Category Archives: Hobart

Hobart and the Derwent River from above

Recently, as I delved into the National Library of Australia’s online digitalised newspapers for family research purposes, I stumbled across the following image.

The newspaper was the now defunct The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil produced in Melbourne Victoria between 1873 and 1889.  The image below was published in the Saturday issue of 17 April 1875.

Taken from the vantage point of Mount Wellington we are looking down onto the dots of a growing Hobart city, across the Derwent River to the eastern shore which is as yet unsettled in any dense sort of way.  As usual, the River is the star!

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Not for human consumption

Today’s ABC News Online gives us the headline suggesting an exciting story – “Amateur dive photographer shares snaps of Hobart’s hidden underwater world”.

We are told “Under the surface of the River Derwent you’ll find an otherwise hidden and surprising colourful world of marine creatures.” Accompanying the story are photos of divers and underwater creatures.  Quite startling is the beauty of what divers can see. Wonderful.  The gorgeous photo of a crayfish by Millie Banner attracted my attention – who doesn’t love eating a crayfish. However, “… heavy metal levels in the river make them not safe to eat.”  So please do not go down deep seeking a feed from the waters under the Tasman Bridge.  Besides the river currents might sweep you out to sea.  Maybe.

‘What’s in a name? A fair bit , actually’ says Rex Gardner

On page 14 of The Mercury newspaper on 5th February Rex Gardner asked ‘What’s in a name?  A fair bit , actually’ about a part of my favourite Tasmanian river.

He talked about the area near the Hobart docks and further out into the harbour and remarked that it ‘really doesn’t have a proper name’.

Rex commented: ‘We call it the River Derwent, or Derwent River. But that name aptly describes the Derwent around New Norfolk, and upriver from there, because a river is a naturally flowing fresh watercourse, flowing towards the sea.  Heading downstream towards Bridgewater, the Derwent becomes an estuary, defined as brackish water fed by streams and rivers, and flowing to the sea.’

When Rex added ‘What flows through the city of Hobart is not a river’, I gasped.  Over time, my blog has addressed the challenges of defining where the Derwent River starts and stops.

To help you to visualise the location, below is an excerpt from Google maps.

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Rex Gardner explained, ‘It could be loosely called an estuary, and more properly a harbour, which is a body of water surrounded by land.  The Derwent is 1.4km wide at the Tasman Bridge. From the Hobart docks to Howrah Point is 6km.  From Sandy Bay to Tranmere is 5km.  The Mississippi and the Amazon rivers don’t boast distances like that, except at their mouths or when they flow through lakes.’  Finally he remarked: ‘You have to wonder how the Derwent has suffered the indignity of being called a river for so long.  Just like Mount Wellington got a name change, so too should our Hobart Harbour.’  An alternative fact: our mountain has two official names – Mount Wellington and Kunanyi.

Rex Gardner’s approach adds a new dilemma. To understand some of the legal issues associated with defining a ‘river’ read here, here and here.

The Derwent Estuary Program describes the section of the Derwent between the Iron Pot (at the inner edge of Storm Bay near the eastern shore river mouth) and New Norfolk as the Derwent Estuary rather than the Derwent River and explains it is “a unique environment; a partially enclosed body of water where tidal seawater and fresh river water mix”.

What constitutes our Derwent River – where does it start and stop?  What is the location of its mouth? I have become so used to thinking of the Derwent River starting in the Lake St Clair area and ending around the Iron Pot that these ideas have shaken me up; they are making me question my position.  Does it matter to you? I wonder what others think.

Walking on an industrial site – posting 5 of 5

Eventually we walked onto the Nyrstar wharf, after sometimes successfully dodging water sprays to keep the dust down. Here I was able to look upstream and enjoy the expanse of the Derwent River, and to recognise the Bowen Bridge and Mount Direction in the distance.  20170227_111100.jpg

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We passed equipment such as the dust measurer shown below.

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At the western end I was able to look past the big sheds of the INCAT boat building industry over Prince of Wales Bay and see Technopark perched on top of Dowsing Point.

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A view looking across the Derwent River to the inlet where the first European settlers set up camp in 1803 is shown below: 20170227_114246.jpg

Looking back downstream the river and landscape appeared as follows:       20170227_111525.jpg

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I also enjoyed walking through parts of the large industrial site for the geometric shapes of the structures and for the various vintages of buildings. Most of all, similarly to my feelings about the Hydro Tasmania structures in the upper Derwent Valley and beyond, I admired the pioneering and massive engineering works that created the manmade parts of the site. 20170227_112925.jpg

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20170227_113459.jpgI was surprised at the extent of chemical hazards which need good management; associated with the zinc smelting process are dangerous chemicals such as mercury, cadmium and lead. During the walk I learnt a great deal about the attitude of the business towards instituting and maintaining good environmental practices. In addition, I was shown revegetated expanses and different buildings which prioritise care for the environment and make it a reality. Seeing and experiencing all of this was much more than I expected, and I remain immensely grateful for the time and interest given by my excellent host Todd.

In a special showcase at Nyrstar’s Reception, plaques and various awards are clustered together. One example, a National River Prize, was presented by the International River Foundation in 2010 to the Derwent Estuary Program,  of which Nyrstar is a founding member.  A list of the Australian winners that year can be read here and if you refer to page eight, more information about Nyrstar and the Derwent estuary is available. My photo below includes that framed paper award with another sculptural award sitting in front.

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Overall, I was delighted to be able to fill a gap in my walk along the Derwent River, on this private property.  I am indebted to friend Clinton for his connections with Nyrstar that helped to make the walk a reality. Especial thanks to my thoughtful host Todd, and to Nyrstar.

Celebrating 200 years of ferries on the Derwent River

The Eastern Shore Sun newspaper for December 2016 provided a community news story which added to the knowledge of the history of ferries plying Derwent River waters.  Turn to Page 11 for the full story and photo.

Two hundred years ago the first licenced ferry travelled from the fledgling township of Hobart across to the eastern shore to a place very close to where I live. The landscape would have been so different; trees would have covered the area where my house now stands.  I wonder if the weather was as warm and pleasant as it has been in the past few weeks around the Greater Hobart area – even exceeding 30 degrees.  Wind is a constant across Tasmania, and the early ferries would have needed skilled personnel to bring their craft safely across the expanse of water and into moorings – especially considering the fact that early vessels were rowed across the river.

Earlier postings on my blog introduced some information about the Derwent ferries, and this latest article supplements what I have offered previously.  While you can search the blog for many posts that mention ferries,  key posts are Ferries on the Derwent River and Historic Granton Tasmania .

Where have I been?

Answer: Mostly looking through my windows and watching the seasons pass across snippets of Derwent River and Mount Wellington.

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For the past six months, the almost daily posts of earlier times on this Walking the Derwent blogsite stopped. While my thoughts have never been far from the Derwent River, since March I have posted only two or three stories. Avid followers of my walk along the Derwent River from the mouth to the source,  will realise that stories of particular sections of the walk have not been recorded.   Over the next month or two that gap will be filled.

When I halted writing this blog, I focused on compiling and publishing the book William Baker Tyzack and descendants in Australia  and running a blog associated with the anniversary of my great great grandfather’s arrival in Australia 150 years ago. Then I authored and published a book of an artist friend’s letters that had been sent to me over a quarter of a century.  During the processes of putting both books together, an opportunity to author and publish a third book came to my attention. Recently I published a book about my goddaughter. All non-fiction. All personal. I have been enthralled by the wonderful ease of self-publishing resources, and the professional look of the final publications.

Now I am inspired to turn my Walking the Derwent blog into a user-friendly book, which can be purchased both in book shops and on the internet.  But first, I need to finish writing the posts which record the remainder of my walk. I aim to complete the posts within the next two months then, early next year, begin the massive task to condense over 200,000 words and thousands of photos into a comparatively tiny tome.

Tasmania’s Derwent River continues to remain a feature of magic for me. I have missed my past regular walks inland discovering its nature and its pathway through the landscape.  Thankfully, here in Hobart, I live with a constant view of the changing appearances of the Derwent and the glorious sky above.

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Sailing ships

Yesterday I had the pleasure of sailing around the Derwent River Harbour in a full scale replica of the Lady Nelson sailing ship.  The original was built in 1798 in England and plied the waters between Newcastle and Norfolk Island and Tasmania for the next  twenty five years.  My day on the water was glorious with blue skies, golden sunshine and a firm breeze. When all the sails went up, we scudded along at 7 knots.  Quite wonderful. The image below is of the replica in which I sailed.

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The water surface had an almost millpond quality as we returned to the wharf. I couldn’t imagine how sailing ships would cope with heavy seas.

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I spent a great deal of time thinking about earlier sailing ships and I tried to imagine what it might have been like, with so many ropes and so many sails being part of the picture for months at sea.

The Lady Nelson came out to Australia with around 20 people. The original crew size was 12.

Records show that at times there were perhaps 60 or more people sailing for days on the Lady Nelson.  Yesterday with passengers and crew I suspect our number was around 40. It was standing room only on the deck when all were assembled. Sailing for days would have been very cramped and most uncomfortable by today’s standards (although I recognise that people were generally physically smaller back then than we are today). Add to that, on the original Lady Nelson, the area below deck remained unstructured with one open hold. Apparently people slept on boxes and ropes and all.

My photos below give some idea of the majesty of a sailing ship however small (and it also shows how glorious it is to be out on the Derwent River in Hobart).

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The Lady Nelson was approx 53 feet long ,  approx 17 feet wide and weighed 61 tons. I have compared this with the larger ships that arrived in the Derwent River in the early part of the 19th century and so,  after yesterday’s most stimulating sail, I feel I have a small but greater understanding of what travellers (convicts and free settlers) might have been exposed to at sea before they started their comparatively mild run up the Derwent.

The Lady Nelson replica runs trips lasting a few days; I am considering taking one of these small voyages. Part of the deal, if you wish, is to learn to handle the ropes and even climb around the sails.  I wonder if the 19th century crews allowed such liberties to its passengers.