01 November 2013

On the trail of the Whalers

Every place-name has a story behind it. It may be a nostalgic transplant from the Old Country; it may commemorate somebody who seemed important at the time, or it might refer to the place itself, its distance from somewhere else, the opinion of the person who named it, or a singular feature.

The history of European activity in Tasmania is brief by world standards, and there are relics from some of the earliest days dotted around the state in all sorts of unlikely places. However, you do often need expert advice to confirm whether an overgrown pile of rocks constitutes significant remains or merely a failed garden feature.

Nobody gets a prize for guessing why Whalers' Lookout is so named, nor for guessing that it is a prominent feature. And I was lucky enough to have Barry Ford with me when I walked out there. Barry has been walking and camping in the area for more than half a century and is generous in sharing his knowledge.

The walk is across private property, so the landowner's permission is required before you start. 

first glimpse of Cape Bernier (distance, centre)

High Yellow Bluff on the Forestier Peninsula is in the background

and a nice view of Maria Island

That's where we're going -
Whaler's Lookout is the closest bit of Cape Bernier

Boot Bay

Boot Bay

Police officers were once stationed here to guard the East Coast against smugglers. There isn't much to see now, but there are plenty of sheltered little bays where it would be easy for nefarious persons to bring ashore things they shouldn't.

Wild flowers

Wild flowers are glorious at this time of year. Yellow pea-flower, flag lilies, and this white flower whose name I don't know. I just paint stuff; I don't have to know what it's called.


Once upon a time there were several Youth Hostels along this coast, situated a comfortable day's walk apart. This one burned down in a bushfire in the late 1950s. The next one along was at Bream Creek; I don't know whether it's still there, but I shouldn't think it is.

The Whalers

Long before it became unfashionable this was the location of one of several whaling stations. Whales were so plentiful along the Tasmanian coast that crews rowed out from the shore to hunt them, and there were other on-shore stations at Adventure Bay and Trumpeter Bay on Bruny Island as well as several up the East Coast. It only took a few years to cut numbers so drastically that the stations closed down and the whalers had to put out to sea again.

This trench was a slide where whales were dragged ashore for processing.
 It was originally brick-lined; there are still a few old bricks lying about (below).

Some overgrown piles of rocks scattered through the bush
 are all that is left of the station buildings.

Fishermen and others often come ashore here, and somebody had left not long before we arrived; the ashes from their camp fire were still warm. They'd left this little arrangement on a stump by the fire.

Mercury Passage and Whaler's Lookout from near the site of the Youth Hostel
I don't know how the chap on the lookout communicated with his mates at the whaling station; he may have shouted very loudly, or perhaps he just ran back down as fast as he could go. At any rate, I imagine there was much rushing to the boats when the signal was given that whales had been spotted.

There is just as much excitement today about whales  in the Mercury Passage, but nobody is going to hunt them now.

Whaler's Lookout

Between the whaling station and the lookout is the entrance to Cockle Bay Lagoon, which must have caused some inconvenience at times. We were fortunate the tide was well out, so we could cross easily, but this is not always the case and on previous visits I have had to walk right around the lagoon and tackle the hill from the other end. 

We much prefer to make a circuit, up one side of Whaler's Lookout and down the other.

going up
"Up" from this direction is an abrupt gravelly ascent through a lot of inhospitably prickly wattle to the top of the lookout. But the view from the top is well worth the trouble. We spent a little time there, picking off leeches and eating our lunch.
 The view. Barry says the remains of a World War II observation post can still be seen on top of Cape Bernier, should you be energetic enough to scramble up there to look. I'm told it's pretty rough going, so I'll just take his word for it.

After lunch we went down the other side.
and down again
Whaler's Lookout from the inland side

We circumnavigated the lagoon, then revisited all these places on our way home.

Maria Island and Cockle Bay Lagoon
With many thanks to Barry Ford for answering all my questions.

26 October 2013

Wallowing in Nostalgia - People's Day at the Royal Hobart Show

A couple of weeks ago I enjoyed myself at the Royal Melbourne Show, but couldn't help feeling that although it had lots of colour, movement and noise it lacked the certain Something one finds at the Hobart Show. So I went to the Hobart Show on Peoples' Day. 

Usually I go on Friday in hope of smaller crowds, but decided to brave it this year in the interests of Comparison. 

Weather wasn't quite as miserable as it traditionally is, but there didn't seem to be many people there and everything was pretty much as I expected, only better. 

For example, there was plenty of parking space. (There's my car, the blue one off in the distance).

I watched the traditional country pastime - woodchopping, a sport said to have been invented in Tasmania. Occasional falls of snow on the Mountain during the day  are not quite so traditional.

Taking refuge from temporarily inclement weather in the Produce Hall I discovered the sort of Fruit display one used to see in the past, but which has been absent in more recent years. Nice to see it return.

The produce hall was infested by a fearsome horde of scarecrows created by different groups of school children. Fortunately, there were plenty of police officers about to protect everyone.

Of course, there were farm animals; after all, that's what The Show is all about, isn't it?

The sheep, goats and cows are here - but where are the people?
ponies waiting for their turn in the ring

Grand Parade

In the main arena there were equestrian events, and the Grand Parade.

geniune London Black Cab, I believe

serious Heavy Metal

Vintage Machinery

The Old Bits and Pieces Club of Tasmania Inc kept me fascinated for quite a while.

I love machinery and this dedicated band of enthusiasts have rescued and restored some amazing – well – bits and pieces. 

This was my favourite:

It's a 780E 4 horsepower screen-cooled engine made in the USA by International Famous in 1917. A pretty primitive cooling system, but it obviously works!

And what about this two-cylinder gem, also seen above with its attentive owner ?


While on the subject of Old Things - these laughing clowns date from the early days of the last century – before the Great War. Their owner, now in her seventies, has been taking them round the shows for fifty years. They're made of plaster, and she's just given them yet another coat of paint. I probably popped ping pong balls in their mouths when I was brought to the Show as a small child – and my father reckons he probably did, too.

These are some of their younger brothers - probably from the 1940s

The modern fibreglass versions don't seem to have nearly so much character, somehow.

Sideshow Alley
Are the rides getting more startling - or am I just getting old?

something more my speed

alas, for show only, not for us plebs to ride in
visitors had to content themselves with Dodgem Cars

or rolling around in huge bubbles

or bouncing on a Jurassic Castle
Jurassic Castle? Surely you jest!


Now, here's something you really don't expect to see at The Show - real, life-size dinosaurs!
Show visitor startled by a giant prehistoric dragonfly -
 yes, they really were this size!

Two friendly Leaellynasaura

terrorised by a runaway  – puppet?
 One of the most fascinating puppet shows around these days is the Dinosaur Petting Zoo, a highly entertaining introduction to palaeontology that seems to turn up everywhere.

Erth Visual & Physical Inc. create some truly awesome spectacles; the Dinosaurs are only a small part of their output. Their website is absolutely worth a visit:

And while we're on the subject of dinosaurs, here are some of their direct descendants, the largest ones you'll see anywhere today: