Tag Archives: snake

The White Lip or Whip Snake – more information

A couple of days ago a photo news story about a Tasmanian whitelip snake was published.

Immediately I recognised the snake in the photo as looking the same as the two I have seen on my walks and which I have discussed in a couple of recent posts. Now I don’t care if guidelines indicate my snakes were longer than the normal range and nor do I care that some people swear what I saw could not be a White Lip – I feel convinced about the identity as a White Lip. Next time I come across one in the wilds I will look for the white lip – but I am not hoping to see another.  This and the other two Tasmanian snakes are all venomous.

On the theme of snakes, while making a quick trip inland to walk a small ‘gap’along the Derwent during this past week, I saw hanging dead over a rural gate the largest fattest going on for two metres long black (which I assume was a Tiger) snake that I have ever seen.  Someone obviously thought this would amuse passers-by.  I decided not to photograph and publish the snake because I thought the image might frighten my friends and relatives who always worry for me when I am in the bush. I have never seen such a large snake in the Tasmanian wilds (although I have been up close and almost too personal with deadly King Brown snakes in the Northern Territory in northern Australia).

Update – identifying snakes

Recently I published the post Snakes Alive.

Today I have been informed that the snakes I saw in recent walks would not be the White Lipped Snake or Whip Snake because the size of the snakes I saw is too large; rather those I saw are likely to be juvenile Tiger or Brown snakes.  I cannot find any information or photographs showing or describing an immature snake that matches what I have seen.  Are there any blog followers who know their Tasmanian snakes?  If so, I welcome feedback.

Snakes alive

In recent walks (Nearing Derwent Bridge from Lake King William, and between the Florentine River and Wayatinah), I have been surprised to see two examples of one of Tasmania’s venomous snakes the White Lipped Snake, also known as the Whip Snake.  What I saw was a delicate slender olive greenish brown snake with soft looking velvety skin.  You can refer to the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment’s site for more information.

The first snake was close to a metre in length and calmly meandered across the stony track, about a metre in front of me, as I descended towards the town of Derwent Bridge. The second snake was just under half a metre in length and was lying on the gravel road in the greenish shade – something made me look down and I realised I was only a couple of steps from standing on it. Naturally I stopped, apologised for my intrusion, stepped away to the other side of the road, and the snake in its own good time, calmly and slowly slid off into the bush away from me.

The length of my snakes is greater than that which the above government website suggests for the standard length. Mine were very slim but long.

These experiences have now made me doubt a ‘fact’ which I had always believed.  The ‘fact’ is that snakes feel the vibration through the ground of something coming towards them and then disappear because they are fundamentally shy and do not seek confrontation. The website listed above suggests the Whip Snake is shy but my experience is at odds with their information.

A chat with another walker recently reminded me that wearing gaiters is a protection against snake bite on the lower legs.  I had forgotten that important use – I was only thinking of wearing them in muddy conditions.  If you don’t know what they look like, then the Paddy Palin website, for example, show a range of gaiter styles.

Religious wildernesses

I remember childhood Bible stories referred to the Wilderness. These days I find it interesting to consider most if not all religions link with the concept of the wilderness. Laura Feldt covered this topic in “Wilderness in Mythology and Religion”: ‘Wilderness is one of the most abiding creations in the history of religions.’ Her book ‘addresses the need for cross-cultural anthropological and history of religions analyses by offering in-depth case studies of the use and functions of wilderness spaces in a diverse range of contexts including, but not limited to, ancient Greece, early Christian asceticism, Old Norse religion, the shamanism-Buddhism encounter in Mongolia, contemporary paganism, and wilderness spirituality in the US.’

In her 2014 article ‘Religions need wilderness’, Kathleen Braden wrote “The three monotheistic religions based on a common root – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – have an expression of nature and wilderness as places that allow perception of God’s sovereignty. … Wilderness is a territory (both on land and sea) where one encounters God, and it is not always an easy geography. For the ancient Israelites, it may be a place of repentance coupled with renewal. When the Israelites leave Egypt and displease God, they must wander in hostile lands before reaching a promised place. Abraham casts the slave woman, Hagar, into the wilderness, but she is saved by God, who renews her spirit and gives her a vision that she will build a great nation. Similarly, in the New Testament, the gospel of Mark begins with John the Baptist proclaiming God in the wilderness, foretelling the Christ who is to come, and calling for, again, repentance. Jesus has his own time in the wilderness being tested and honed for his ministry. For believing Muslims, creation is a gift from God and a sign of God’s grace. Similar to Judaic and Christian traditions, in Islam, nature reflects the dominion of God, not the hubris of human control. For these three monotheistic faiths that began in the Middle East, groups of believers through history have set themselves apart in monastic communities, often seeking out the wild places in self-imposed exile to allow the voice of God to be understood more clearly.

In other religions, nature and the sacred helps bring humanity into a right relationship with creation. Baha’i traditions hold that nature reflects the perfection of God and thus, sacred spaces help create a sense of harmony, transformation, and wholeness. In Hinduism and Jainism, nature reflects the abundance that the earth provides and also reminds us of the wholeness of humanity with all other life forms: there should be no barriers or separation.

Likewise, Buddhism suggests that nothing that exists is in isolation, but the sacred can lead us to understand the interdependence of all living things and help us express compassion for creation. Some sects of Buddhism also have, like the desert Christian communities, an ascetic tradition, adherents who must be removed from the material world. Their spiritual quests may be best realized in wilderness.

Religions or traditions with cultural hearths further east in Asia – Shintoism, Confucianism, Daoism – also have expressions of harmony and continuity with nature, but perhaps more in a cosmological view, although places, such as sacred stands of trees with shrines in Shintoism, may be manifest of the need to have a holy place of contemplation and refreshment.

Finally, Indigenous religious traditions are so varied and numerous that outlining them in a short essay might risk stereotyping these faiths. But in many regions, Indigenous spiritual traditions connect the wild with a worldview that interweaves humanity with nature in an unbroken relationship. Whether the shamanistic traditions of Central Asia, Native American religions of North and South America, pre-Christian European practices, animistic faiths of the African continent, or contemporary paganism, none are devoid of practices and stories related to the human relationship with nature. 

While the sacred does not have to be wilderness, wild places must be sacred. Religion needs wilderness. Whether we call this hunger an expression of God’s sovereignty or evidence of the union of all living things or connection with ancestors and a world of spirits, religion requires the wild – the not-us – to show a crucial interrelationship. The threats to wilderness, therefore, also pose a danger to the heart of humanity’s most treasured faith doctrines.”

As an atheist I don’t believe a God or other deities exist, whatever name is given by any religion. However, I am happy to be playful with one ancient Greek god who came out of retirement to meet me. A recent comment by my sister about the danger of snakes when I walk in the Tasmanian bush (all Tasmanian snakes inject their venom poisonously), reminded me of my meeting with Zeus last year. While walking in the visitor-less grounds of one of his temples located in Dion, northern eastern Greece, he and I surprised each other. Zeus has the ability to transform himself and appear as a snake. There he was basking in the sun near the end of the path I was following. Having welcomed me, he slipped away quickly.  I felt very safe then, as I will do when walking along the Derwent River. Besides, Tasmania’s Mt Olympus overlooks Lake St Clair on its western flank, and we all know Zeus’s home is Mt Olympus, albeit the one in Greece. I suspect Zeus will look out for me in some form, and make sure I reach Lake St Clair.

Despite not believing in a God, I do believe in the personally transformative power of the bush, wilderness, forests, whatever you may call those bunches of trees and natural collections of flora and fauna.

When with friends I have talked about walking, particularly in the bush, as a meditative practice. Sometimes the impact of the bush and its flora and fauna is so great that a well of great happiness is tapped – as evidenced, for example, by my bursting into song as described in an earlier post . At the end of any walk, words such as reinvigorated, revitalised, relaxed, uplifted, satisfied and at peace always come to mind. In addition, the power of the bush allows me to put the rest of life and living into perspective. Nature and its forces are so much stronger and more beautiful than any one of us, and it is a delight to be reminded of this in such profound ways. The rich rare world out there, rather than any religious connection, draws me to our wilderness.

From Hinsby Beach to Blackmans Bay accomplished on Stage 12 yesterday

The goal of my walk along the Derwent River for Stage 12 was to start at my last stopping point, Bus Stop 30 on the Channel Highway at Taroona on the western shore of the Derwent River, and continue to Blackmans Bay in the local government area of Kingborough.  I did not get as far as expected, but I was satisfied when I finished 2/3 of the way along the Blackman’s Bay Beach.

Over future posts, I will write up the stories of the walk, what I saw and what I experienced, but for now it’s enough to say that I am continuing with this massive project to walk both sides of the Derwent between the mouth and Bridgewater, and then onwards to Lake St Clair.

Yesterday I covered 5 ¾ kilometres of the length of the Derwent River on the western shore (making 35 3/4 kms in total on the western shore), and walked approximately 11 kilometres (making a total of 154 kms to date) to achieve that distance; there were a lot of steep ascents and descents.

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This distance also takes in the streets and paths on which I walked that led to dead ends so that I needed to retrace my footsteps.

The highlights of the walk include finding a way through some of the early part of the almost untracked Alum Cliffs, the delightful walk along the tracked part of the Alum Cliffs, meeting some friendly people along the way, the unusual snake sign at Tyndall Beach, stopping for a long cup of tea in Kingston with a friend, my discovery of another tucked away beach – Boronia Beach, and the Blackmans Bay Blowhole.

There are many memorable images but my favourite for today is one of my photos of mussels growing on the rocks at Boronia Beach.  I have already made it my desktop background image. When enlarged, the blues glow.

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Fundamentally the Stage 12 walk was about forest and water.

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The day started with my being roughly opposite Gellibrand Point at the northern tip of South Arm and finishing opposite the long South Arm Beach.

I intend my next walk will start from where I left off at Blackmans Bay and then continue into the Tinderbox area to Fossil Cove.  But before then I need to record the details of yesterday’s walk.  So Stage 13 will be a while away.