1902 Encyclopedia > Tasmania


TASMANIA, formerly VAN DIEMEN'S LAND, is a compact island, forming a British colony, which lies to the south of Australia, in the Southern Ocean. It has an area of 24,600 square miles (about three-fourths of the size of Ireland), and some fifty islets belong to it. Most of these lie between it and the southern shore of Victoria, in Bass's Strait. It is a land of mountain and flood, with picturesque scenery. The centre is a mass of hills, gene-rally covered with forest, with large lakes nearly 4000 feet above the sea ; and this high land is continued to the west and north-west, while southward are other elevations. Ben Lomond in the east rises to a height of 5020 feet; in the north-west are Dry's Bluff (4257 feet) and Quamby (4000); while westward are Cradle (5069), Hugel (4700), French-man's Cap (4760), and Bischoff (2500). Wellington, near Hobart, is 4170 feet. Among the rivers flowing northward to Bass's Strait are the Tamar, Inglis, Cam, Emu, Blyth, Forth, Don, Mersey, Piper, and Ringarooma. The Mac-quarie, receiving the Elizabeth and Lake, falls into the South Esk, which unites with the North Esk to form the Tamar at Launceston. Westward, falling into the ocean, are the Hellyer, Arthur, and Pieman. The King and Gordon gain Macquarie Harbour; the Davey and Spring, Port Davey. The central and southern districts are drained by the Derwent from Lake St Clair,—its tributaries being the Nive, Dee, Clyde, Ouse, and Jordan. The Huon falls into D'Entrecasteaux Channel. The chief mountain lakes are the Great Lake (50 miles in circuit), Sorell, St Clair, Crescent, and Echo. The colony is divided into eighteen counties. The principal towns are Hobart, the capital, on the Derwent, with a population of 21,118 in 1881 (25,044 in 1886), and Launceston (12,752 in 1881 ; 19,379 in 1886), at the head of the Tamar. The rugged western half of the island has only a few small settlements, while the eastern country is increasing in population on account of the mines.
Climate.—This small colony has a far greater range of climate than can be experienced throughout the Australian continent. The eastern side is dry ; the western is very wet. Tin and gold miners are partially arrested in their work during summer from want of water in the north-east. Dense forests and impracticable scrubs result in the west from deposition of a hundred or more inches of rain in the year, while other parts to the east occasionally suffer from drought. Tasmania does not escape the summer visit of an Australian hot wind. Hobart and Launceston, being near the sea, have greater equability of temperature, with rare frosts. The mean temperature of Hobart is 54°, of Waratah in the north-west 44°. Hobart averages 22 inches of rain, less than Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. Inland, in the settled parts, cold is severe in winter, but only for a short period. The wooded north-west shore has no cold and no excessive heat, but plenty of showers. Up in the lake country the climate rather resembles the Highlands of Scotland. On the west and southern coasts the winds are usually strong, and often tempestuous.
Like New Zealand, Tasmania is very healthy. No miasma is retained in its forests. Rheumatism and colds may pre-vail, but little fever or dysentery occurs. Perhaps no part of the world can show relatively so many aged people. Children generally display the robustness of English village life. As a retreat for Australians, Tasmania in the summer has strong claims. Cool and strengthening airs, magnifi-cent forest solitudes, and secluded fern-tree vales may be enjoyed along with all the comforts of modern civilization.
Geology.—The comparatively recent connexion of Tasmania with Victoria is evidenced not less by rocks than by flora and fauna. The granitic islands of Bass's Strait are as so many stepping-stones across, a depression having converted the loftier districts into islands. The want of similarity, however, between the tufted-haired Tasmanians and their Australian neighbours would indicate that the disruption took place before the advent of the younger race on the northern side. While doubts exist as to the pres-ence of rocks older than the Silurian, a Palaeozoic floor exists north, east, south, and west, though often thrown up into irregular ranges, sometimes over 5000 feet, by igneous irruptions. Convulsions have distinguished the history of the little island from one end to the other. Not only is granite in all its varieties very prevalent, but there is an immense amount of metamorphism in different directions. Then, at another period, not merely porphyries, but basalts and greenstones, were widespread in their ravages. They consumed or deranged beds of coal, and overflowed enor-mous tracts. Earthquakes were busy, and tremendous deluges denuded great areas to depths of thousands of feet, leaving mountains of Primary rock, with peaked or plateau summits of basalt or greenstone. There are prismatic walls several hundreds of feet in height, and 4000 feet above the sea-level, as at Mount Wellington, looking down upon " ploughed fields " of greenstone blocks. Still, unlike Victoria, there are not the extinct craters to tell the tale of more modern lava flows. The lake district, up to over 4000 feet, is a tangled mass of granitic and metamorphic rocks. Quartz is so common a feature that the western storm-bound cliffs reflect a white light to passing ships ; while mica, talcose, dolerite, and siliceous schists are common over the island. Contorted slate and the tessel-ated pavement of Tasman's Peninsula are effects of that transmuting period. Granite is strong at eastern and northern points, at western localities, in the interior, and in the straits. Greenstone is exhibited southward in enor-mous fields, as well as in the western and lake districts, and alternates often with basalt. Silicified trees are seen standing upright in the floor of igneous rock. The Prim-ary rocks have more casts of former life than fossils in ordinary condition. The Hobart clay-slate abounds in Fenestella or lace coral, and trilobites occur in limestone. Slate is abundant on the north-west coast, the South Esk, and westward. New Bed Sandstone near Hobart is marked by the presence of salt-beds. The Carboniferous forma-tions are not much exhibited on the western half of the island, but are prominent along the Mersey and other northern rivers. The southern fields are torn by igneous invaders. Anthracitic forms are conspicuous on Tasman's Peninsula. Inland, on the eastern side, the formations spread from near Hobart northward for scores of miles, and even to a thousand feet in thickness. The Fingal and Ben Lomond north-eastern districts are remarkably favoured with Carboniferous sandstones and crinoidal limestones, bearing excellent seams, and like strata are noticed in islands off the east coast. Carbonaceous non-coal-bearing beds by the Mersey are 500 feet thick. Tertiary rocks are not extensive, save in the breccia and coarse sandstone south of Launceston, over Norfolk plains, and along some river valleys. Alluvial gold deposits belong mainly to the Pliocene formations,—the ancient Primaries containing the auriferous quartz veins. Greenstone and basalt belong to various periods, the latter being specially apparent in the Tertiary epoch. Travertine, near Hobart and Piichmond, is from freshwater action. The Pleistocene development was characterized by overwhelming denuding forces. Baised beaches are noticed along some of the larger rivers, and westerly moraines would imply a greater elevation of the country formerly. Caves and recent beds exhibit marsupial forms analogous to existing ones. Not far from Deloraine are limestone caves, with passages two miles in extent. The density and intricacy of the island scrubs have interfered with the investigation of its geology.
Minerals.—Tasmania lias failed to take a very important position as a gold producer. Still, when the crushing of 1300 tons in one mine produced £11,528, adventurers may well be hopeful. From Beaconsfield mine, west of the Tamar, gold was obtained to the value of £615,330 from July 1878 to January 1, 1887. In 1885 there were five districts under commissioners of mines. Westward, gold is found from Arthur river to Point Hibbs ; north-westward, from Blyth river to Cape Grim. In the north-east are Scottsdale, Ringarooma, Mount Victoria, and Waterhouse fields; east, Fingal and St George river. Arsenic and silver are found with gold in the north-east; and iron, arsenic, copper, and lead with it at Beacons-field. ' For 1885 the gold export was 37,498 oz., worth £141,319. Silver occurs at Penguin, Mount Ramsey, and Waratah (Mount Bischoff), combined with lead. Copper is met with at Mount Maurice, &c, but not in paying quantities. Bismuth at Mount Ramsey is rich, but the country is difficult to reach. Antimony, zinc, manganese, copper, plumbago, and galena are known west of the Tamar, where also asbestos in serpentine hills is plentiful. Tin is well distributed in Tasmanian granite. Mount Bischoff, in the-scrubby, rocky, damp west, has the richest lodes; other mines are in the north-east and west. In ten years the product came to two-and a half million pounds sterling. Bischoff district in 1885 gave' 2871 tons of ore, much being found in huge blocks. Want of water in the north-east prevents much hydraulic working. An-thracite coal is pretty abundant at Port Arthur. Near Hobart are workings of poor quality. Around Ben Lomond are bituminous seams, but difficult of access. Fingal district has coal equal to that of Newcastle, with a seam of 14 feet, but carriage is difficult. Mersey river coal mines yielded 60,000 tons in the course of over a dozen years. Iron was worked near the Tamar, but did not pay, excess of chromium making it brittle; its steel was very malleable. All varieties of iron ores are known. Hobart freestone is largely exported to other colonies. Tasmanite or dysodile in the Mersey district is an inflammable resinous substance. During 1884 there were raised 41,240 oz. of gold, 5461 tons of tin, and 5334 tons of coal. The total export of gold and tin during the five years 1880 to 1885 was of the value of £2,591,320,— being £642,230 more than for the ten years preceding. The export of tin averaged 79,682 cwt.
Agriculture.—The island has not a large area fit for cultivation. A great part is very mountainous; and dense scrubs, with heavy forests, are impediments to the farmer. The west side is too wet, stormy, and sterile for settlement. Almost all the farms lie in the line between Hobart and Launceston and between Launceston and Circular Head. The climate being cooler and moister than in most parts of Australia, the productions are of an English character, hops, barley, and oats being freely raised. Cropping land for many successive years with wheat has lessened the produce of what was fertile country, as little manure had been used. In later times there has been a great improvement in agriculture. For some time Tasmanian growers did well, supplying Australia and New Zealand with flour, potatoes, and fruit; but, as their customers became in their turn producers, the old markets failed in all but apples and stone fruit. Fresh and preserved fruit, with jams, together with excellent hops, continue to afford the islanders a good trade. In 1885-86 there were 417,777 acres in cultivation; in crop, 144,761; in grasses, 181,203. Wheat occupied 30,266 acres, barley 6833, oats 29,247, pease 7147, potatoes 11,073, hay 41,693, turnips 3680, and gardens and orchards 8198.
So large a part of the island is covered with thicket, rock, and marsh that it appears less pastoral than eastern Australia. The total number of sheep in 18S6 amounted to 1,648,627, the horses to 28,610, and the cattle to 138,642. Of 16,778,000 acres only 4,403,888 have been sold or granted.
Flora.—This differs but little from that of south-eastern Australia, with which it was formerly connected. Over a thousand species are represented. The eucalypts are gums, stringy bark, box, peppermint, ironwood, &c. The celebrated blue gum [Euca-lyptus Globulus), so eagerly sought for pestilential places in southern Europe, Africa, and America, flourishes best in the southern dis-tricts of the island. For shipbuilding purposes the timber, which grows to a large size, is much prized. Acacias are abundant, and manna trees are very productive. Sassafras (Atherosperma mos-cliata) is a tall and handsome tree. Pines are numerous. The Huon pine (Dacrydium cuprcssinum), whose satin-like wood is so sought after, flourishes in Huon and Gordon river districts. The celery pine is a Phylloclaclus, and the pencil cedar an Athrotaxis. The pepper tree is Tasmania fragrans. The Myrtacese are noble trees. The lakes cider tree is Eucalyptus resinifera, whose treacle-like sap was formerly made into a drink by bushmen. Xanthor-rceas or grass trees throw up a flowering spike. The charming red flowers of the Tasmanian tulip tree (Telopea) are seen from a great distance on the sides of mountains. The so-called rice plant, with rice-like grains on a stalk, is the grass Richea. Of Boronia, Epac-ris, and Orchis there are numerous species. The Blandfordia, a Liliaceous plant, has a head of brilliant crimson flowers. The Casuarina, Exocarpus, Banksia, and tree fern resemble those of Australia. Tasmanian evergreen forests are very aromatic. At one time the island had an extensive timber trade with Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, and it still exports £50,000 to £80,000 worth annually of planks, shingles, paling, &e.
Fauna.—Animal life in Tasmania is similar to that in Australia. The dingo or dog of the latter is wanting ; and the Tasmanian devil and tiger,or wolf, are peculiar to the island. The Marsupials include the Macropus or kangaroo, Didclphys or opossum, Petaurus or flying phalanger, Perameles or bandicoot, Hypsiprymnus or kangaroo rat, Phascolomys or wombat; while of Monotremata there are the Echidna or porcupine anteater and the duck-billed platypus. The marsupial tiger or Tasmanian wolf (Thylacinus cynocephalus), 5 feet long, is yellowish brown, wdth several stripes across the back, having short stiff hair and very short legs (see vol. xv. p. 380). Very few of these nocturnal carnivores are now alive to trouble flocks. The tiger cat of the colonists, with weasel legs, white spots, and nocturnal habits, is a large species of the untameable native cats. The devil (Dasyurus or Sarcophilus ursinns) is black, with white bands on neck and haunches. The covering of this savage but cowardly little night-prowler is a sort of short hair, not fur. The tail is thick, and the bull-dog mouth is formidable. Among the birds of the island are the eagle, hawk, petrel, owl, finch, peewit, diamond bird, fire-tail, robin, emu-wren, crow, swallow, magpie, blackcap, goatsucker, quail, ground dove, jay, parrot, lark, mountain thrush, cuckoo, wattlebird, whistling duck, honeybird, Cape Barren goose, penguin duck, waterhen, snipe, albatross, and laughing jackass. Snakes are pretty plentiful in scrubs ; the lizards are harmless. Insects, though similar to Australian ones, are far less troublesome ; many are to be admired for their great beauty.
Fisheries.—In the early years of occupation the island was the resort of whalers from the United Kingdom, the United States, and France. Both sperm and black oil, with whalebone, were important articles of export till the retreat of the whales to other seas. Seal-ing was carried on successfully for many years in Bass's Strait, until the seals were utterly destroyed. There has recently been a revival of whaling, the product of the island fishery for 1885 being £12,600. The bays contain some excellent fish, much esteemed in the neighbouring colonies, particularly the trumpeter, found on the southern side of the island. Of nearly 200 sorts of fishes a third can be considered good for food. The outer fisheries extend to 16 miles from shore, being from 20 to 80 fathoms deep. The species include the trumpeter (Latris, found up to 60 lb weight), the " salmon " of the old settlers (Arripis), the flathead (Platycephalus), trevally (Neptonemus), garfish (Hemirliamphus), barracouta and kingfish (both Thyrsites). There are thirteen sorts of perch, and five of bream. The anchovy is migratory. English mackerel have been seen off the east coast; and some of the herrings are much like the English. Rock cod and bull-kelp cod are favourites. Mud oysters are nearly worked out; artificial oyster-beds are being formed. English trout (Salmo fario) are more certainly found than the true salmon (Salmo salar); the last are doubtful, though num-bers have been raised in hatcheries on the Derwent. Among fresh-water fish are a so-called freshwater herring (Prototroctes), various kinds of what the old settlers called trout (Galaxias), blackfish (Gadopsis), and fine perch.
Commerce.—Soon after the colony was founded there was a great trade in whale oil, as well as in the oil and skins of seals. When this declined, merchants did well in the exportation of breadstuff's, fruits, and vegetables to the neighbouring and more recently estab-lished colonies, not less than to New South Wales. Timber was also freely sent to places less favoured with forests or too busy with other employments. When the trade with England in oil fell off, the export in wool and then of metals succeeded. Tasmania has now an active commerce with Victoria, but has a competitor rather than a customer in New Zealand. The shipping during 1885 was 342,745 tons inward, 335,061 outward. The imports for that year came to £1,757,486; the exports to £1,313,693. Of the exports, £1,299,011 were of Tasmanian products and manu-factures,—including wool, £260,480; tin, £357,587; gold, £141,319; fruit, £105,363. The banks of the colony at the end of 1885 showed assets £3,754,226 and liabilities £3,814,631. The savings banks early in 1886 declared £455,774 to the credit of depositors. Attempts have been recently made to draw Tasmania into closer commercial and fiscal relations with Victoria.
Manufactures.—Numerous industries are practised, though not to the extent of exportation, excepting from the working of 28 tanneries, 62 sawmills, 13 breweries, 7 manufactories of jam, and a rising wool factory.
Boads and Railways.—No colony, for its area, was ever so favoured with excellent roads as Tasmania has been. There are now about 5000 miles of good roads. The principal line of railway is that from Hobart to Launceston. Altogether, 260 miles of rail-way were open in 1887.
Post-Office.—In early years letters were carried by runners on foot across the island. In 1885 there were 246 post offices, and the telegraph had 1579 miles of wire. A submarine line connects Tasmania with Victoria.
Administration.—The governor is appointed by the British crown. The legislative council has eighteen members, and the assembly thirty-six. The revenue for 1885-86 was £571,396, the expenditure £585,766. The public debt, contracted for public works, amounts to three and a third millions. The customs pro-vided £276,100. The official machinery is as extensive as for a colony with seven or eight times the population.
Education.—At first the state made grants in aid to schools established by private persons and religious denominations, but ultimately, as in Victoria and New Zealand, education was made secular and compulsory, religious teaching being out of school hours, or dependent on Sunday schools, which are to be found all over the island. There are 204 public schools, maintained out of a fund of £32,793. In eight grammar and collegiate schools a higher standard of instruction is reached. The degree of Associate of Arts is conferred on deserving scholars in the state schools ; and exhibitions (up to £200 a year for four years) enable pupils to study at the higher schools or colonial or European universities. No state grant is now made for the support of any religious deno-mination.
Population.—The whites have entirely displaced the blacks. Outrages and cruelties led to conflicts; and now the last individual of the tribes has passed away. There are, however, some half-castes on islands in the Straits. The colonists in Tasmania are more concentrated than in other settlements. In 1818 there were 2320 men, 432 women, and only 489 children. At the census of 1881 the population numbered 115,705 (61,162 males, 54,543 females); in 1886 it was estimated at 133,791. The births in 1886 averaged 34'6 per thousand, the deaths 15'2.
History.—The Dutch navigator TASMAN (q.v.) sighted the island November 24, 1642, and named it Van Diemen's Land, after the Dutch governor of Java. He took possession at Frederick Henry Bay in the name of the stadtholder of Holland, and then passed on to the discovery of New Zealand. The French Captain Marion in 1772 came to blows with the natives. Captain Cook was at Adventure Bay, to the south, in 1777. His companion, Captain
Furneaux, had entered the bay four years previously, assuring
Cook that Van Diemen's Land was joined to New Holland.
Admiral Bruni d'Entrecasteaux, with the naturalist La Billardière,
entered the Derwent, calling it North River, in 1792. Two years
after, Captain Hayes named it Derwent. Mr Bass and Lieutenant
Flinders passed through Bass's Strait, and first sailed round the
island, in 1798. The high terms in which they spoke of Sullivan's
cove, at the mouth of the Derwent, afterwards led to the settle-
ment of Hobart there. The French discovery ships, "Géographe"
and " Naturaliste," under Commodore Baudin, were off the coast in
1801-2. The island was settled from Sydney. A small party was
sent to the Derwent, under Lieutenant Bowen, in 1803, and another
to Port Dalrymple next year under Colonel Paterson, who was
removed to Launceston in 1806. Captain Collins, who had been
sent with a large number of convicts from England to form a penal
colony in Port Phillip, thought proper to remove thence after three
months, and establish himself at Hobart Town, February 1804.
The early days were trying, from want of supplies and of good
government ; and conflicts arose with the natives, which led to the
celebrated Black War. In 1830 nearly all the settlers, with 4000
soldiers and armed constables, attempted to drive the aborigines
into a peninsula, but caught only one lad. Mr George Robinson
afterwards succeeded in inducing the few hunted ones to surrender
and be taken to Flinders Island. Deaths rapidly followed. The
last man died in 1862, the last female in 1872. Bushranging was
common for years in this scrubby land. The colony was subject
to New South Wales till 1825, when independence was declared.
On free settlers being permitted to go to Van Diemen's Land, they
endeavoured to get freedom of the press, trial by jury, and a popular
form of rule. After long struggles, the liberties they sought for
were gradually granted. A responsible government was the last
boon received. Oppressed by the number of convicts thrown into
the country, the free inhabitants petitioned again and again for the
cessation of transportation, which was eventually allowed. Among
the governors was Sir John Franklin, of polar celebrity. The first
newspaper, The Derwent Star, came out in 1810. Literature ad-
vanced from that humble beginning. At first the Government
entirely supported schools and churches, and for many years state
aid was afforded to the Church of England, Presbyterian, Wesleyan,
and Roman Catholic churches, but this aid is now withdrawn. The
island proving too small for a large population, numbers swarmed
off to the neighbouring settlements, and Port Phillip, now Victoria,
received its first inhabitants from Tasmania. Though not so
prosperous as Victoria, the little island enjoys an amount of ease
and comfort which few, if any, settlements elsewhere have been
known to experience. (J. BO.)


3 The subject is thoroughly discussed by P. H. Leupe in the Bijdragen van het kon. Inst, voor Taal-, Land-, en Volkenkunde v. d. 2nd. Archipel, ser. i. pt. iv. pp. 123-140 ; in Bijd. voor Vader-landsche Geschiedenis en Oudlieid Kunde, by It. Fruin, new series, pt. vii. p. 254 ; and in the same writer's work De Reizen der Neder-landers nadr Kieuw Guinea (The Hague, 1875) ; also Col. A. Haga,

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