27 March 2013

Cape Raoul - naturally Gothic

This is Cape Raoul. Some time about the turn of the last century. It's probably one of Tasmania's most photographed bits of coastline; not hard to see why! This is a much-reproduced Beattie photograph and this particular copy with caption appears in Tasmania's Strange Story, "issued under the Auspices of the Come to Tasmania Organisation by Leslie Norman, Sec." in 1928 "to attract a greater number of tourists for the season".

The photograph above is a typical view of Cape Raoul's unmistakable dolerite columns. Dolerite, according to J.R. Skemp, my favourite authority on things Tasmanian, formed from molten magma, which intruded into sedimentary sandstones in the Jurassic era.
"The cooling of the dolerite sometimes made it split into vertical sections which were exposed in lifted blocks, and produced what is called 'columnar' dolerite. Good examples of this columnar dolerite are the Organ Pipes on Mt Wellington, Cape Raoul on Tasman peninsula and the sides of the Cataract Gorge, Launceston." . . . he goes on to point out that it is this dolerite that makes the "Tasmanian landscape so different from that of the rest of Australia and give[s] it an added attraction for tourists. The nearest similar dolerite rocks are in South Africa and Antarctica."

No doubt you have seen plenty of photographs of yachts "rounding the Raoul". But have you ever wondered what it looks like from the top? Or what you can see from there? Here are some photographs I took when out with the Hobart Walking Club last year. They are presented here in the sequence they were taken, so should give you a bit of an idea of the way the vegetation and terrain change as you near the point.

Cape Raoul in the background. The white dot on the top is a pretty little tarn.

The first part of the walk is through eucalypt forest

Looking back along the coast at Shipstern Bluff. Those tiny black dots off
the end of the bluff are house-sized boulders. 

It's probably not a good path for those nervous about heights

change in vegetation as you come down off the hill

yes - that hill, the one we've just walked over

 and it IS a long way down

the tarn

and the view to the right of it

looking back across the cape - there's the tarn in the middle distance, and there's
the hill we walked over behind it. The cliff on the left hand side of it is probably
the lookout where I took the first photo

moving right along the cliff-top

nice view of Tasman Island

Right on top of the cape

dolerite columns!

another view from the lookout on the way home because the weather had
improved; Cape Raoul in the distance.

In the early days of settlement some of the English had little respect for the landscape. In the early twentieth century the crew of a Royal Navy ship amused themselves using the columns of Cape Raoul for target practice; they did a bit of damage before people objected. If you compare the Beattie photo above with a more recent one you'll see a few more columns. Fortunately, not all their shots hit the target. In the 1990s a Hobart Walking Club member discovered an unexploded shell further along the coast; military people blew it up to make it safe, but it's still there if you know where to look.

Some of these photographs are on my desktop at present; I get vertigo every time I switch on my computer.

reference:Skemp, J.R.Tasmania Yesterday and Today. Melbourne. Macmillan and Co Ltd. 1959

1 comment:

  1. I would like to use your image of the unexploded shell on Salters Point in a book I am writing. Please contact me at tstredwick@velosmith.com.au