Email This Page to a FriendPreview: A Voyage Through Tasmania’s Southwest Wilderness – Part I, by Bruce Stannard
October 6, 2016
In the first of a two-part series, Australian author Bruce Stannard joins maritime historian Garry Kerr and bushman Ron Morrison on a journey to Tasmania’s remote Southwest Wilderness.
Photography by Kraig Carlstrom.
After 30 hours of punching through the lumpy remains of a southerly blow, Garry Kerr’s 20 metre crayboat EUMERALLA crossed Bass Strait from Portland, skirted the low leaden line of King Island and at midnight found the dark wooded cliffs of Tasmania’s far north-western coast broad on her port bow. It was a sobering thought that the nearest land to our west lay on the far side of the world at Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn on the uttermost tip of Argentina. The Southern Ocean’s vast uninterrupted fetch has helped shape the savage contours of Tasmania's entire west coast, enhancing its well-deserved reputation as the abode of unrelenting gales and mountainous seas. Lying in the very teeth of the Roaring Forties, the ragged, ironbound coast is a treacherous lee shore of seething kelp and tumbled rocks.
We were fortunate in having had an uneventful passage, and by the time we sighted Cape Grim the breeze had backed into a gentle nor’easter blowing cool over a gently heaving swell. My first grey glimpse of that ancient headland, rearing up in the moonlight, rekindled childhood memories of the dream voyages into which I had escaped as a boy immersed in the tales of Rudyard Kipling and Josph Conrad. I had then pictured myself exploring a romantic landscape of sublime natural beauty and timeless grandeur. But now, as a silver-haired septuagenarian, I couldn’t help wondering whether the result of my long anticipated journey into the wilderness would be a reward or a bitter disappointment. Was Tasmania’s World Heritage-Listed Southwest still one of the last truly wild places on the planet, or had packaged tourism and commercial exploitation made it just another jostling visitor destination? The answer now lay just over the horizon.