Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tasmanian White Hawk

Plover's eggs

The Tasmanian White Hawk is a magnificent bird and yesterday afternoon I watched a bird of like description circling my house. The white is a species of raptor and is a rare and endangered species.

"There are only 150 pairs of them in the state. They are the only pure white hawk in the world and shooting them carries a fine in excess of $15,000," reported Linda Smith in The Mercury (2 Feb 2009)
She told of a hawk found near Hobart with shotgun pellets in its chest. It has been taken to a vet and hopefully survived.

What amazed me about my sighting was that until yesterday morning I had never heard of a White Hawk but as part of my research into Tasmania’s history, I had been reading The History of Tasmania written by John West in 1852.
In the section in Zoology West writes:

The beautiful white hawk (Astur Novae Hollandiae, Cuv.) erroneously called an albino by Mr Gould, once very abundant is now becoming rare, having been nearly extirpated by the sake of its skin by the zeal of bird collectors.

Later in the day, when I was in the garden in Grindelwald, I heard the frantic cries of a plover (masked lapwing) overhead. Looking up I saw a very large grey/white bird gracefully circling the area with a (comparatively small) plover flapping around it, screeching. Plovers (also fully protected by law) are medium-sized conspicuous birds with loud, penetrating calls.

Only a couple of weeks ago the plover fledged 3 chicks from a clutch of 4 eggs in my garden and whenever I walked outdoor the pair of plovers would swoop down and scream at me.
It was obvious the hawk was circling in search of a meal and the pair of plovers knew it.

With a broad wingspan, greyish white underneath, the bird glided unperturbed. Its movements were like that of a condor.

I watched until it drifted away and felt privileged to have seen such a rare specimen, I wondered however if this was a true white hawk because of its rareity or if it was one of the sea-eagles which nest on the Tamar Valley not many miles from where I live.

Pics: plovers eggs in the garden and hatched chick
Note: I am told that plovers eggs are not white but dark and speckled. I can assure you however that these are the eggs which the plover sat on and the fledgling chics are definitely plovers.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Matthew Brady - Tasmanian bushranger

Now 75% through my research in the life of Bushranger, Matthew Brady, I am finding the study intriguing. I am also discovering that there is far more to the early days of Tasmania than just convicts and settlers, and that the legacy of the events which took place in the early 1800s are still with us today.

If you are interested in the life and times of the 'gentleman' bushranger, the members of Brady's gang, the penal settlements and more you can find it at my Matthew Brady Squidoo site.

Having obtained permission to reproduce images of Brady and his gang-members from the artwok of convict artist, Thomas Bock from Dixson Library, NSW, it's possible to see how very young and fresh-faced some of these 'notorious' convicts were. The crimes many had committed were equivalent to the 'receiving a stolen chocolate Freddo Frog incident' which was reported last week on the news in Australia.

The penalties these young convicts received - transportation to the colonies for seven years - and the treatment they received were incomprehensible.

Last week also, I watched the APOLOGY from the Prime Minister to the FORGOTTON CHILDREN - the infants taken from England or from their parents and placed in 'homes' in Australia where many were subjected to brutal treatment and abuse.

Perhaps we should apologise to the young juvenile deliquents of the early 1800s who, as a consequence of the inhuman treatment they received at the hand of the authroities, escaped to the bush to fend for themselves. As bushrangers they robbed to feed and cloth themselves and many of them, like Brady and his gang, ended up on the gallows.

Pic: Matthew Brady from 'James McCabe, Matthew Brady, Patrick Bryant', ca. 1823 - 1843. by Thomas Bock in his 'Sketches of Tasmanian Bushrangers'. (Ref: DL PX 5/ f.8 ) Pic: Gregory, Brown and MacKenny - ca. 1823 - 1843. by Thomas Bock in his 'Sketches of Tasmanian Bushrangers'. Courtesy of Dixson Library, State Library of NSW.

Bothwell's sundial - one of 12 in Tasmania

The sundial at Bothwell is one of only twelve authentic, functional and accurate sundials in Tasmania according to an expert in the field, John Hall.

It was erected as a war memorial in the historic village of Bothwell in Tasmania.

Other Tasmanian sundials include those at Battery Point, the Botanic Gardens, UTAS, the White House at Westbury, Clarendon House and the Launceston Masonic Centre. I must check them out on my travels.

Devonport has an intersting water sundial.

Pics: Two faces of the dial - Oct 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009


New Zealand author, Loren Teague’s forthcoming novel, The Italian Affair is already advertised at THE BOOK DEPOSITORY which offers a discount price and free postage worldwide. This represents a significant saving to overseas buyers.

As I thoroughly enjoyed reading Loren’s previous novels, True Deception and Ultimate Betrayal, I look forward to reading this story which is due for release in February 2010. This thilller novel is Loren’s third book with Hale

The story sounds intriguing:
Gina Rosselini, the granddaughter of a wealthy fishing magnate, lives a charmed life until her twin sister, Maria, is shot on her wedding day, and Gina is marked as the gunnman's next target. The Rosselini family hire Rick Caruso, an ex-cop and private investigator, to act as a bodyguard for Gina...but Gina has other plans. A strong, independent woman, Gina has no intention of letting Rick protect her. Then, an attempt on her life changes everything. As the danger escalates, Gina must face her worst fears. Meanwhile, the killer watches her from the shadows, waiting for his moment to strike...
The Italian Affair is currently advertised at 25% discount for pre-publication orders.

Post Script:
Sadly only a few weeks after posting this announcement, Loren lost her battle with cancer and died at her home in Nelson, New Zealand.
Rest in Peace, Loren.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Do poppies bloom in Flanders fields in November?

As a girl growing up in England I remember Armistice Day being called Poppy Day.

In Australia we call it Remembrance Day but the poppy is still the iconic symbol of remembrance.

Last night I spoke to my 99 year old Mum on the phone and she told me that her brother had died in the trenches on Armistice Day - I believe he was 18 years old and had just gone to war.
My mother's memory of the time is that her mother's hair turned white virtually overnight when she received the news of her son's death.

When I was driving south last week I took a picture of some poppies growing wild in a field (in November) - but I now live in Tasmania in the southern hemisphere.

Surely there are no poppies in the fields of Flanders in Europe in November?
Pic: A poppy in my garden in Western Australia (2006)

POST SCRIPT: (Inserted Nov. 2010)

Since writing this post, I discovered that my mother's memories were not quite correct but that her brother was 21 when he was killed in action and the date of his death was 19th November, 1915. Sadly, my mother passed away a few months ago so this year Remembrance Day will be all the more poignant.

Pic: Grave of my Uncle, T. W. Ettershank, who died in the Great War.
My sincere thanks to my friend from Belgium who visited the New Irish Farm War Cemetery and placed the poppy memorial (6 Nov 2010).

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Huon Valley Schools' writing camp - 2009

A mixed bag of participants enjoyed three days writing in the south coast wilderness forest on the banks of the Esperance River.

Writers' camp in Tasmania's Wilderness

The south west wilderness of Tasmania is a great place to hold a 3-day writing event. The venue was a campsite near Dover (90 km south of Hobart) on the banks of the Esperance River.

I was asked to participate as Writer in Residence for a group of 31 school students who came from various schools in the Huon Valley.
The children had to compete for a place on the camp by presenting a piece of work in which they considered the word ‘RESILIENCE.’

During the camp we looked at various aspects of writing from how to structure a story, to poetry – blank verse to bush poems and haiku - to writing about animals and finally, to the publishing and editing processes.

Also presenting workshops were Damien Bester, journalist from The Mercury in Hobart and artist, Barfield who showed the children how to draw cartoons.

An evening bonfire on the banks of the Esperance River gave local historian and writer, Paddy Prosser the opportunity to provide a dramatic presentation of the French connection in southern Tasmania. Dressing a dozen of the kids in French costumes and handing round a 10 year old hard tack biscuit were just two of the highlights.

The only lowlights were the mosquitos and the leeches which were attracted to one of the boys legs when he went hiking through the bush.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

FLOATING GOLD by Margaret Muir

Here it is - the jacket cover for FLOATING GOLD, my latest novel due for release by Hale Books, London, in May 2010.

The artwork is certainly bright and colourful and hopefully will be eyecatching on the library shelf.

This is my fourth book cover (out of 5) by artist, Michael Thomas.

The Blurb which will appear inside the jacket flap reads as follows:

1802 - The fragile peace with France has brought massive debt and unemployment to England and frustration to its naval officers.

After an enforced absence, Captain Oliver Quintrell is eager to return to the sea, but the commission he is granted leaves him cynical and disappointed. In command of a mere frigate, he heads south unaware of the unimaginable dangers which lie ahead.

The seething Southern Ocean, enemy ships, a discontented crew and the secrets held by a living breathing volcanic island pose more of a threat than a full broadside from a man-of-war.

FLOATING GOLD is a nautical fiction adventure which follows the tradition of the CS Forester and Patrick O’Brian novels.

Margaret Muir (Tasmania)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Van Diemen's Land - Review - VDL movie a mere appetizer

For me Jonathon auf der Heide's film, Van Diemen’s Land did not go far enough.
The title is somewhat misleading, as cinamagraphiically, the movie did not portray Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) of the 1820s. It only provided a cameo picture of Tasmania’s awesome West Coast wilderness forest which surrounds Macquarie Harbour.

Having known the movie was to be about Alexander Pearce, the cannibal, I was disappointed that the story's plot was no more than Pearce’s first escape attempt along with seven other convicts.
(When he was captured, he admitted his crimes but his story seems too far fetched and he was not believed. The second time Pearce escaped he was found in possession of a human limb and was hung.)
After a few days in the forest, the eight men run out of food, and through frustration and anger begin to feed off each other.
Like the lore of the sea, this seems almost logical under the circumstances.

Apart from the opening scene where the barefoot prisoners patiently await the order to swim to the waiting whaleboat, there is little indication of their festering desperation to escape from the hell-hole that was Sarah Island.

It was disillusioning for me to see convicts who were made to toil twelve hours in deplorable conditions and fed on incredibly meagre rations, looking fit and healthy, with perfect teeth and one at least with a neatly trimmed beard – and tall at that.
In dress and stature, producer Oscar Redding, who played Pearce, presented as the most convincing character.

The wilderness scenery of the Gordon and King Rivers area creates a chillingly haunting atmosphere, though to traverse those areas is even more difficult than depicted in the film. Unfortunatley, some of the scenes filmed in Victoria depict countryside which is foreign to the Macquarie watershed.

Having recently visited the area to learn about VDL’s history and to see first hand the site of the convict settlement (see earlier blog posts), and to cruise the waterways of the King and Gordon Rivers, I wanted more.

The convict history of Van Diemen’s Land, in particular the settlement in Macquarie Harbour, is incredibly rich and disturbing. The movie Van Diemen’s Land is a mere tempting appetizer.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lady Nelson sails south

The 3-day sail for members of the Tasmanian Sail Training Association was to Pedra Branca off the southern coast of Tasmania.
Unfortunatley the conditions were not the best, but everyone agreed it was a great weekend. You can read about it in the following post.
Pic: Lady Nelson at her home port: Hobart, Tasmania

Elusive Pedra Branca

Last weekend I joined The Lady Nelson in Hobart for a 3-day sail. The destination was Pedra Branca – a ‘white rock’ 16 nautical miles off the south coast of Tasmania. As we sailed down the Derwent River the sea unremarkable but during the night, when we the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, the wind and sea picked up.

Like most of the crew trying to grab some sleep, it was a near impossibility, and with a 3m swell rolling up from the SW and a 1-2m sea from the W, the replica colonial brig was tossed like a cork.

That morning dawn was slow to break. Curtains of ominous clouds gathered, as I thought about Pedra Branca, and visualized the striking images I had seen on the Web of this isolated and inhospitable island.

The Pedra Branca group lies at lat. 43 deg. 50 S and long.146 deg. 58 E. The largest island, Pedra Branca, was named by Abel Tasman in 1642. It is 270m long, 100m wide, and rises to 60m in height and covers 2 ha. In geographical terms, it is borderline between being classified as a rock, an islet or an island.
The smaller islands are Mewstone, Eddystone and Sidmouth Rocks. Over fifteen thousand years ago this group was part of the Tasmanian mainland and is listed as a World Heritage site. Three of the islands are composed of dolerite and sandstone which rise vertically from the ocean floor, but thousands of years of erosion have led to the formation of giant steps which rise to a height of 60 metres. The apparent white colouration is from guanno left by thousands of pairs of seabirds.

Sea conditions in this area can be treacherous and in 2002, a young research scientist was washed from the rocks by a freak wave despite having climbed to 45m above the sea. At the time the swell was recorded at almost 14m. And in 1973, a Japanese steel fishing vessel of 254 gross tons, hit the islet and sank within minutes. All but one of her 22 crew drowned.

As the Lady Nelson was tossed about, I considered how the tiny colonial brig, had battled the waves on her voyages in the early 1800s. The seas we were experiencing were small compared to the near 14m swell running on that fateful day in 2003.

But the Southern Ocean can be a fickle body of water and at 7 nautical miles from the islands, the captain decided it was best to head back to the mainland.

Sitting at the stern and watching the following sea, I noted two angular grey smudges floating on the rippling horizon behind us. They appeared like a pair of ghost ships but I realised this was Pedra Branca and one of the other islands.

I may not have sailed around Pedra Branca, but at least I can say I have seen the island, albeit from a distance.

Pics: Dolerite cliffs at Cape Raoul + SW Tassie mainland + Pedra Branca courtesy of Jane Elek from the 2010 voyage which made it to the island

FLOATING GOLD - author takes nautical fiction tack

Due for publication by Robert Hale, London in May 2010, FLOATING GOLD is an age-of-sail nautical fiction adventure. It is set in 1802 during the awkward Peace of Amiens when both naval ships and men lay idol. Frustrated by an old injury and by the Admiralty’s lack of response to his recent requests for a commission, Captain Quintrell reminisces:

Closing his eyes for a moment, he pictured a white beach the morning after battle. A bay littered with bloated bodies, some washed ashore, others turning in the shallows like pigs roasting on spits – carcases rolling over and over unable to made landfall. Dead men stripped of clothes and skin. Faceless faces devoid of their human masks. Arms, wrenched from shoulders, scattered haphazardly. Hands poking up through sand. Fingers outstretched in supplication. Severed heads without ears. Human hair blowing in the breeze. The scream of frenzied gulls.

Such an inglorious end robbed a man not only of his raiments but all evidence of nationality, allegiance and rank. For those departed souls there was neither honour nor glory nor recognition - not even a Christian burial. Their mortal remains would be stripped clean by armies of invading crabs. And there were many fat crabs on the beaches that season.

When he is summonsed to attend the Sea Lords, the captain receives his orders - to head for the Southern Ocean in search of an unspecified treasure. But when Oliver Quintrell sets sail from Portsmouth, he has no idea of the dangers which lie ahead.

FLOATING GOLD is a maritime adventure inspired by the classic seafaring stories of CS Forester and Patrick O’Brian. Unlike Margaret Muir’s previous books, this novel targets a male audience.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Geoff Hunt's magnificent MARY ROSE

This year marks the 500th aniversary of the launching of the Mary Rose in 1509. It also marks a special project launched to help fund the new Museum to house the hull of the Mary Rose and display recovered items which have previously never been exhibited.
In support of the project Geoff Hunt has donated his recent magnificent painting of Henry V111's flagship to the Mary Rose Trust.

To view the pic go to: MARY ROSE
To find out more about the project go to:

Friday, October 09, 2009

Contents of Bonaparte’s Carriage – Windsor soap, Moroccan slippers and eau de Cologne

Browsing through Saturday morning’s Hobart Town Gazette - 14 September, 1816 (as one would), I read a remarkable article about Bonaparte’s carriage.
This fine vehicle was taken by General Kellerman at the Battle of Waterloo (June 1815) and sold to the Prince Regent for 3000 guineas.
The news article describes the interior in fine detail.

Inside the carriage were many compartments for maps and telescopes, a small writing desk beneath which was a hole for an iron bed (folding), two merino mattresses, and a liquor case.
The accessaire, an elegant mahogany box, contained mother-of-pearl razors, silver toothbrush, shaving box, ink stand and sand box, teapot and sugar box and two elegant candle sticks.
Napoleon’s personal items included several bottles of eau do Cologne, and eau de lavender – even (despite his old English enemy) bars of Windsor soap.
Apart from rum and sweet wine in his liquor case, there was also a silver mustard box, silver plates and cutlery, even a box for sandwiches.
Other items in the coach – a pair of red morocco slippers, green velvet cap, a silver chamber pot and a large silver watch on a chain with an alarm.
Bonaparte obviously valued his comfort when travelling.

Sadly in 1825, the carriage on display at Madame Tussaud's was consumed by fire You can read more in the following post.

Pic: Replica of Napoleon’s carriage created by Lewis Colburn for Interregnum (1815-1969)

Lewis Colburn’s Interregnum (1815-1969) features Bonaparte’s carriage

Following the French defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, Bonaparte’s carriage was taken as one of the spoils of war. Once in England, it was displayed around the length and breadth of Britain attracting huge crowds.

In her Perthshire Diary (April 19th 1818) Miss Wright wrote:
“Sat in it a while. Had such an odd feeling in doing so, to think that I was in the very seat of one that almost ruled the world. The jewels and plate very beautiful and everything so compact and neat. The Major (her friend’s dog) in it too, forsooth. Barked at such a rate. It came early this morning. Goes off at five tomorrow.” Next day “While we were at breakfast, Bonaparte’s carriage passed down on its way to Stirling, the four brown horses and the same driver he had at Waterloo.”
Imagine being allowed to take one’s dog into such a treasure!

In 1842, the carriage was acquired by Madame Tussaud's where it remained until 1925 when on 18 March, a disastrous fire swept through the waxworks, destroying not only the carriage but also the Napoleon Room. All that remained was a single twisted axle.

Recently, sculptor/artist Lewis Colburn rebuilt an exact replica of this magnificent vehicle and included it in his mixed media installation – Interregnum (1815-1969).
In the exhibit the carriage is presented as having crashed onto the lunar surface.

For me, the project appears to bridge the void, loosely linking the aspirations of past and latter day travellers striving but not always succeeding to conquer vaste new territories.
Interregnum is currently on exhibition at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo, NY

Note: Interregnum is literally the period during which a state has no normal ruler.
Interregnum Image: Courtesy of Lewis Colburn
The group of Italian re-enactment soldiers adds to the atmosphere. (Photo: Hugo Munoz)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Mao’s Last Dancer – a must see movie

If you haven’t yet seen it, I recommend you do.
Both the acting and choreography are excellent. The movie is brilliantly directed with some great sound effects. And the snapshots scenes in China are a stark contrast to the city of Huston, Texas.

Li Cunxin’s story, first published as a biography, is unforgettable. From his childhood, growing up in poverty in Communist China, to his defection in America through to the final dramatic climax, the story reveals what one man can achieve through artistic talent and determination.

The few reviews which I have read, which are less positive, come from male reviewers. I believe it will be the females in the audience whose hearts will be touched by this powerful story. Interestingly however, in an interview on ABC (AU) radio this morning, the male critic admitted that he was unable to halt the flow of tears at the emotional climax.

I was the same and would liken my feelings to those at the end of Finding Neverland, A Town like Alice, and Billy Elliot.
Made on a limited budget by Australian director Bruce Beresford, Mao’s Last Dancer features world renowned dancer Chi Cao playing the role of (adult) Li Cunxin. It also features members of the Australian Ballet.
It is a splendid movie which I will certainly buy when it comes out on DVD.

Note: Li Cunxin now lives in Melbourne Australia and recently received the award of Australian Father of the Year, 2009.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Weapons of sea war - 1802

During the Napoleonic wars such lethal weapons were fired from cannon on board fighting ships.
The design of the weapons was to facilitate maximum damage to the enemy - both man and ship.
Here you see Chain Shot and Shot with Points for a 12 pounder smoothbore gun.

I don't expect my forthcoming book to have such devastating effects however I can advise that FLOATING GOLD, and age-of-sail adventure, will be published in late May 2010.

I took this picture in the Maritime Museum in Valparaiso, Chile.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Heritage Highway to Hobart - in search of Bushrangers

Last week I went to Hobart to learn of Tasmania’s history in particular about Van Diemen's Land bushranger, Matthew Brady.
It’s only a 200 mile journey from Launceston to Hobart but the Midlands are rich in the history of early settlement and most places still retain the names given by early settlers – Tunbridge, Jericho, Bagdad, Jerusalem (now Colebrook) and Oatlands.

The Heritage Highway, as it is now called, was once the stage coach route and in the early days there were four miliary posts between Hobart and the north and towns grew up around them. The soldiers’ duty was to apprehend bushrangers and escaped convicts.
The town of Oatlands still has 87 sandstone Georgian buildings, the largest collection in Australia – many of these were built by convict labour and today retain the character of the 19th Century. Included is the oldest Supreme Courthouse in the country.
Oatlands also has some remarkable modern metal sculptures dotted across the hillsides which remind the traveller of its history.
It is claimed that the first game of golf in Australia was played in the town of Bothwell on Alexander Reid's property 'Ratho' in the 1820s – this early golf course is still in use today. And Bothwell, being settled by Scots was the home of Australia's first and oldest pedigree Aberdeen Angus stud.
Pics: Metal sculptures on the hills – bushrangers and a troop of soldiers plus beautiful houses and Georgian buildings are everywhere

In 1642 Abel Tasman landed in Tasmania

Following the decline of Spain in the 16th century, the Dutch expanded their trading activities in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). They wanted to explore and chart the waters off west coast Australia.
When Abel Tasman sailed with his two armed merchant vessels and crew of 110 men from Batavia, he was instructed to take possession of all continents and islands which he discovered.

On 1642 he sighted a land mass unknown to any European nation and gave it the name of ‘Anthony van Diemens Landt’ in honour of the Governor General of Batavia. A landing party came ashore on November 24 at what is now Blackman Bay and a second party took possession for the Dutch by planting a flag.
The ships then sailed eastward and discovered ‘Staten Landt’ (New Zealand) and other Pacific Islands.
There is no mention of Tasman entering Macquarie Harbour - perhaps like other later navigators he did not realise what was beyound The Gates.
Tasman died in 1659 - almost 150 years before Captain Cook charted the Australian coast.
For many years, Tasmania was known as Van Diemen’s Land and the west coast of Tasmania still reflects the remarkable voyages of those early Dutch navigators.
North of the entrance to Macquarie Harbour though the entrance to ‘Hell’s Gates’ (see later postings) are the peaks which still bear the names of Abel Tasman's ships - Heemskerck and the smaller Fluyt Zeehaen. Other Tasmanian coastal features still retain the Dutch names.
Pics: statue of Abel Tasman and his two ships (Hobart waterfront)

Hobart harbour - past

Hobart's present wharfs are built on reclaimed land.
In the days of the first fleet, ships docked in the Derwent River or tied up against the wooden wharf built on the tiny Hunter Island in Sullivan’s Cove. One of the first jobs assigned to the convicts was to construct a stone causeway joining the island to land. Today this area now has wharf buildings on it.
The information reads:
In the centre of this cove is a small island, connected with the mainland at low water, admirably adapted for the lands and reception of stores and provisions…
The Ocean and Lady Nelson are lying within half a cable’s length of the shore in nine fathoms. (David Collins, 1804)
In 1804 Colonel David Collins selected Sullivan’s Cove for the settlement on the Derwent. Hunter Island was linked to the cove by a causeway constructed by the first convicts. On this reclaimed sandpit the merchants built warehouses. For the first 30 years this area was the centre of commerce and shipping. At first there was a small jetty but no wharf and convicts, settlers and cargo had to be carried between ship and shore by boat.

It was not long before small shops were built along the causeway and land was reclaimed along the waterfront. After a fire wiped most of these out, new warehouses replaced them. Today these elegant buildings still grace Sullivan's Cove.
Pic: Information poster on waterfront and the section of the waterfront with restored wharf buildings

Reflections on the Lady Nelson

Considering the original Colonial Brig, Lady Nelson is pictured (in post above) at anchor in Sullivan's Cove in 1804, it’s quite remarkable to be able to sail on the replica vessel over 200 years later.

The Lady Nelson offers short cruises throughout the summer at only $15. It's a great way to see the harbour and to step back in history.
As a volunteer crew member, I managed two sails this weekend.

In the next dock is the Windward Bound which also provides harbour voyages and charters

Pic: Lady Nelson and Windeward Bound

Hobart Harbour – today

Today the harbour also houses a fishing fleet, harbour cruise boats both old and new, water taxis, ocean going yachts and also the Aurora Australis.
This polar vessel is an icebreaker/expedition ship which services the Australian Antarctic expeditions.
In the background is Mount Wellington with its snowy cap.
Pics: Antarctic exploration vessel and sculptures at Sullivan’s Cove remind visitors of Tasmania’s history of whaling and sealing

Relaxing for lunch on the Derwent River

What better way to enjoy the Derwent River and an excellent lunch than on one of the old ferry boats which once graced Sydney Harbour.
The Emmalisa has seen better days but she is still a fine old lady and offers morning, lunch and dinner cruises on the Derwent River.
Run by Captain Fells Cruises, this is the cheapest cruise on offer but don’t discount it because of the price.
When I was on the boat it struck me that Mount Wellington is unchanged from the time it was seen by the first convicts when they were ferried ashore to set up Hobarton, (now Hobart), Van Diemen’s Land.
Pics: Emmalisa and Hobart’s residential waterfront

Mount Wellinton - Hobart

Mount Wellington dominates the town of Hobart and overlooks the Derwent River and on a fine day it is worth a visit.
This dolerite mountain is over 4000 feet high and carries snow to 400 ft in the winter.
You can drive up (or cycle as some do!). The road winds to the very top where there is a viewing platform and an observation area. If you look closely you can just see Hobart's Wrest Point Casino on the bay.
But dress for the cold. Even on a good day the temperature can be 10degrees below that of Hobart and with nothing to stop it, the wind tries to blow you over.
From the top of the mountain you can get a 360 degree view of the south west of Tasmania and down to the Southern Ocean.
It’s remarkable.
Pics: Viewing platform and snow - it’s still cold in Southern Tasmania in September

Australia’s biggest market is in Hobart – Salamanca Market

Salamanca Place is situated on the Hobart waterfront.
The Georgian buildings which line the street were hand-hewn in sandstone and were originally built as warehouses for a busy harbour and growing settlement.
Today the area has become synonymous with arts, crafts, fine wining and dining and also with the very popular outdoor market held here ever Saturday.
Salamanca Market is Australia’s biggest, brightest and best outdoor market.
Stalls and vendors sell everything from hot baked potatoes to antiquarian books, from hand-carved craft in Huon pine to sheepskin boots – I bought some! And while you shop, buskers entertain the crowds.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Young Victoria

While in Hobart, I went to see the latest movie, Young Victoria.
Starring Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend and Paul Bettany.
The film written by Julian Fellowes, is a "dramatization of the turbulent first years of Queen Victoria's rule, and her enduring romance with Prince Albert".
This is a pleasant movie and would give it 3.5 stars.
Paul Bettany, who took the part of Lord Melbourne, is one of my favourite actors (Silas in Da Vinci Code and Dr Maturin in Master and Commander), but this was a very tame role for him, so, for me, his performance was a little disappointing.

Thomas Keneally - author popular in Hobart

Thomas Keneally has written and researched several books on Australian History and won major prizes from his works.
Last week I attended a talk he gave at Fullers Bookshop in Hobart and was amazaed that about 100 people crowded into the Collins Street shop, and that a good proportion bought his latest publication: Australians – from origins to Eureka.
Oh, to have that sort of following!
But if my latest research on Tasmanian bushranger, Matthew Brady leads to a published book, I will hope it will receive some support from the local Van Demonians.
Pic: Thomas Keneally, historical author, Hobart

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Strahan holiday in search of convict history

My main purpose for heading west was to experience the atmosphere of a place steeped in some of Tasmania's ugliest history and with practices if is not proud of.
Amongst those: the notorious penal settlement on Sarah Island; the treacherous entrance to Macquarie harbour known as Hell’s Gates, and a dead King River – the product of greed and subsequent environmental pollution.
My visit was part of my research on Matthew Brady, the Tasmanian bushranger and convict who was sent to Sarah Island in 1823. Twenty two months later, he escaped in a stolen whaleboat and sailed to Hobart Town to begin his period of infamy.
But what I found on the wild west coast of Tasmania was a huge pristine harbour, a sleepy fishing village whose main industry in the summer season is tourists, stories of piners and miners and convict times, and some of the most unforgettable excursions which you cannot experience elsewhere in Australia.
Including a ride up the King River in a jetboat!

Pic: Strahan Harbour

Hell’s Gates - Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania

In 1642 Abel Tasman explored the west coast of Tasmania for the Dutch East India Company. He charted two of the peaks just north of the inlet to Macquarie Harbour and namedafter his ships, Heemskerck and Zeehaen, but he either did not see or did not venture through 'The Gates' which provide only a narrow entrance and a shallow channel with rocks on one side and dangerous sandy shoals on the other.

This is the name first given to the narrow entrance to Macquarie Harbour and it was James Kelly the captain and explorer who, on his circumnavigation of Tasmania in a whale boat in 1816, noticed an inlet from which a strong channel of water was flowing. He thought he had found the mouth of a river.
Image his surprise when he ventured through The Gates, to find a Harbour as big as Sydney Harbour - 32 kilometres long surrounded by forested mountains and gorges – virtually impenetrable from the land.

It was the nature of the harbour as a place impossible to escape from that the government of the day decided to use an island in the harbour as a convict settlement.
This was to be the harshest place imaginable – a veritable hell on earth. And for that reason the entrance to the harbour and the whole place became synonymous with the name, Hell’s Gates.
My particular interest is in the convicts, including Matthew Brady, who escaped from Sarah Island and became bushrangers.
Pics: Hell’s gates and lighthouse from the beach and the water