11 December 2014

Skeletonizers, Stingers, Sandstone for Victoria and a Shipwreck

Even on overcast days the east coast of Tasmania is interesting and beautiful, and I can recommend a walk along the coastline from Orford to Stapleton Beach.

Morning tea in shelter under some convenient sheoaks

winch. etc.

Edible plants

Wild cherries were abundant and those of us brought up in the bush strolled along nibbling the tiny fruit. I believe they're a good source of vitamin C, but they're so small you would have to eat an awful lot to do you any good. These aren't ripe enough to eat so were left behind. You can find out more about these peculiar parasitic trees on the Australian Plants Society Tasmania website: http://www.apstas.com/sgaptas-curios2.htm

We weren't the only ones browsing on the vegetation.

beautiful blossom; but the leaves are in a bad way.

The reason these gumleaves are dying – lots of
little furry caterpillars munching away enthusiastically.

This is the Gumleaf Skeletonizer (Uraba Lugens) caterpillar. It not only eats away the fleshy part of gumleaves, leaving only the skeleton (hence its rather splendidly gothic name) but its hair is poisonous and can cause a nasty, itching rash. Still, it looks pretty with raindrops on it. You can find out more about it here:

There were some lovely, delicately speckled hyacinth orchids flowering along the path. You'll be pleased to hear nobody seemed to be eating them.  

Seen on a Beach

that's Maria Island hiding beneath the cloud in the background

Back down to the beach, where we found plenty of bluebottles washed up by the tide. Strange and fascinating creatures – but again, don't touch! http://www.australianfauna.com/bluebottlejellyfish.php

There were hooded plovers on the edge of the water.
 Their nest sites are being protected, but the birds
were too quick for me to photograph.
So here's a picture of them on the sign, instead.

Historical Construction

I have long known about the historic quarry at Spring Bay, but this was the first time I had actually visited it. The quarry operated from about 1855 to the mid-1880s and provided stone for various official buildings in Melbourne, including the Law Courts, Town Hall, National Bank and the GPO. (ref. Leaman, David. Walk Into History in Southern Tasmania.  Leaman Geophysics. Hobart. 1999. p. 175)

rusting trolley wheels among the rocks

Ships were brought in and moored to ringbolts for loading; there is still a ring in the rock in the centre of this picture, and a second on another rock somewhere off to the left. The quarry is directly above this slope, and wooden derricks swung stone from the trolleys to the ship.  Louisa Meredith (quoted by Suzanne Lester in Spring Bay Tasmania; a Social History. Artemis Publishing and Marketing Consultants. Hobart. 1994) describes a wide platform covered with immense derricks for loading ships, and these are clearly shown in the1880 photograph in the same book. 

You might make out a member of our party picking his way between the rocks.

This block formed the footing for equipment used to move the cut stone. I guess that as rock was removed from the quarry it outlived its usefulness; it stands alone and abandoned in the 1880 photograph.

Lester tells us Swordfish made the return trip to Melbourne and back in 54 hours.

Loading must have been tricky in rough weather. On the night of 24/25 April 1880 there was a terrific gale and Rocket, bound for Launceston, was wrecked at Bicheno with the loss of all five people on board. She had delivered stores to Schouten Island after picking up 20 tons of freestone from the Orford quarry. Local legend has it that she was overloaded, but she was only one of half a dozen ships wrecked along the coast that night (others were Guiding Star, Venus, Robert Burns,Offley, and Italy).

protecting your boat

And while we're on the subject of boats and building materials – this industrial-strength boat shed was built by the Hurburgh family during the second world war. Local wits suggested that while building materials were generally in short supply, cement was available for anybody wishing to construct an air-raid shelter, hence its unusual appearance. Half a century later later a rather silly joke has become part of the local folklore; yet another reminder that you shouldn't believe everything they tell you. Anyway, it's a pretty good boatshed.

23 October 2014

Mountain sunshine and Windy Moor

Mt Field National Park has to be one of the most magical places. It has everything scenic – and only an hour's drive from Hobart. There are  picturesque waterfalls and temperate rain-forest in the vicinity of the Visitors' Centre at the entrance to the park and the sixteen kilometre drive to Lake Dobson brings you within easy walking distance of mountain tarns, sheer cliffs, rocky slopes, high moors and alpine scenery. On the way you pass Lake Fenton, source of much of Hobart's drinking water.

I've always thought Seagers Lookout, above Lake Fenton, looks terribly forbidding with its dramatic boulder-covered slopes so it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I set out to climb it on the way to Mount Field East.

I needn't have worried. The track leading up the hidden, not so scary, side is well-marked and, although wet in places, not particularly steep. 

Lake Fenton and the Rodways in the distance

waiting for the rest of the party - the climb gets serious
my favourite scenery - boulders and twisted trees

the gap between rocks is just wide enough to squeeze through

Lake Fenton and the Rodways from Seagers Lookout

morning tea, and a round of the perennially favourite game - "Now what's that mountain?"

Bonnie spots some scenery

and here it is
After morning tea on top of Seagers Lookout we retraced our path to the junction with the Mount Field East track.

At first there was duck-boarding over the muddiest patches, then we reached Windy Moor.

track junction - to Lake Nicholls or up the mountain

the ascent begins

onward and upward

the summit in sight

The structure at the top is the remains of a Sprent cairn constructed during the first survey of Tasmania.
James Sprent (1808-1863) arrived in Hobart Town in May 1830 and opened a public school in Liverpool St. In August 1833 he was appointed temporary assistant surveyor and as part of a trigonometrical survey of Van Diemen's Land set up survey points throughout the south-eastern part of the island. The precise form of these markers depended on available materials, so there were a lot of ten-foot-high stone cairns constructed on rocky mountaintops.

The exact number of cairns built by Sprent is uncertain, many have been partly demolished, and some have modern survey beacons erected on their remains.  The most blatant act of vandalism was the complete demolition of the Sprent cairn on Mt Field East in the mid 1980’s. Less than 12 Sprent cairns remain substantially intact. (ref. Fred Lakin in Tasmanian Tramp, reprinted in Wildcare incorporated newsletter)

An extremely dark green person who believed there should be no man-made objects in a national park took it upon himself to remove Sprent's marker. How he coped with ski-tows, duck-boarding, footbridges and improved paths is a mystery; perhaps the cairn was an easier target.

Sprent's map of Tasmania was completed by 1859 and you can purchase a copy of it from Tasmaps, should you wish to do so: https://www.tasmap.tas.gov.au/do/product/HISTCHART/HISTSPRENT1

After lunch on the summit of Mt Field East where lizards darted over the rocks and we basked contentedly in the warm spring sunshine, we made our way back to the track junction and headed downhill to Lake Nicholls.

view from the top - that's Mt Wellington, on the distant horizon

picking our way back down the mountain

first view of Lake Nicholls (right in the centre of the photo)

day-use hut at Lake Nicholls

From Lake Nicholls we followed the narrow ridge bounding the end of the lake, then it was all downhill back to Lake Dobson road. According to a party member's electronic recording device, we had covered 10.6 kilometres.

It's a great walk - do it!