Monthly Archives: February 2014

TG #14

Another fine issue for you in #14.

We’re always a fan of collaborative citizen science projects, and we’ve got a great profile of one of Tasmania’s flagship projects- Redmap. It’s a tool to help fishers and divers record anomalous sightings of marine life, and is a groundbreaking research project out of the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies.

David Tng brings out the botanist in all of us with his own narrative of discovery…and Rusty Bitts spins another yarn of the early days and informs us how to avoid the dread Tasmanian crocodiles. Hint: volcanoes are involved.

It wraps up with a succinct NASA video describing space weather. They’ve got a science education wing that produces amazing content, and once again it’s a true delight to see some of the celestial wonders.

Hope you enjoy reading this as much as we enjoyed compiling it!
— The Editor

Space Weather

We are all familiar with weather on Earth, but how much do you know about weather in space? Suitable for all ages, this introduction to space weather covers vocabulary like coronal mass ejection (CME), solar wind, and solar flare. It also outlines potential effects of solar storms on our planet.

This video is available in English and Spanish, both with English subtitles.

This video is public domain and can be downloaded at:



West Coast Crocodiles

More years ago than I can get my head around, it seems volcanoes, were something of a common sight in these, the more southerly latitudes of what was once Gondwanaland.

And while most of us are aware of today’s many pieces of evidence relating to prior volcanic activity, my own interest here lays solely in one particular geological phenomena, namely, “conglomerate rock”. As the name suggests, conglomerate when associated with the word, “rock” means an amalgam of various stones, quartz and minerals, which presumably had been scattered on the slopes of some long ago volcano, only to be steam-rolled into a ball of cooling lava previous to the lava’s solidifying, without sufficient heat to melt the extra matter. And while much of the West Coast’s conglomerate is often found in the form of naturally occurring gravel, I have seen a good deal of the stuff that has been rolled into balls as big as trucks and houses, and in which might be discerned a great deal of foreign material.

One of the more unusual elements associated with this natural manufacture of conglomerate however, is its shades of pink, which when mixed with tar, in the making of bitumen with which roads are sealed, the resultant mixture likewise takes on much of the same pink over-tones. What has this all got to do with real live crocodiles, do I hear you ask? Well, just bear with me and I’ll explain.

It must have been back in ’61 or ’62, when our little survey crew was squatting and/or standing round the open fire at the side of the bitumen, generally chin-wagging, smoking and sipping scalding tea, when up rolls a shiny, late model car of European pedigree, complete with two well dressed couples. On taking in what surely must have appeared to the camera laden tourists, to be the last remaining remnants of Tasmania’s convict past, the limo purrs to a stop, allowing its occupants to clamber out for a “photo shoot” of we four red-necks, pannikins in hand; a scruffy tableau seen through the little fire’s haze, and a rugged, west coast mountain-scape looming large in the back ground.

Of course, I wouldn’t be entirely truthfully if I was to say that at least one or two of our group didn’t “play” to an expertly wielded, movie camera lens. If I remember correctly, even I was persuaded to boil another billy of water for the benefit of our visitors and to swing the scalding liquid over my head in a couple of big loops – all without spilling a drop, ostensibly to allow the tea leaves to infuse with the water. I was to be left somewhat chastened however by our mate Peter who was to deal the final blow in our bit of, “one-up-man-ship”. By this time the subject had turned to surveying in inhospitable places and to building roads generally, when one of our new found friends chanced to ask the reason for the “pink roads”. Here, I swear the prevailing, gentle breeze dropped away to nothing, not a leaf stirred, not a bird called, nor animal rustle through the undergrowth, when into the silence, quick witted Peter, with all the nonchalance in the world, observed, “crocodiles won’t cross ‘em”.

To this day, I still recall the profane exclamation of surprise of at least one of the men folk, who, quite genuinely, confessed to not knowing that Tasmania actually had crocodiles.

A remark to which Peter opined, “Works then, don’t it?” Shortly after, the visiting quartet took their leave with more than a few furtive glances to left and right as they boarded their vehicle, presumably for less hostile and more civilised places.

The Flowers We Forgot

In my first days of botanizing, my eyes were glued on flowers. Flowers in the sense of trees, shrubs, twinners, lilies, irises, orchids, etc. These are beautiful, often showy, and definitely attention grabbing.

I was certainly not unique in my bias.

On the naturalist front for example, there are many whose passions seem to revolve around particular group of flowers.

Orchids appear to be one such group. Practically every spring there will be courses or fieldtrips held in appreciation of orchids.

Then also, there is the annually held Springflower Spectacular, ar show in the Hobart Town hall where a smörgåsbord of native banksias, boronias, daisies, heaths, peaflowers, and waratahs  are displayed.

Always this ridiculous obsession with flowers!

But misunderstand me not.

The motive of this writing is not to marginalize flowers, but to exalt them.

In all the time I have been looking at plants I  have yet to find a single flower that does not personify beauty. I am merely believing that an attention only to showiness and colour is myopic.

Admit we must, that most of us have cared little to appreciate a certain group of flowers ― the grasses and their inconspicuously-flowered kin. By these I am referring to sedges (Cyperaceae), rushes (Juncaceae), cord rushes (Restionaceae), bristleworts (Centrolepidaceae), waterribbons (Juncaginaceae) and any others that fit the  the bill.

So while roses, tulips, orchids and lilies are most often the subject of poetic adoration, I have come to absolutely adore the oft-quoted phrase from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass:

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars.

The diversity of overall form in grasses and their kin is staggering.

They can grow as turfs or tussocks, as creepers or sprawlers. They can be messy or elegant. They can manifest as towering forms inspiring awe from the tallest of man (eg Cortaderia, Phragmites) or invoke adoration as minute annuals barely reaching a few centimeters (some Isolepis, Juncus etc).

But the true artistic genius of grasses and their kin lie in their flowers.

Grasses and their kin have flowers born in spikes, panicles or racemes, their spikelets displaying a bewildering configuration of shapes, sizes and orientations. When we finally get down to the actual flowers, we find that petals are simply not their style. They prefer the pragmatism of well hung stamens and plumed feathery stigmas that captures the love in the wind. Yet, unadorned as they are, their finesse is extreme, and their strategy hugely successful.

They are found from the edges of the sea to the tops of the mountains, in dryland, wetland, forest and scrub.

Where grasses occur in natural assemblages abundant enough to be the most dominant group of plants, they form grasslands. As an ecosystem, grasslands are richly diverse, supporting a wide range of invertebrates, birds and other plants. Many of Tasmania’s rare plants occur in grasslands. Such is the irony that we make annual pilgrimages to grasslands to look for orchids.

A ramble in a grassland evokes an inexplicable feeling in me. My mind conjures up a time when man has a primal connection with grassy, savanna-like environments. I can sense that the evolutionary journey of man and that of grasses and grass-like plants were always linked in some inextricable way. We eat of their substance. We weave of their resilience. As a whole, few plants groups has had as great an impact on man as grasses and their kin. I’d go as far as to say that the  form of grasses and their kin is etched into our psyche.

My journey has brought me to a point where I am thoroughly smitten with grasses and the like, just as I have become smitten with various other plant groups. I imagine this is the natural and inexorable progression of anyone who is assiduously and incessantly in search of more to appreciate. I know that until I fully expend my capacity to see and know all that I can see and know, my appreciation of this vast plant world can never be complete. And therein lies the joy of botany.

Citizen Science- Redmap- Fishing for Data

I’m not a fisherman. I can tie a few knots, but I wouldn’t know where to start with a reel and rod. I’ve never even caught a single fish. I don’t spend anywhere near as much time on boats or at the beach as I’d like. Like many biologists, I think of the world as Earth, when in fact most of our planet is Ocean.

Studying aquatic ecosystems is a difficult task: there are few fixed points, few observers, and the environment is ever changing. Measuring the effects of climate change on the ranges of aquatic species is especially tricky. Animal populations have always been on the move, and the impact of humans confounds the matter.

The complex interactions of water temperatures, currents, and chemistry make studying ocean biogeography an immensely complex task.  In both terrestrial and marine environments, organisms can only live within particular environmental parameters, such as altitude, depth, temperature, salinity, and soil type.  In a world where anthropogenic climate change is changing the oceanic environment, the home ranges of species are shifting.

Broadly speaking, as the polar regions become warmer, the species of the warmer equatorial regions are moving towards the higher latitudes. However, all species are reacting to the changing world in different ways, and it is impossible to monitor the mobile fishes of the sea in the same comprehensive manner as the stable plants of the land.

With these challenges in mind, a citizen science project- Redmap– is running in Australian waters seeking to learn more about how fish populations are moving around the oceans. Redmap gains its name not from the colour, but from the acronym: Range Extension Database and Mapping. Redmap connects research science experts with citizen marine nature experts: fishers and divers.

I had the good fortune of meeting Dr. Gretta Pecl at her office at the University of Tasmania Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, part of the University of Tasmania. The Taroona office of the Institute is several kilometres south of the capital city, and is situated in Australia’s southeastern corner looking out towards the sea.

In her studies of fisheries biology and ecological management, she is aware how difficult it is to understand change the accepted historical ranges for marine species. Unlike some species on dry land, it is near impossible to ever complete a survey that you can say confidently sampled the full range of the fish population. Their home ranges, historically and into the future, can often only be pieced together from scattered records.

She recounted that Tasmanian fishermen had been noticing the arrival of northern species such as red snapper in the colder waters around Tasmania, for quite a few years.  Rather than discard these anecdotes as mere outliers, she built a system to organise and encourage attentive observers to contribute their sightings of fish and other marine species outside their historical ranges. This concept grew into Redmap. As these pieces of evidence accumulate, we have slightly more information about how these aquatic populations are moving around the waterscape.

They have published waterproof field guides and an online reference for several dozen species of interest, including some with such evocative names as the dusky morwong, the crimsonband wrasse, and the leafy seadragon. Critically, they are staying focused by not accepting data about every possible species, nor about species of interest within their accepted home range. Every animal included therefore has a geographical indicator, e.g. “if found south of Maria Island, Tasmania.”

When you visit the Redmap web page, you are greeted by a map showing the latest sightings from around Australia, along with the photograph sent in. If you encounter one of these animals, outside of their range, you can send in a photograph to be confirmed by a group of researchers with taxonomic expertise. As the project progresses, and the skills of volunteers suitably increase, Dr. Pecl envisions experienced participants potentially becoming involved in this confirmation process.

Redmap began as a Tasmanian-waters project, but its success has sparked funding to grow to an Australia-wide model. It has also expanded its scope from fish to include marine algae, reptiles, and invertebrates such as urchins. Besides winning awards from the University of Tasmania and the Zoological Society of New South Wales, the project has been covered extensively in Australian media.

Hobart, the Tasmanian city where the project is based, is home to several oceanographic and Antarctic institutions, as well as an active fishing industry and a recreational diving community.  However, in both Tasmania and wider Australia, it is the recreational fishers and divers who are the largest contingent. In remote corners of the Australian coast, you can often find someone with a fishing rod, looking carefully and waiting patiently. By bringing all of these groups together, Redmap is aiming to monitor the massive, hidden, shift in distribution migrations of underwater animals as our waters warm.

You can learn more- and join the project! – by logging onto

TG #13

Now, I must confess that I always enjoy the articles that have been contributed for each issue, but this Thirteenth Issue is something special indeed.

We are very fortunate to have a insight into the dramatic and quite newsworthy midsummer rescue in the Antarctic seas. You can watch an excellent video from the French-Australian explorer and cinematographer Fred Olivier showing some of the ice-bound conditions that the Aurora Australis experienced en route to assist the trapped Russian vessel the Akademik Shokalsky, with the assistance of the Chinese research vessel Xue Long.

We then travel across the mainland of Australia and across Tasmania with the accomplished Bangalore-based wildlife cinematographer Amoghavarsha, who created a stellar video as part of the Australia-India Youth Dialogue Program. This video had a world premiere January 26th, which is both Australia Day and India’s Republic Day. I first encountered Amoghavarsha’s work in India, where he filmed an incredible nature documentary on the deadly king cobras and the herpetologists who handle them. Keep your eyes open in this film for an army of marching crabs, and a Tasmanian platypus.

Next, we’ve got an excerpt from Warwick Sprawson’s recently published guide to the Overland Track, in which he recounts some of the life and times of Gustav Weindorfer, one of the pioneers of nature conservation and ecotourism in all of Australia.

And then, we tramp into the Southwest with Matt Brain, who shares his adventures and stellar photographs from adventures in the most remote parts of the island. His pictures all always inspirational, and remind us that it’s time to get outside yet again.

If you’re in Hobart during February, there’s two events at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens as part of the Plant Hunter project- do come along! Darren Cullen will be presenting on carnivorous plants of South America (Sat. Feb 8th), and yours truly (Sat. Feb 15) will be introducing some new geo-tagged citizen science trails.(To book call 6236 3050. Bookings essential). Details linked below!

Hope to see you there!
— The Editor

15 Feb @ RTBG- Citizen Science- Walking With Trees


Walking With Trees

Citizen Science – a Plant Hunter Adventure

Presented by Yoav Daniel Bar-Ness

Saturday February 15th 2014

 Join Yoav Daniel Bar-Ness, an outreach ecologist and editor of the Tasmanian Geographic, for a guided walk to meet some of the significant trees in the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Yoav will give an introduction to the concept of trees as individuals; you’ll learn about citizen science, forests around the world, deep geological time, and how to “read” a tree.

You’ll also discover some of the educational concepts behind the Plant Hunter project and field-test the smartphone navigation technology that is built into the project’s website. Learn how individual trees can link storytelling, science and geography in an educational and enjoyable way.

The sessions will commence in the new Education Room, located in the Visitor Centre at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, where Yoav will give an introduction before heading out on the guided walk through the Gardens.

Each participant will also receive a Souvenir Tree Walk Map!

Session 1 10.45am – 12.30pm

Session 2 1.30pm – 3.15pm

Cost: $10 per walk

To book call 6236 3050. Bookings essential.

To learn more about Yoav and his adventures, go to the Plant Hunter website and explore the Head Hunter and Wild Hunter sections

This presentation is a joint venture of Plant Hunter and the RTBG. Plant Hunter is funded through the Inspiring Australia initiative of the Australian Government.



InspiringAustralia Logo

Mount Bisdee & Mount Victoria Cross

Climbing Mount Bisdee in February 1995. The Southern Ranges, Southwest Tasmania. Victoria Cross

Republished from The Irenabyss Gallery – The Photography of Matt Brain 

Mt Victoria Cross Southern Ranges.image
Mt Victoria Cross Southern Ranges. Taken in 1998 on a return to Mt. Bisdee with the Launceston Walking Club.

We no longer had a compass but there was no question about the direction we should be taking. A biting westerly wind laden with rain lashed us from the right, affirming at least that our course through the fog was correct. It was around 7:30 pm and the fading light meant that somewhere above the clouds, the sun was getting low in the sky. We were standing on the small plateau just south of the summit of Mount Victoria Cross in the lee of some rocks, slamming down our last uneaten biscuits on this ‘day trip’ out to Mount Bisdee.

Precipitous Bluff.image
Precipitous Bluff. From below Mt. Victoria Cross.

The day had started beautifully; camped near some shallow tarns on an exposed saddle connecting Mt. Victoria Cross to Mt. Wylly, we had listened to the distant bird calls in the forest below as the still pre-dawn light became a golden curtain of colour descending on the eastern cliffs of Precipitous Bluff. Much time had been spent enjoying the views from our campsite and later from the summit of Victoria Cross which we had rapidly climbed, time we were now running short of if we were going to see our sleeping bags instead of huddling together in our rain coats under a rock.

The unsuspecting tents.image
The unsuspecting tents. Note the Minaret (left) is facing more to the south than the Eureka.

 From the summit that morning, Pip and … had leisurely returned to the tents while Kim and I headed north. We soon discovered the northern end of Mount Victoria Cross becomes a narrow broken ridge of dolerite columns requiring much zig-zagging and route finding. The forward progress being slow, we began looking for a gully in the west facing cliffs that we could safely descend. After a couple of false leads ending in sheer drops, we had descended one that looked promising. Often the base of dolerite cliffs in Tasmania can provide an easy traverse, but here the cliffs continued down into the forest in several places with tough myrtle and scoparia making progress no faster than had we stayed high.

Federation Peak.image
Federation Peak. From Mt. Victoria Cross.


La Perouse.image
La Perouse. From Mt. Victoria Cross.
Pindars Peak.image
Pindars Peak. From the summit of Mt. Victoria Cross.


New River Lagoon and the Southern Ocean.image
New River Lagoon and the Southern Ocean. From Mt. Victoria Cross.


Mt. Bisdee and distant Hartz Mountains.image
Mt. Bisdee and distant Hartz Mountains. Cloud shrouds the valleys of the Salisbury and Upper Picton Rivers.
Mt. Bisdee.image
Mt. Bisdee. Taken in 2010 on the Vanishing Falls Trip, note the foreground rock is still in the previous photo.


Mt. Bisdee and Bewsher Saddle.image
Mt. Bisdee and Bewsher Saddle. From below the escarpment of Victoria Cross.

 After losing more time clambouring through the unyielding but picturesque myrtles, we finally made it to clearer ground below the northern ramparts of Victoria Cross. This gave some brief respite as we descended to Bewsher Saddle, the sky now overcast and threatening. The saddle provided the usual botanical obstacles as we aimed for a small elevation on the northern side. Of most interest was the discovery of several blazes cut into the larger trees. These were all old and didn’t mark any particularly clear route. They may have dated to one of the earlier trips, possibly even one of Keith Lancaster’s expeditions.

By the time we had reached the prominence on the northern side of the saddle, low clouds were scuttling past the crags of Victoria Cross. Fortunately from here, the pace improved and we were able to thread our way around the thicker belts of scrub before finally gaining open slabs of dolerite that lead to Mount Bisdee’s summit.

Bewsher Saddle and Victoria Cross.image
Bewsher Saddle and Victoria Cross. From the first elevation north of the saddle.


We had at least been fortunate enough to see the unique view from Mount Bisdee – the wide tea-tree clad ridge heading north to Secomb Scarp and the more distant Bob’s Knobs, the unique view of Precipitous Bluff outlining the northern highpoint, and the whip-like tail of Victoria Cross that bifurcates from the ridge we had followed to an eastern outcrop.

Bobs Knobs and Secomb Scarp.image
Bobs Knobs and Secomb Scarp. From the flanks of Bisdee.

 We had attained the summit around 3pm and not long after that, the squalls rolled in.

By the middle of Bewsher Saddle we were wearing all the clothes we had carried and we were drenched. No rain coat keeps you dry when you have to wriggle, twist and slide through a thick tangle of cutting grass, banksia, tea-tree, bauera and other classic species.

Fortunately forward progress in Bewsher Saddle isn’t too bad compared to some places and we had started moving with the sense of urgency that being a whole mountain away from your tent brings. It was somewhere here that we lost the compass, probably snagged in one of the denser trees that we smashed through.

Victoria Cross and Precipitous Bluff.image
Victoria Cross and Precipitous Bluff. From Mount Bisdee’s summit. Bewsher saddle is right of centre.

 While trudging back up the northern slopes of Mount Victoria-Cross, we had decided to risk gaining the ridge-crest early to avoid the time-consuming forest again. This proved to be the correct decision although we had been concerned as we ascended about the time we would lose if had found our- selves on some sheer northern rampart. The biggest disadvantage of gaining height early was that we were now very cold, with the searing wind buffeting us as we made our way over the slippery boulders toward VC’s summit.

And so we found ourselves descending Mt Victoria Cross in dim light using the incessant wind to keep direction. Below the steep pine-apple grass clad gully and the boulder field we passed through one final treacherous patch of scrub beneath VC’s prominent southern bluff where low scoparia obscures the gaps between boulders. Next we were nearly running down the more open slopes.

Bobs Knobs and Mount Bobs.image
Bobs Knobs and Mount Bobs. Note the scrub across Secomb Scarp.

 Unfortunately, the tents were getting a hammering. We had pitched them into a mild north-westerly breeze and now we were being pummelled side-on from the southwest. At least they were still standing – Pip and … had fortunately reinforced all the guy ropes as the weather had deteriorated. After getting some food on board, the two girls came over to hear the story of our 13.5 hour sojourn, making a point of avoiding our wet, slimy, scrub-covered raincoats in the tent vestibule. After a few hands of 500, I set to sewing up the holes in my trousers inflicted by the scrub. We were awoken several times in the night by the noise of the billowing tent and we both made sorties outside to push the pegs back in.

Camped below Mt. Victoria Cross.image
Camped below Mt. Victoria Cross. The weather wasn’t quite as good as the previous day.

The wind abated somewhat towards morning and as the light increased we were amazed at the new shape of the tent. This was a reasonably new three-hoop tunnel design (a Eureka Expedition), but from here on it had an asymmetric curve to the poles, having spent the entire night being pushed over. We were fortunate that we didn’t snap a pole and probably owe this to the attention that Pip had paid to the guy ropes in the afternoon.

Kim and I were pretty chuffed with having attained Bisdee, and the side-trip proved worth it – had we ascended Precipitous Bluff instead of heading out to Bisdee, we would have found ourselves at PB High Camp in that wind, moreover we wouldn’t have seen the view from the top. As it was by the next evening, the weather had settled again and we were able to enjoy the stunning vista from Precipitous Bluff, one of Tasmania’s most iconic mountains.

Mount Bisdee is named after John Bisdee who together with Guy Wylly are the only Tasmanian recipients of the Victoria Cross, awarded for their action defending and assisting wounded comrades in the Second Boer War in September 1900.

Gustav Weindorfer – “For the people, for all time”

Excerpted from The Overland Track Guidebook

Gustav Weindorfer came to Australia looking for adventure, but found much more – a Tasmanian and her island home. 

Gustav Weindorfer — ‘Dorfer’ to his Australian mates — was born in Spittal an der Drau, Austria in 1874. An interest in the natural world led him to study farm management, but much to his frustration the only work he could find was as an accountant for a wine merchant. At 25, fed-up with the job and craving adventure, he booked a ticket to the distant, unknown land of Australia.

On first sight he wasn’t impressed: ‘The country looks dreadful’, he wrote home. ‘The gum trees, at all times wretched creatures, stood sadly in the drought-stricken country, rattling their long leaves.’ He settled in Melbourne where he soon started exploring the countryside with the Victorian Field Naturalists’ Club. Another member of the club with similar botanical interests was Kate Cowle, a Tasmanian-born woman 11 years Dorfer’s senior. In September 1902 they shared space in the Field Naturalists magazine, Gustav with a paper comparing the alpine flora of Australian and Europe, Kate’s paper discussing the geology and plants of Tasmania’s Mt Roland.

It wasn’t long before Gustav began to call upon Kate and her sister, helping them classify their wildflower collections and joining Kate at the piano where he sang Austrian folk songs to her accompaniment. Kate must have liked what she saw: a tall, strong, engaging man with thick accent and an even thicker handlebar moustache, because in February 1906 they got married. For the wedding they travelled back to Kindred, where Kate had relatives, a small town south-west of Devonport. Within hours of arrival, Gustav was fighting bushfires with his future relatives, battling all night to save the homestead in which they were married the next day. Their honeymoon was five weeks in a leaky tent on Mt Roland collecting plant specimens and subsisting on kangaroo tail soup.

Gustav was impressed by Tasmania’s rugged scenery, which reminded him of his mountainous homeland. For the first time, far in the distance, he saw the distinctive ridge of Cradle Mountain — and his curiosity was piqued. But first they settled down, buying some land in Kindred and starting a farm, growing oats, potatoes, vegetables, fruit and raising sheep and cattle. Gustav impressed the locals with his good manners, hard work and outgoing personality.

His first trip to Cradle Valley was in January 1909, when Gustav and a Melbourne friend Charlie Sutton headed off south-west, passing the last of the farms and then following their compass across trackless moorland until they entered Cradle Valley, at that time known to only a few hunters, trappers and some adventurous mountaineers. Gustav was smitten with the wildness of the highlands and the richness of its flora, with many of the plants yet to be classified. On returning to the farm he wrote an article for the Victorian Field Naturalists’ describing Cradle Mountain as ‘a veritable El Dorado for the botanist’. Impatient to return, Gustav organised a trip back to the area with Kate and his neighbour Ronnie Smith that December. On 4 January 1910 they climbed Cradle Mountain, Kate, in her long skirt and bone-necked blouse, keeping pace with the men, the first woman known to have reached the summit.

In an article 25 years later, Smith described how Gustav stretched out his arms and declared, ‘This must be a national park for the people for all time. It is magnificent, and people must know about it and enjoy it.’ It was no idle quip. Kate and Gustav had been at the opening of Mt Buffalo National Park in the Victorian Alps, and learned how the construction of a chalet had led to the arrival of visitors, then to a road, then to more visitors and ultimately the declaration of a national park. If it could be done in Victoria, it could be done in Tasmania.

Excited by Gustav’s vision, the party promptly started scouting around for a location to build the chalet, settling on a site at the edge of an ancient myrtle and King Billy pine forest about 3km from Dove Lake.

In March 1912 Gustav started building Waldheim, ‘forest home’ is his native tongue. Designed to harmonise with its surroundings, it was made from carefully selected King Billy pine from the adjoining forest, with the aim of minimising the impact on the environment.

Initially, he employed an experienced timber worker to teach him to split logs into shingles, palings and beams. He soon became proficient in the process and continued building alone. Waldheim was basic but beautiful: bunks of rough wood and hessian, mattresses stuffed with sphagnum moss, blocks of wood for chairs and a huge fireplace with toasting forks made from twisted fencing wire. His motto hung on the wall, ‘This is Waldheim, where there is no time and nothing matters’.

Visitors soon started arriving, particularly friends from the Victorian Field Naturalists’ Club, who endured the rough journey to enjoy Waldheim’s rustic charm and the area’s mountains, lakes and rainforest. Gustav was cook as well as guide and host, treating guests to his home baked bread, freshly ground coffee (a rarity in those times) and his specialty — wombat and garlic stew.

Just when custom was beginning to increase, the First World War broke out. Fear of foreigners became rife: rumours circulated that the Austrian deep in the highlands was a spy and Waldheim was equipped with a radio transmitter to communicate with the enemy. Kate’s health began to deteriorate, doctors advising her of a weak heart. Soon Kate was in and out of hospital, Gustav leaving Waldheim to be by her side. When she died on 29 April 1916, aged 52, Gustav wrote in his diary, ‘I have lost my best friend.’

Gustav retreated to Waldheim, drawing solace from hard work and the area’s beauty. He built a stable, a sledge for hauling wood, a workshop, woodshed and gathered stones to build a larger chimney. His isolation earned him the reputation as ‘The Hermit of Cradle Mountain’ — the opposite of the truth, for he was naturally very sociable and suffered terribly from loneliness.

At age 43 he volunteered for the army, but although he had been an Australian citizen since 1905, he was rejected.

By winter 1919 Gustav had completed most of Waldheim’s buildings. Visitors in October 1920 included Tasmanian photographer and mountaineer Frederick Smithies and his next-door neighbour Herbert King, another photographer. It’s to these two men we owe thanks for much of the photographic record of the area. Smithies, in particular, came to share Gustav’s vision of a national park and joined him on a promotional tour of Tasmania showing lantern slides and drumming up support for the idea, including with the Minister of Lands. On 16 May 1922, 64 000 hectares from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair were declared a ‘scenic reserve and wildlife sanctuary’.

By this time Gustav’s heart was giving him trouble, but he continued to host visitors and guide them through the area, in the evenings regaling them with fireside tales about the grand balls and buildings of Vienna. Rather than slowing down because of his bad heart, Gustav sped up, literally, buying an Indian motorcycle in 1931, which was well-suited to the poor tracks leading to Waldheim.

On 5 May 1932 Gustav was found dead. His heart had failed as he had tried to kick-start his motorcycle; he was 58.

His friends gathered to bury him in front of the chalet, his grave marked with a simple King Billy pine cross bearing the name ‘Dorfer’.

One Indian, 7000 Kilometres, One Australia

From Amoghavarsha: As part of the Australia India Youth Dialogue, Bangalore based wildlife photographer/filmmaker Amoghavarsha traveled across the beautiful country of Australia backpacking for 5 weeks and traveling 7000 kms, and has put together a montage of his journey.

The whole film was shot solo by Amoghavarsha during these 5 weeks. The video is a testimony to the wonderful experience one can have traveling across this spectacular landscape. Jyolsna edited the video and had hours of footage to edit down to a 4 minute cut. The sequences are lined up to tell a tale of travel.

 The music was composed by Naveen and Vynod and is an eclectic collage of genres that uses instruments native to the continent and portrays influences of different styles, going from electronic music to ethnic percussion. It transforms from fast paced percussion in places to serene sounding melody at moments and has a touch of rhythmically layered sound effects. It is an aural representation of natural beauty, bustling crowds and untouched wilderness. All of which written to and inspired from the photography.

Do watch in Full HD 1080p for the best experience. 


Production: Director and DOP: Amoghavarsha Music: Vypersonic media (Naveen Raja, Vynod Subramaniam) Editor: Jyolsna Panicker

Places showcased: 

  • Melbourne, 12 Apostles, Apollo Bay, Philip island, Sydney, Patonga, Copacabana, Killcare, Avoca, Bouddi National Park, Terrigal, Hobart, Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, Burnie, Tarkine Rainforest, Queenstown, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and Southwest National Park, Bruny Island, The Friars, Mackay, Eungella National Park, Sarina, Slade Point, Airlie Beach, Great Barrier Reef, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Tamborine Mountain, South Stradbroke Island