Tag Archives: University of Tasmania

The weather in southern Tasmania

The early non-indigenous settlers in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), almost all of whom were formerly residents of the typically rainswept and cool British Isles or had lived in hot India, documented their thoughts on the weather.

Their descriptions of our weather were usually based on comparisons with the situation from which they had relocated. Generally the impression given is that the weather on this island is temperate, irritatingly variable, and considerably easier to live with compared to that experienced in the settlers’ original homelands. For example, in James Bischoff’s “Sketch of the History of Van Diemen’s Land” written in 1832, there are many references to the climate and its relationship to agriculture and animal husbandry. More generally he says: ‘To one accustomed to the moist climate and plentifully watered countries of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Van Diemen’s Land, at first sight, may present a dry and unproductive appearance; but upon a nearer acquaintance, it will put on a more inviting aspect.’  It was ‘the regularity and salubrity of its climate’ which Bischoff found attractive.  The author also claims that ‘A book was published at Calcutta, in 1830, giving an account of Van Diemen’s Land, principally intended for the use of persons residing in India, and shewing the advantages it holds out to them for their residence; the following is extracted from that work: Its climate seems so well adapted to the renovating of the constitution of those who have suffered from their residence in India, that it only requires to be pointed out, and the easiest manner of getting there made known, as also the cheapness and comfort of living, when there, to turn the tide of visitors to the Cape and the Isle of France, towards its shores.’

Godwins Guide to Emigrants to VDL

Godwin’s “Emigrants Guide to Van Diemen’s Land more properly called Tasmania held in the collection of the State Library of Victoria, written in 1823, offers the following: ‘This island has to boast of perhaps the most salubrious and congenial climate of any in the known world, for our European constitution: It has been ascertained by the thermometer to be similar to that of the south of France; the general temperature being about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and the extremes from 43 to 80 degrees. The spring commences early in August, the summer in November, the autumn in March, and the winter in May. The winter, therefore, is not of more than three months’ duration, and the severest part only six weeks.’

Ros Haynes writes on a University of Tasmania site in 2006 ‘In most areas there was adequate rainfall, the climate was more conducive to growing the crops they were used to …. The temperature was also considered more invigorating than the heat and humidity that enervated settlers in the other Australian colonies. Van Diemen’s Land was soon marketing itself as the ‘Sanatorium of the South’, famous for its flowers, fruit and healthy inhabitants.’

Dixons cover

John Dixon, in his 1839 book (available as an E-book) “The Condition and Capabilities of Van Diemen’s Land, as a Place of Emigration: Being the Practical Experience of Nearly Ten Year’s Residence in the Colony“, explained, ‘Lingering illness is seldom heard of in Van Diemen’s Land: and, in consequence, the deaths always seem to be sudden.  These seeming sudden deaths may contribute to praise of the climate: for they may improve its salutary influence, by sustaining the body in health longer there, than in the climate of another country.

These days we would describe our climate as being cool temperate with four distinct seasons. However, across the island, our temperature and rainfall ratings vary according to topography, nearness to the coast and time of the year.  Despite Tasmania’s capital city Hobart being the Australian capital city located closest to South Pole, it is known as the nation’s driest capital city.  By contrast, parts of the west coast of Tasmania expects rain for more than 300 days each year – I lived in Queenstown once and it rained for three weeks straight leaving me feeling very sun deprived.

Helpful tip

When you visit Tasmania for the first time, you will find any and everyone will be happy to talk with you about the weather – for many minutes at a time.  Such conversations may help you to make new friends.  However, please avoid some pitfalls. If you normally live in a super cold climate it may not be appropriate to say our weather is so mild and lovely here, when powder snow tops our mountains in the distance and light drizzle saturates the ground – because we may not think highly of the weather under those circumstances.  Similarly if you come from a very hot climate it may not be appropriate to say the weather is so gorgeously moderate here when we have a 35 Celsius degree day, because it is likely we will consider that to be a hot day. I guess we all have our peculiarities.

40 degrees south

The iconic magazine produced in, by and about Tasmania is Tasmania 40° South.

Details about the latest issue can be read at http://www.fortysouth.com.au/back-issues/issue/77. One current story highlights the cleverly re-purposed Pumphouse at Lake St Clair (the end goal for my walk along the Derwent River). The accompanying photos include mirror quality reflections across the lake – simply stunning.

Tas 40deg south mag cover

Each issue of the magazine showcases the wonders and diversity of Tasmania, the stories are always well written and accompanied by magical photographs.

It is possible to subscribe and receive each quarterly issue through the post, or purchase electronic issues – go to (http://www.magzter.com/AU/Forty-South-Publishing-Pty-Ltd/Tasmania-40%C2%B0South). For people planning to visit or to move to and live in this state, obtaining copies of this glossy magazine is a must. The information will inspire and orient you. Also, it will provide something wonderful to show friends and relatives.

While Tasmania may be located remotely at one edge of the world before the southern polar cap, it is an Australian state with startling natural beauty, a flurry of surprising international and community festivals throughout the year, clean air, the freshest of sea and land food, a rich and complex cultural scene, beautiful remnants of heritage listed architecture, and short travel times with easy access within the cities and throughout regional areas. In addition, Tasmania boasts valuable educational institutions (for example, our University of Tasmania is ranked in the world top 100 universities in the disciplines of Earth and marine sciences, top 150 for Agriculture and forestry, top 300 for Law and top 400 for Medicine).

Many residents and visitors to the state are lifted by a sense of vibrancy and vitality from the opportunities which Tasmania offers.  Technological and communication access to the world is a given from Tasmania, and a number of airlines fly in and out of Tasmania all day throughout the year.  In other words, we are easily connected to the world – when we are not out and about in Tasmania eating world class meals, participating in all manner of sports, or discovering more of the natural environment by walking, cycling, driving, swimming, diving, fishing or flying. Oh yes … and some of us work.

If you are wondering where the magazine title came from, consult your maps or have a look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/40th_parallel_south.  You will see that the latitude of 40 degrees south passes through King and Flinders Islands the two most northern islands of Tasmania and therefore that line of latitude marks the northern extremity of this Australian state.

I wonder who of my blog readers, apart from Tasmanians, live somewhere near 40 degrees South (New Zealand, Chile, Argentina?).  And how many readers are living at 40 degrees North?

Taroona’s coastline as experienced on Stage 11 of my walk along the Derwent River

The last leg of this Stage was the most interesting because I made discoveries which delighted me deeply.

At 12.18pm, I left my Channel Highway resting spot and walked downhill toward the people-free Taroona High School (closed for school holidays). Close to the bottom of the hill I could see the tops of boathouses and a ‘beach’ to my right so I took a dogleg to Melinga Place on my right and continued downhill.

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I didn’t know this existed. Mostly a rocky shore, a little sand, edged by a mown green lawn.  Serene.  Across the Derwent River, I could see Gellibrand Point at the north of the South Arm peninsula.

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Walking southwards it wasn’t long before I entered the foreshore bushland on an easy-to-walk dirt track.

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Later I found this had a name: the Taroona Foreshore Track. At one point the ‘track’ passed over a ‘beach’ of shells and rocks then returned to dirt and rose up over areas raised above the water.

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An onshore breeze kept me moving.  Every so often, steep trails descended to the rocky shore but I realised that staying on the track would be more comfortable than rock hopping the edge of the River.

When I walked through a grove of trees that were obviously different, I was delighted to read an information panel which informed me this was an “unusual and isolated stand of blackwoods.  Acacia melanoxylon.”  The species is also known as Sally wattle, lightwood, hickory, mudgerabah, Tasmanian blackwood or black wattle. Their rough bark seemed as if it would flake off in small pieces but it was toughly attached.

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At 12.46pm I looked back northward and could still see the boathouses near the High School.

Looking back to boathouses below Taroona HS

A couple of minutes later I reached Crayfish Point where I noticed craypot markers bobbing in the Derwent River as evidence that fishing for crayfish/lobster was taking place.  However, a sign seemed to indicate this was part of fisheries research by the University of Tasmania.

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Brilliant orange lichen sprawled across some of the rocks.  Huge Pied Cormorants rested on rocks with water lapping at their feet.  This was one of those brilliant days when all the superlatives in the world seem inadequate.

It was near here that an information panel enlightened me about some of the native vegetation.  Now I can identify not only Pigface which I love, but also Bower Spinach and Grey Saltbush. Why I didn’t take photos of the real thing while I was walking I cannot say. Daft!  So I have Googled for images:  If you type in Bower Spinach Tasmania Images, up comes a suite of pictures showing this fleshy leaved plant.  Try something similar to find images of the softly grey coloured Grey Saltbush.

When I reached the start of Taroona Beach at 12.53pm, I looked up the hill and in the distance I could see the Shot Tower that had been built in 1870 (the Shot Tower, a major tourist attraction, is normally accessible from the Channel Highway).

The Batchelor’s Grave Historic Site, just above the foreshore of Taroona Beach, was a surprise.  Wikipedia provides the information that this is “the grave of a young sailor, Joseph Batchelor, who died on the sailing ship Venus in the Derwent Estuary in 1810, and was buried ashore on 28 January 1810. It is reputed to be the oldest European grave in Tasmania”. I am amazed at this idea.  I cannot imagine that many Europeans didn’t die and were buried in Van Diemens Land before 1810 – however, maybe this is the only stone grave marker left from early in the 19th century.

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Taroona Beach is backed by Taroona Park with pleasant picnicking facilities and public toilets.

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I left at 1.06pm and walked along Niree Parade for a couple of minutes until the Taroona Foreshore Track restarted.

Within moments I arrived at Hinsby Beach, which was the find of the day as far as I am concerned. Isolated.  Small.  Tree edged. Calm.  Small wave break.  A few boathouses.  A family beach with a few swimmers and sun bathers.  Located at the end of the River edge before the steep Alum Cliffs which flow for 3 or four kilometres to Kingston.

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I soaked in the atmosphere before starting uphill on a public access walkway at 1.22pm, under shady bushes with lush surrounding ground cover. The track connected to the bottom of Hinsby Road. At the top of Hinsby Road the Channel Highway flowed by. As I arrived at bus stop 30 at 1.36pm, a Metro bus came by on which I made the trip back into Hobart. Half an hour later I was in the city and ready to make the bus trip back home in Bellerive.  I walked in the door at 2.40pm after an exhilarating day when my feet didn’t want to carry me, but I insisted and they persisted. This really is a wonderful part of the world.

Selection of landmarks along Sandy Bay Road

Once on Sandy Bay Road I turned left and continued walking southwards.When past the University of Tasmania grounds, over the road on my right was a Catholic co-educational secondary school operating in the Josephite tradition. This Mt Carmel College site includes an attractive 19th century sandstone building.

In a small park, a family of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos feasted on insects in the grass along with ducks and Silver Gulls.

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The day was very peaceful.

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At 8.40am I reached the entrance to Wrest Point Hotel (http://www.wrestpoint.com.au) which, in the 1970s, established the first legal casino in Australia.

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Apart from its poker machines and gambling rooms, this Hotel offers many bars and different restaurants. In addition, it runs a continuous program of concerts, guest artists and other entertainment events so that thousands of people pass through its doors weekly. With exploratory meandering I think it may be possible to walk through different parts of this Hotel and find a route close to the water’s edge. I didn’t feel confident that I would find my way around without finding myself in ‘no go’ areas. Instead I continued walking along Sandy Bay Road.

The business Network Gaming lives in what used to be a well-known and much loved pub, Travellers Rest:  one which I knew well in my student days.

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The Wrest Point Hotel land wraps around the old Travellers Rest hotel so, it wasn’t until I continued to walk along Sandy Bay Road that I discovered an original entrance to the Wrest Point property area.

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I reached the Derwent Water Beach Reserve at 8.50am.

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From there I could see two private jetties jutting out into the water.

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When I walked closer, it was clear that dozens of dinghies hung under protection waiting for their owners to come and row them out to yachts moored on the Derwent River.  In fact, as I watched, one fellow set off rowing.

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The time of day and the quality of the sunlight made this vista exceptionally beautiful; seagulls perched on the jetties, the water sparkled, a mild breeze dappled the surface of the River, happy dogs walked along attached to owners, and I was able to blot out the sound of noisy traffic streaming past behind and beside me. The water was crystal clear.

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By 9.05am I was reading the information panel at the Maning Ave Reserve. This Reserve seemed to mark the change from the suburb of Sandy Bay to the suburb of Lower Sandy Bay. I learnt Fred Maning arrived in 1824 and his family farmed in the area (however I understand he spent most of his life in New Zealand, and it is not clear why he is remembered with his name on this park and on streets etc in the Lower Sandy Bay area).  Information boards such as these help me to understand how Hobart developed.

Sandy Bay along the foreshore

On Stage 11 of my walk along the Derwent River, having enjoyed Hobart’s wharf area and the edges of Salamanca and Battery Point, I continued walking along Short Beach at the beginning of Sandy Bay, past public toilets at 8.20am, towards the Sandy Bay Rowing Club and then along Marrieville Esplanade.

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At 8.28am I reached the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and remembered my first Hobart job many years ago.  The photo below shows the entrance to this complex.

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A friend waitressed in the Club restaurant and I went to see if I could get a similar job. I had no experience in hospitality but, full of unsubstantiated confidence, I approached the head chef. He told me that without experience he could not give me a job. I stood my ground and said that until I had worked in a job I wouldn’t have experience and therefore the only way I could get experience would be if he hired me.  And he did.  As a washer of dishes and all the kitchen wares.  Eventually I was allowed to place the lettuce on plates, then make the salads, then cook the potato chips and fried rice in large pots, and finally I reached the heights of being permitted to cook steaks for customers.  After many months the head chef recalled his first meeting with me and how (I forget the word he used but its meaning was clearly something like) pushy, stubborn, strong willed and unable to take no for an answer I was, and it was my approach which inclined him to give me a go. It certainly helped to pay the rent and I was very grateful.  I remain grateful because I learnt a lot about human nature in that hot kitchen where pressure turned people into animals.

But back to my Stage 11 walk.

A couple of minutes later I was walking past the Derwent Sailing Squadron buildings and could see yachts everywhere in and out of the water.  Past the Squadron buildings, in the distance, the tall building indicated Wrest Point Hotel was not far away and I knew I would walk past it a little later.

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In the distance, slightly inland on my right, the many buildings of the University of Tasmania cascaded down the hill; part of the slope of Mount Nelson.

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A car drove past and the driver waved and smiled at me. Once friend Ma was out of her car, she explained that with her husband she was about to put their yacht into the water (after its recent debarnacling – if there is such a word) and enjoy a sail along the Derwent.  “Would I like to stay and watch?’ she asked. I wanted to stay focused on my walk in case weather might not be suitable on other days, and declined with some inner hesitation.  What a great offer.  Maybe another time I can say yes.  Perhaps a sail??? Who knows.

The opportunity to continue walking close to the foreshore came to an abrupt stop and it was clear private houses owned the area at the back of their houses to water level. So I took a path to Sandy Bay Road, arriving at 8.35am.

Heading for Selfs Point as it juts out into the Derwent River

Leaving Lutana, I crossed the bridge on the Queens Walk by turning left off Risdon Road.

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Close by was a sign indicating I was now in the City of Hobart and part of the New Town Bay Reserve. I turned left into Marine Esplanade.  A massive Graham Family Funeral direction sign sat in a rugby field on one corner implying a funeral business was behind.  But it is not – the business premises are located perhaps a kilometre or more away within the suburb of New Town.

As I walked along the gum tree sided Esplanade with New Town Creek to my left, I inhaled deeply of the fresh eucalypt smells. A little before 1.15pm I reached the Tasmanian Bridge Association clubhouse. A minute or so later I passed a University of Tasmania building and stood on a landscaped circle of land marking the mouth of New Town Creek as it enters into New Town Bay.

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Continuing amidst trees by the water’s edge I walked outside a high mesh fence marking the territory of a Sewage Treatment Plant.

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A little after 1.20pm, I was forced to turn back and retrace my steps. The property on which the oil tanks stand was effectively fenced, and the barb wire topped mesh extended out into the water. I wasn’t welcome to continue.

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Irritated, I plopped down on some rocks at the edge of the Bay and nibbled on some lunch.

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For the first time that day I felt the effects of a strengthening wind. I liked watching the MONA ferry dragging a chain of churning white water like a fluffy tail, as it travelled between Hobart and Berriedale.

This route was a pleasant and safe distraction but it did not help me to reach Selfs Point.  And then, as I walked back I found there were no connecting pathways between the Esplanade and Selfs Point Road. But I was not unhappy to have walked this way.  It was really tranquil moving along beside the edge of the Creek and then New Town Bay and the return walk.

In addition, the deviation was valuable because it allowed me to muse about the walkings of Charles Darwin, the English naturalist and geologist best known for his contributions to evolutionary theory. Darwin sailed to Hobart on the Beagle at the end of January 1836 and departed in the middle of February.  You can read more information about his Tasmanian stop over and his opinions at http://www.utas.edu.au/library/exhibitions/darwin/hobart.html.  A few years ago I was told that Darwin decided to climb Mount Wellington by starting at New Town Bay and following New Town Creek.  However, I can find no evidence of this and, in fact, the Royal Society of Tasmania states Darwin only made two attempts to scale Mount Wellington and both were from the South Hobart direction.

By 1.45pm, I had returned to the Queens Walk and turned left to find another route to Selfs Point.