Tag Archives: Tasmania

Piguenit at Lake St Clair

Since my walk from the mouth along the Derwent River culminated at the source, Lake St Clair, writing one of the final blog postings about my favourite Tasmanian artist Piguenit who painted Lake St Clair a number of times, seems appropriate.  Previously in the posting Piguenit- artist extraordinaire in southern Tasmania, I extolled some of his virtues.

The story goes – in one of my former lives, in my arts and museum career, I started in the profession working at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery – in three ways: I gave the occasional public lecture in the art gallery section, I volunteered and worked on the art collection in the bowels of the building, and I was employed as a cleaning and security attendant.  Because of my art knowledge and interest I was usually allocated the large gallery at the top of the building for the security detail, the one with the 19th century paintings and sculptures. In those days there was no cover on the roof windows, no insulation and no heating.  This is late 1970s and I recall being frozen for most of my winter shifts standing there.  But the win for me was that all the TMAG’s big Piguenit paintings were hung at one end of the gallery.  Until then I had never seen his work. I was bowled over by their majesty, their drama and with the artist’s skill.  Most especially, for the first time, I saw an artist painting serious pictures in oil but sometimes only using black and white paint and creating an image with greys (some were slightly yellow greys).  I marvelled at this and have adored his work ever since.  When I come across one of his pictures in any Gallery of Australia I simply stand in reverent silence. His work has that effect on me.

Recently I received a card for a milestone birthday from a couple of stalwart walkingthederwent supporters. The image on the cover was Lake St Clair, the Source of the River Derwent, Tasmania 1887.  Piguenit delighted in this lake and its glorious mountainous surrounds.  The image below, courtesy of Artnet, is very similar to that on my birthday card (regrettably I can find no online reproduction of ‘my’ image).

william-charles-piguenit-lake-st-clair-the-source-of-the-river-derwent-tasmania

The original oil on canvas, shown on my card, was presented to the Tasmanian Government  in 1889 and is now housed in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. The differences between ‘mine’ and the Artnet versions include the fact that the latter is a smaller canvas and the foreground rocks and sand are shaped and painted differently. My earlier posting has another image of the same location – one which is held in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Clearly the birthday card was sent with my recent walkingthederwent project in mind but without knowing my decades long ‘connection’ with Piguenit’s work. That image of Lake St Clair with Mount Olympus spot-lit is a stunner.  Now I wonder if the impetus for my walk along the Derwent began in that freezing Gallery all those years ago.  How could I have known what my future held and where I would end up?

Max Angus

Thanks to blog reader Marion I have been reminded of well-known Tasmanian artist Max Angus and his connection with the Derwent River. His biography (up to 2003) can be read here. Max died aged over 102 years almost a fortnight ago in February (on my birthday so I will never forget it) this year.  You can refer to an ABC news report for more information .

As a celebrated watercolourist, Max documented coastal and inland Tasmanian landscape scenes, and over the decades of his life the Derwent River often featured as a subject for his paintings.

In 1990, one entire exhibition at the Freeman Gallery in Sandy Bay was devoted to the Derwent River Aspects of the Derwent from the Source to the Sea.  I am on the trail and hope to be able to post more exacting information in the future.  Perhaps a blog reader owns a catalogue from that rather special exhibition so I can see and learn more.  I suspect, like so many local art exhibitions, reproductions of the paintings on display were not included.  Nevertheless the descriptive titles which Max used for his work will be informative.

As an example of the artist’s Derwent River related work, a locally owned watercolour (included in this blog with permission from the private owner) titled ‘The Flying Cloud in Victoria Dock’ painted in October 1990, is shown below.  The waters of the Derwent River look fairly glassy in the foreground and a moody Mount Wellington provides a background to Hobart’s port.

Marions mothers max angus watercolour.JPG

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 did the name Tarraleah come from?

 

According to websites, site 1 and site 2, the name ‘tarraleah’ is the local Lairmairrener Aboriginal word for the Forester Kangaroo.  The Lairmairrener language was spoken by Teen Toomele Menennye (Big River) kinship groups who lived in central Tasmania and further afield.

There is nothing about the township of Tarraleah that has ever made me connect it with our Kangaroo – it has always been firmly imprinted on my mind as a town created only to support the expansion of hydroelectric power.  I wonder how prolific this Kangaroo was in central Tasmania at the time of naming the town; whether the word ‘tarraleah’ was used by white developers loosely without care for accuracy in location.

These days the area of central Tasmania near the Derwent River, where uncleared, often consists of very dense rain forests and I doubt this environment is one easily accessible for the large Forester Kangaroo. Their preference is for more open temperate forests.  Of course 10,000 years ago, the vegetation was different. The last Ice age generally caused much aridity across Australia so I assume the vegetation would have been comparatively open in the area where the township of Tarraleah now stands. Members of our aboriginal communities may possess stories passed down through the millennia about ‘tarraleah’ in this part of Teen Toomele Menennye country.

The National Museum of Australia notes  Bass Strait was not always a strait (of water). It used to be a plain populated by Indigenous peoples who moved back and forth between what we now call Victoria and Tasmania. The first humans arrived in Tasmania around 40,000 years ago. About 30,000 years ago an ice age began, which caused sea levels to drop about 120 metres and created a continuous land mass that stretched between Papua New Guinea and Tasmania. When the ice melted – a process estimated to have taken 6000 years – Bass Strait formed and became an almost impassable barrier by about 12,000 years ago.”

The Australian government explains the Forester Kangaroo, “Macropus giganteus tasmaniensis is recognised as the Tasmanian subspecies of the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Macropus giganteus, which is widespread throughout the eastern Australian mainland. The subspecies status of the Forester Kangaroo is based on differences in its skull and coat from the mainland population and its isolation in Tasmania for at least the last 10 000 to 15 000 years. Studies indicate that there is less than 1% difference in the mitochondrial DNA between the mainland Eastern Grey Kangaroo and the Forester Kangaroo.”

Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service explains the Forester Kangaroo “is the largest marsupial in Tasmania and the second largest in the world – males can reach over 60 kg and, when literally on tippy toes, stand 2 m tall! Colour varies from light brownish grey to grey. In Tasmania during the 1950s and 60s, the population of Forester kangaroos was reduced to 15% of its previous level.”  Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment  reports “By the early 1900s, as a result of unsustainable levels of hunting (by European settlers in Tasmania) and to a lesser extent land clearance, the species was in serious decline. By 1970, Forester Kangaroos were to be found in only two areas; parts of the Midlands and the far north-east of Tasmania. This was less than 10% of its range at the time of European settlementSince then a number of measures have been implemented to reverse this trend.”

Air quality

You may recall one night I was woken in my tent by the smell of smoke; you can refer to the post with the details.  Apart from that night and the following day as I walked further inland with smoke in my nostrils and not knowing whether I was walking towards or from a fire (I was in an area where access to the internet and mobile telephone reception is non-existent), one of the great delights has been the clean air. Being able to breathe deeply and feel clean on the inside has been a bonus.

From time to time thousands of hectares/acres of our land suffer from unplanned Bush Fires (called Wild Fires in the USA) the source of which may be lightning strikes on dry forests.

In addition various government agencies organise planned burns to reduce the amount of dry vegetation (‘fuel reduction’ being the current term), with the view of preventing major out-of-control Bush Fires when the temperatures increase and the wind blows strongly.  The media always alerts the public so those with respiratory problems can plan to stay indoors or take other precautions.

So at different times, Tasmania no longer has pristine air.  I was amazed when I read this article and found that the air in the Derwent Valley was compared with the extremely unfavourable air quality of industrial India and China.  Back then, the air in that particular locality could be labelled as severe pollution.   Thankfully, the circumstances have reverted to normal … until the next burn.

Rock art vandalised

One morning I read the devastating news that paintings, made by aboriginals before white settlement (Tasmania began to be settled by Europeans in 1803), in a rock shelter near the Derwent River had been vandalised. The images were made by the Big River people, also known as the teen toomele menennye and the cave is considered a sacred site for aboriginal people.

Such caves are unknown among the general public, they are not advertised or signposted, there are no roads to them, and their location cannot be discovered in books.  This shelter is located on private property so that casual walkers are unlikely to have access.

To give some sort of perspective about the number of people who would know about aboriginal sites along the Derwent, inland Tasmania’s country is mostly either under primary production, forest plantations or related to electricity generation. Agricultural properties change hands over time and so it is reasonable to suggest that knowledge of any special sites would be shared across more people than the current owners and property managers.  Caves on Hydro Tasmanian property would be known to a few employees. Nevertheless, outside the aboriginal community, the pool of people who know their whereabouts would be small.  So when I learned of this tragedy I wondered why and who defiled the paintings.

I find it interesting that within a month of Hydro Tasmania releasing a newsletter mentioning the rock shelter, without giving a location, the vandalism was discovered. I wonder if there is a connection between that article and the damage; whether a reader of that newsletter who knew the rock shelter shared information about the site with someone who did not value the cultural history of our indigenous people. If you have more information please talk to Tasmania Police.

Here are some of the media stories:

The Mercury  

The ABC 

The Smithsonian Magazine

Floods and water levels rising

 

When I walked  along bodies of water dammed on the Derwent River such as Lake King William, I remarked on the low water levels, showed photos of deep barren shores, and posted about the coming danger to Tasmania’s electricity supply.  You can refer to a range of posts for different views on this topic including the following examples: Tarraleah Canal No 1 walk – where is the water?,  Lake King William, The rocky shore, Looking for a place to camp overnight, Death and Lake King William, Rise and shine, Trackless under the powerlines, and Andrew Hughes has walked, rafted and canoed the Derwent over the past month.

Newspapers recorded some of the extremes; here is one of The Mercury examples.

Hydro Tasmania is the organisation which manages water resources  by selling power not only to Tasmanians but via an undersea link to Victorians and further afield on mainland Australia.  For a very long while Tasmania had an unusually low rainfall, then when the Bass Link failed at the end of last year, this meant Tasmania could not buy power from the mainland if in crisis.  Over half a year passed before the fault was repaired and in that time water levels in dams, lakes and the river dropped steadily. In damage control, as politicians and the community worried about the reducing water levels, Hydro Tasmania released the information that our State could survive and continue to generate sufficient electricity in the local newspaper with dams at an even lower capacity . Nevertheless failure for rains to fall, created a situation where massive banks of diesel power generators were installed.  The operation of these generators cost Tasmania millions of dollars. The photo in this article shows an area being prepared for generators, and then the next article shows the installation outside Catagunya Power Station.  Generators were placed in many locations.  This article shows banks of generators outside the Meadowbank Power Station;  this is the closest power station to Hobart and is one of many that operates using the water from the Derwent River.

The dry situation was desperate.  Cloud Seeding was being practised as an option to bring on the rain.

Eventually the gods or nature heeded the call and the heavens opened.  As winter approached, welcome rain poured and began to replenish our dams and lakes.  The rain was heavy and persisted so that the water levels improved dramatically.  In the process, many parts of Tasmania experienced severe floods.  Dramatic stories were released in the media . The Ouse River, which feeds into the Derwent River, was the site of the death of one man.

These were terrible days for many.

Now the climate seems has returned to some sense of balance.  Our glorious spring time, albeit with some hotter days than normal, has passed and summer has arrived.  We all hope for prudent management of electricity generating water resources and for intelligent planning for extreme events – which we know are now more frequent around the world. In this way, the Derwent River will remain a living and useful flow of water which poses little risk to affecting people, animals and the surrounding landscape.