Hobart, Tasmania. After four days on the ship and in Zodiacs without stepping onto dry land, I was pretty much chomping at the bit to put my feet down on terra firma. Since leaving New Zealand and heading west across the Tasman Sea, our first opportunity to do this to was arriving at the island of Tasmania, Australia. The Tasman Sea lies in an area known as the “Roaring Forties” – an area between the 40 and 50 degree latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere where strong westerly winds blow. (Students, I dare you to get out your globe or jump on Google Earth to see where this is!) The Roaring Forties were true to their reputation, and we had heavy broadside seas and strong winds for two days straight coming across the Tasman Sea, but it could have been much worse.
Finally, on our morning of arrival, I woke up early to watch the sunrise over Tasmania, the 26th largest island in the world and the most mountainous state of Australia. It was a cloudy morning though, as our ship passed the famous dolerite organ pipes of Cape Raoul, and steamed through Storm Bay to arrive alongside in Hobart; the state capital.
Our ship came alongside in Hobart just outside of the old port area of the city known as Salamanca. The Salamanca neighborhood dates back to the 1830’s when the market area was the hub of Hobart’s trade and commerce activities. Today the quarter has undergone a total revamp and is populated with lively bars, cafés and restaurants.
Some of the market tradition lingers, and I managed to wake up early the next morning, before all of the day’s activities, and head into the famous Saturday Market in Salamanca. I was there very early, but even so, stalls were setting up and selling hot coffee and breakfast goodies. With a delicious coffee in hand, I strolled up and down the long aisles of stalls that run right down the middle of two or three of Salamanca’s main streets. It was mind boggling how much stuff was for sale there – from hand tooled leather goods to homemade jams, and from creative model cars to organic veggies – the market has it all. It’s just amazing and I could have spent the whole morning there.
Later in the day I had a chance to drive 22 kilometers up to the top of Mount Wellington at 1,270 meters. The wind picked up and the temperature dropped several degrees, but it was well worth my tangled hair-do to see the breathtaking view across the city and surrounding lands, as well as into bays and coves far beyond. To a person, everyone up on that mountain was stunned into silence by the contrasting colors in the rocks and vegetation at our feet, and out to the cityscape, blue ocean bays, and crystalline skies above.
National parks and reserves account for approximately 37% of Tasmania’s land mass. In Tasmania you find extremely diverse vegetation, from tall evergreen eucalypt and alpine forests in the high elevations, to the sea level marshes and dunes. Sixty percent of the plants in Tasmania can be found no-where else on earth and there is abundant endemic wildlife above and below the sea. (Students, you should look up the definition of “endemic” if you don’t already know it – email me about an endemic species in your region if you want – go to http://www.kitvanwagner.com/ask-a-question/ to send me info about your endemic animal or plant).
The marine life in Tasmania is equally as phenomenal, but not as well protected. Tasmania makes up just 0.9% of Australia’s land area, but holds 8.2% of the nation’s coastline due to the highly convoluted coast line, a number of estuaries, and its 6,000 surrounding islands. Marine organisms are so highly specific to Tasmania and nowhere else on earth, that 49 marine species are threatened or endangered. However, only about 1% of the state’s coastal water are protected from fishing — areas known as “no-take” reserves. In my next blog I will show you more about the east coast of Tasmania as we left Hobart and sailed further north into warmer climes.
Until then…fair winds everyone.
Thanks to my friends and colleagues on the Caledonian Sky for the photos and information that went into this blog, especially Judith Black.