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Monday musings on Australian literature: A Tasmanian interlude

October 20, 2015

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.


Looking across western Maria Island to the main island of Tasmania

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.

Sarah Island

Sarah Island

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.

Winegalss Bay to the left, and Hazards Beach just visible to the right

Wineglass Bay to the left, and Hazards Beach just visible to the right

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.


12 Comments leave one →
  1. October 20, 2015 03:29

    Great pictures. What a beautiful place — and what a history! I had never heard of Sarah Island before, and am glad to have learned about it. I love that line about preserving the opportunity “to solve the mystery at the heart of things.”

  2. October 20, 2015 07:43

    Absolutely gorgeous! And it sounds like you are having a lovely time about which I am very glad! 🙂

  3. October 20, 2015 10:24

    My birth state and home for the first thirty-three years of my life. All of the sites you’ve mentioned are special to me—Freycinet, as you say, peaceful and serene, and straight out of a holiday brochure. While just to the south, Maria Island and Port Arthur, beautiful places but with violent histories. And the southwest—so rugged and isolated, and so much of it untouched (except for the mining!). Tassie can’t fail to capture your heart …

    • October 22, 2015 11:18

      It sure can’t Louise, I agree. Have been here a few times but this is the first real driving trip for a long time. Lovely.

  4. October 20, 2015 16:49

    Beautiful. Thank you.

    • October 22, 2015 13:41

      Glad you liked my little post Michelle. It seems to have contributed to my record number of likes in one day!

  5. October 20, 2015 17:02

    I still remember walking up to receive an award at school assembly, wearing my No Dams badge and the principal asking me “Why do you think there should be no dams?” To a 14-year-old it seemed a stupid question. Thank goodness the decent adults got their way. It seems inconceivable now for anyone to have entertained the notion of destroying such a beautiful part of our country.

  6. October 27, 2015 22:05

    What a lovely interlude you had. I just enjoyed catching up with both your Tasmanian posts. It’s always wonderful to go there, I’m sure we all don’t go nearly enough.

    • October 28, 2015 00:26

      Thanks Louise, very glad you enjoyed them. I agree with both your statements – it is always wonderful, and we don’t go enough. And I have a brother there so I have no excuse for my tardiness!

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