Monday musings on Australian literature: A Tasmanian interlude
You may have noticed that it’s been fairly quiet here at the Gums over the last week or so. This is because I’ve been travelling for nearly two weeks now in Australia’s island state of Tasmania. I scheduled last week’s Monday Musings in advance and had planned to also schedule a Tasmanian “Let’s get physical” post before I left, but it didn’t happen. Once here, I’ve been so busy catching up with my brother and then road-tripping with Mr Gums that I’ve not had time to do the necessary research to do such a post justice, so today I’m just going to post three photos, each with an associated quote to at least give you a taste of this gorgeous place.
Maria Island, off south-east Tasmania, was a convict settlement, with two waves, the first from 1825 to 1832, and the second from 1842 to 1850. An inmate of that time was William Smith O’Brien, a leader of the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848. He is quoted as saying, as he arrived at Maria Island:
To find a gaol in one of the loveliest spots formed by the hand of Nature in one of her loneliest solitude creates a revulsion of feeling I cannot describe.
Macquarie Harbour and the Gordon River on the west coast was also a convict settlement, at least Sarah Island, which is located in the river, was. It was infamous for its brutality, and is in fact the setting for Marcus Clarke’s classic move, For the term of his natural life. However, the Gordon River has another claim to infamy. From the late 1970s to early 1980s it was the centre of a bitter conservation battle when the Tasmanian government proposed building a dam as part of its ongoing hydroelectricity program. But this is wilderness of high order. In fact, when the Tasmanian Wilderness was granted World Heritage status for which you need to satisfy at least one of ten cultural and/or natural criteria, it satisfied 7. Only one other site has apparently achieved this. Like many people our age we supported the protest, donating to the Australian Conservation Foundation and sporting the yellow “No Dams” sticker on our car. The conservationists won, in a landmark decision that had Australia’s High Court supporting the Federal Government’s case for stopping the dam, overruling the State Government. What a joyful day that was. One of the supporters of the movement was the historian Manning Clark. He said in 1980:
Keep this treasure and hand it on to posterity so that those who come after will learn about beauty, about awe, about wonder, because it is in the southwest of Tasmania that you will have a chance to solve the mystery at the heart of things.
Finally, though I only say finally because I have to stop somewhere, there’s Freycinet National Park, which takes us back to the east again, a little north of Maria Island. This is a stunningly beautiful place of clear bays, pristine beaches and pretty pink granite mountains. Australian poet James McAuley loved this area. Here are some lines from his poem “Coles Bay Images”:
Turquoise – coloured waters in small bays
Shawling towards the beach say shalom, peace.
And that is exactly the feeling you get walking in this part of the world – a sense of peace.