Ocean Magazine : 4 November December 2005
included Tasmania. Anthropologists say it took them a further 15,000 years to migrate to one of the world's furthest south land extremities. Cut off from colleagues by the 180 nm width of Bass Strait when sea levels rose, Tasmanian Aborigines developed differently, for example cremating their dead, which is not done elsewhere. When John Bowen, aged 23, led a party of 49 from Sydney Cove, in August 1803, in the brig Lady Nelson and the whaler Albion, to found another British penal colony near Hobart, the Aborigine population of Tasmania was thought to be 4-5,000, but in the 30 years that followed, this dwindled drastically to only 350, the startlingly high death toll caused by exposure to European diseases, abduction of women, starvation and violent conflicts with the settlers. Today there are no indigenous full-blooded Aborigines left on the island. The British were intent on diversifying their penal system away from the swelling tide of free settlers establishing themselves in Sydney. They set up other outposts in Norfolk Island, Moreton Bay and Fremantle, but in Tasmania's case there was also worry about the increasing presence of French explorers and American whalers, raising the possibility that the island could be annexed by either power. Such designs were thwarted and Tasmania -- acquiring that name in 1853 -- became the sixth state of Australia after Federation in1901. ocean | 93 Once the mere thought of wild and woolly Bass Strait, and crossing into the famously furious "Roaring Forties" latitudes, were enough to put motor and sailing yacht owners alike off such a potentially cold and wet voyage, but increasingly sophisticated weather and navigation gear now allows skippers to better plan their passages, coastal forays and protected anchorages, and the resulting very pleasant experiences of guests on board are starting to win Tasmania high marks in big boat cruising chat circles. It does help to schedule trips in the southern summer, of course, or at least in the spring or autumn, and to keep an eye on the barometer at all times, but these caveats aside, there is plenty on the island's leeward East Coast to keep visitors interested for a month or more, and when wind and sea conditions permit, a cruise from Hobart down D'entrecasteaux Channel to the remote southern Maatsuyker Islands, and around to the virgin forests of Port Davey, as Capt Mike Hein did recently on Mea Culpa, is recommended. These names speak poignantly of early European contacts with Tasmania, particularly of Dutch captain Abel Janszoon Tasman who visited in two ships, the Heemskirk and the Zeehaen, in August 1642, on behalf of the Dutch East India Company based in Batavia, now Jakarta. Tasman initially called the island, which is about the same size as Scotland, Van Diemen's Land, after then Governor-General of the Dutch East India Company, Anthony van Diemen. He also named the Maatsukyer Group, and Maria and Schouten Islands south of Great Oyster Bay on the East Coast. Much later, when French seafarer Comte de la Perouse went missing in 1788, the same year the first British penal colony was established in Sydney, Rear Admiral Bruni D'Entrecasteaux in the Recherche and Captain Huon de Kermadec in the Esperance set out to try to find him, bestowing their own names on countless channels, bays, capes and islands in the process. Aborigines preceded white settlers to Tasmania by about 35,000 years. They began crossing from present-day Indonesia to The Kimberley some 50,000 years ago, when the Australian continent was much larger and "Tasmanians own more boats per capita than any other state in Australia", says Mure in his written legacy to the island. "This is hardly surprising, as the furthest distance that you can get away from the sea is one hundred kilometers."
5 January February 2006
3 September October 2005