakes, birds, fish, and insects and frequently feasting communally on carrion. They are at their most rowdy when jockeying for position on a large carcass. Like other marsupials, when they are well fed, their tails swell with stored fat.
Devils are solitary and nocturnal, spending their days alone in hollow logs, caves, or burrows, and emerging at night to feed. They use their long whiskers and excellent sense of smell and sight to avoid predators and locate prey and carrion. They’ll eat pretty much anything they can get their teeth on, and when they do find food, they are voracious, consuming everything—including hair, organs, and bones.
Mothers give birth after about three weeks of pregnancy to 20 or 30 very tiny young. These raisin-size babies crawl up the mother’s fur and into her pouch. However, the mother has only four nipples, so only four babies survive. Infants emerge after about four months and are generally weaned by the sixth month and on their own by the eighth. Tasmanian devils live five to eight years.
Once abundant throughout Australia Tasmanian devils are now indigenous only to Tasmania. Their Tasmanian range encompasses the entire island, although they are partial to coastal scrublands and forests. Biologists speculate that their extinction on the mainland is attributable to the introduction of dingoes.
Efforts in the late 1800s to eradicate Tasmanian devils, which farmers erroneously believed were killing livestock (although they were known to take poultry), were nearly successful. In 1941, the government made devils a protected species, and their numbers have grown steadily since.
Tragically, though, a catastrophic illness discovered in the mid-1990s has killed tens of thousands of Tasmanian devils. Called devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), this rapidly spreading condition is a rare contagious cancer that causes large lumps to form around the animal’s mouth and head, making it hard for it to eat. The animal eventually starves to death. Animal health experts are sequestering populations where the disease has not yet appeared and are focusing on captive breeding programs to save the species from extinction. Because of the outbreak, the Australian government has listed Tasmanian devils as vulnerable.
Established in 1978, Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park is committed to the conservation of the Tasmanian devil. The isolation of Tasman peninsula from the Tasmanian mainland, where DFTD is running unchecked and has killed more than half of all devils, is ideal for maintaining a healthy wild Tasmanian Devil population in a project that involves the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park and government and university scientists.
On our way again, next stop, Port Arthur Historic Site, Australia’s most intact and evocative convict site…
Huon Valley is a valley of sunshine and mists, of fruitful orchards and rich soil, of riverside settlements and towns on the forest fringe. It is a valley of surprises. Here, you can savour the fresh produce of the land and sea, sweet summer berries, crisp autumn apples, full-flavoured wines, and the mouth-filling flavours of salmon and shellfish.
Huon Valley, along with Huon River and Huonville, are named after the French explorer Jean-Michel Huon de Kermadec, an 18th century French navigator. In September 1791 he was chosen to command the Espérance on the Bruni d’Entrecasteaux expedition to find the lost expedition of Jean-François de La Pérouse. The expedition explored Australia and the South Pacific. So close!
The Kermadec Islands northeast of New Zealand are also named for Jean-Michel Huon de Kermadec, as are Kermadec Trench and the Huon Peninsula and Huon Gulf of Papua New Guinea. Several plants also bear his name, including the Huon Pine (Lagarostrobos franklinii) of Tasmania, the Proteaceae genus Kermadecia of New Caledonia, and the tree Metrosideros kermadecensis of the Kermadec Islands.
Unfortunately the day we visited Huon Valley there was less sunshine and more mist and quite a bit of rain 😦
The hub of the district is the busy, productive centre of Huonville, an apple town on the banks of the river. Huonville was first settled in 1839 by the Walton family. The only access to Hobart from Huonville for many years was by boat or on a rough bush track no cart could cover. A contemporary scribe said that with the coming of the horseless carriages, “The time is not far distant when motor vehicles will take all the animation and romance out of the ‘tooling’ of coaches on this road.” You can now travel between Hobart and Huonville in a casual 40 minutes taking the Huon Highway or take a bit longer by the more scenic old highway by the mountain. The Huon Valley stretches inland from Huonville.
We arrived in Huonville just in time for breakfast. Desert breakfast, of course!
The Cat’s Tongue Chocolatiers is a tiny, weekend-only café in Huonville. Andy Abramovich is at heart a patissier and chocolatier, and this is a destination café for anyone with a sweet tooth. Like the bears! There are also plenty chocolates, ranging from beautifully classic to slightly wacky, such as the lime love jellies.
The coffee is great, and the pies, tarts and chocolates are delicious! The shop is open only Fri to Sun 9am to 4pm. Friday is a sweets only day, Saturday and Sunday you can have savoury breakfast or lunch.
Suitably fed 🙂 we drove further south. By crossing the river at Huonville and following the west bank, you drive on to Franklin, Port Huon, Geeveston and south all the way to Hastings Caves and Southport. We drove to the forest and timber town of Geeveston, with its rich forest heritage of bushmen and pioneers, winning a hard living from the tall trees on the edge of the wilderness. This is the gateway to the Hartz Mountains National Park and the far south of Tasmania. It is the centre of Tasmania’s apple and fruit-growing industry, and has also been highly reliant on the timber industry since the late 19th century.
Geeveston is named after farmer and clergyman William Geeves, who arrived in Hobart from England in 1842. Soon after, he answered a call for a bush preacher to go to the Huon area and he moved to Lightwood Bottom in 1850. The town’s name was changed to Geeves Town in 1861 and this eventually became Geeveston. His family planted the area’s first apple trees. William Geeves and his brother John had 108 grandchildren. A Geeves family reunion in 1992 recorded that William and Geeves had 6,636 direct descendants. There would be more than 10,000 now.
Next time we are in Geeveston we will have to stay at the ‘Bears over the Mountain’, a boutique B&B in the heart of Geeveston (2 Church St) 🙂
A 28km drive from Geeveston through bushland gets you to the 70 metre-high treetops Tahune AirWalk, our destination.
The path to the AirWalk is uphill and includes 112 steps; benches are provided along the way if you need a bit of rest 🙂
The AirWalk is a 600m long walkway through the treetops at Tahune.
The climax of the walk is a cantilever, 48 metres above the ground, with a dramatic view of forested mountains beyond the confluence of the Huon and Picton Rivers. Half of Tasmania is locked-up with forests of eucalypts and hardwood trees, perhaps the most endearing quality of the island experience, and the opportunity to explore not only the floor but the canopy is best undertaken at the Tahune Forest AirWalk.
Going downhill is a lot easier than going uphill to the AirWalk. No need for benches to rest!
There are other attractions at the Tahune AirWalk and if the weather permits, you should consider a thrilling 220-metre cable gliding ride through the forest canopy crossing the Huon River! There is also the Swinging Bridges walk, featuring two swinging bridges suspended from the river banks, and the Houn Track walk where you discover early European history at the ruins of the house occupied by Police Constable Francis McPartlan, a former Irish convict whose duty it was to walk the trail to the remote Arthur range to check timber licences. If you are a pretty good mountain bike rider, you can test your skills on a 6km mountain bike track. The track is suitable for intermediate to advanced riders.
Since the rain was increasing, we did the short Huon pine walk and enjoyed a tranquil stroll along the river bank to the most accessible stand of Huon pines in all of Tasmania.
Huon Pine is the prince of Tasmanian timbers. The richness of its golden colour and figure make it one of the world’s most desirable furniture and veneering timbers. Its durability and workability make it one of the best boat-building timbers known. The wood contains a natural preserving oil with an unmistakable perfume, and its fine and even grain makes the wood exceptionally easy to work with hand tools.
Tasmania’s Huon pine tree lives for 3,000 years and is the oldest living thing in the Southern Hemisphere. But its timber never rots and is so valuable that men have died attempting to obtain it. For the last two centuries Huon pine was deemed the world’s most valuable boat-building timber. But nature doesn’t give up her riches easily! Stands of Huon pine are elusive and only found in inaccessible parts of Tasmania. Preferring moist and wet conditions, it grows in rugged, hard-to-access areas, along riverbanks, lakeshores and swampy locations. The Piners that ventured into this wild terrain to retrieve the timber were some of the most resourceful Bushmen in Australia’s history.
Huon pine has an incredibly slow growth rate of about 0.3–2mm per year, taking approximately 1000 years to reach a height of 30m and a diameter of one metre. Huon pine produces pollen and seeds in small inconspicuous cones about 3mm long. These are somewhat fleshy when mature. Male and female cones grow on separate trees and reproduction occurs every 5–7 years. A mass of seeds is dispersed a short distance around the tree.
The Lake Johnston Nature Reserve at the top of Mt Read (western Tasmania) was established to preserve a community of native plants, the most famous of which is a sprawling Huon pine tree. It has been the subject of numerous scientific investigations, and has been proven to have been growing on that spot for 10,500 years! While the oldest individual growing trunk has been dated to 1,600 years, it is clear that this male tree has been cloning itself in its solitary eyrie atop the mountain, and has been there since the last Ice Age. The tree was discovered in 1995 by forestry worker Mike Peterson.
The Forest and Heritage Centre in Geeveston is the place to be if you want to learn more about the trees of southern Tasmania, some of the tallest trees in the world. As a bonus to the AirWalk’s admission fee, entry to the centre is included as part of your forest experience.
Another surprise in Geeveston is Masaaki, a tiny sushi place run by Masaaki Koyama. It is situated in a car park near the entrance to the town. The sushi is made freshly and takes advantage of the local farmed salmon. They serve mixed plates of sushi, which might be salmon and avocado or tamago (egg), as well as those stuffed bean curd pouches called Inari. The miso soup that is served on the side is also quite pleasant. Be aware that this is mainly a take-away and if you eat here it will be from take-away containers, but the proprietor is charming and the food is fresh. It is the only sushi place in Huon Valley and it is only open on Friday and Saturday. If you don’t often trek down to Geeveston you can still sample the sushi and sashimi from Masaaki who has a stand at the Hobart Farm Gate Market every Sunday morning.
On the way back to Hobart, we had to stop at a particularly enchanting place 🙂 Where the bears could sit on a Huon pine!
Enchanted Woods is a gallery and shop at Castle Forbes Bay, 16km south of Huonville. On display is a variety of turned and carved timber products using the famous woods of Tasmania – Huon pine, blackheart sassafras, myrtle and blackwood.
There is something for everyone at the Enchanted Woods and there will be cherries for us! Special order has been placed and you will see the enchanted cherries here when they are ready.