Monthly Archives: September 2017

TG #48

TG #48 : Expedition Class: Treehouse Challenge + Shipwrecks + Dr. Kirkpatrick Online+ Penguin Jasper



Yes it has been a while, but surely we’ve all found wonderful new places to explore since then. It’s been deeply rewarding to see all the traffic clicking over on the website and that older articles are being found within the archives.

There’s an excellent quartet of articles coming your way, and embedded within them are several notable books, a primary school curriculum, and a fair bit more.

You can go deep in the oceans exploring shipwrecks – Mike Nash of DPIPWE has kindly shared the page outlining management and conservation of Tassie’s remarkably numerous wrecks.

You could fossick on the beaches – Miguel at Apple Isle Prospector has shared his knowledge of yet another unknown Tasmanian treasure – the jasper found on the north coast beaches at Penguin.

You can also climb high into the trees and camp out in a portable treehouse on Expedition Class – recently we’ve been climbing giant trees across the state with the Bookend Trust’s Andrew Hughes and beaming curriculum-linked educational programs to primary schools across the island. I’ve included some photosnaps from the adventure but do take a moment to view some of the video lessons posted by Andrew Hughes.

The Bookend Trust is also very soon hosting the Tasmanian Premiere if the multi-award-winning Sixteen Legs documentary film, in which we meet the ancient Tasmanian cave spiders. Narrated by and produced with the fantasy author Neil Gaiman, it’s been earning accolades at film festivals globally. It’ll be a pretty magical event, so do come along!

You can also enjoy the strange environments in the alpine zone and read the  introduction to Dr. Jamie Kirkpatrick’s classic guide to our montane vegetation, Alpine Tasmania. You can also read the full text of this and three of his other books here at Tasmanian Geographic – Conservation Worrier, The Ecologies of Paradise, and A Continent Transformed. They’re all good reads – the first two bring a more personal touch to an ecologist’s story, and the last, a large-scale overview of geologically recent Australia. Jamie’s been a key inspiration for Tasmanian Geographic since before it even began – we’re especially glad to help share these excellent works in a new digital format.

If you’d like to download any of the books, they’re available by honesty-box donation to to help with ever-growing server costs.


All the best,

The Editor

Expedition Class – Treehouse Challenge

Over the course of several wintry weeks, I was fortunate to be able to join the Bookend Trust‘s Andrew Hughes for yet another amazing Expedition Class. Andrew has been linking up with primary school classrooms across Tasmania while exploring this marvelous planet, and conducting a unique educational program regular trip reports and curriculum-based lesson plans.

For the Treehouse Challenge, we set up a fantastic hanging tent provided by Tasmanian-based  Big Wall Gear, and Andrew used this treehouse as a hub for connecting with classrooms. I joined along to help set up the treeclimbs and to serve as one of the forest scientists answering questions from students online.

We climbed into a veteran brown-top stringybark at Hollybank Reserve near Launceston, into an ancient rainforest myrtle in the Tarkine, and into the giant Eucalyptus regnans of the Southern Forests.

You can see Andrew’s excellent trip reports online, and you can enjoy some of the photos I snapped along the way!



Expedition Class

Believe it or not this is our tenth year of adventure here at Expedition Class. To celebrate we tackled something that scares us witless. Climbing way up into really big trees. The Tree House Challenge explored forest types and what makes them different and special by climbing the trees that grow in them.

Alpine Tasmania – An Introduction

  • Photographs by P. Dombrovskis
  • Illustrations by Georgina Davis and Jo Eberhard.

Tasmania is renowned for its natural beauty and wild landscapes. Some of the best of both wild and settled Tasmania is its high country. This high country cannot rival the mountains of most other lands for elevation. Even Mount Kosciusko (2229 m), the highest point in the flamess of the vast island of Australia, exceeds Mount Ossa by 611 metres, and comparisons with Mount Cook, Mount Whitney, the Swiss Alps or Mount Everest are best avoided in the company of those addicted to relative relief.

However, the Tasmanian mountains have an intimacy of scale, and a variety of colour and texture, that more than compensates for their lack of stature. They possess an unusual alpine vegetation, largely dominated by floriferous or coniferous shrubs. The flora has strong affinities with those of the other southern lands, yet about half the alpine flora species are confined to Tasmania.

This book celebrates the Tasmanian high country in three ways. It provides an account of contemporary knowledge of the ecology, focusing on those areas in which tree growth is absent. It provides a guide to the major plant communities of the vegetation type and, finally, it helps to identify the vascular plant species of the alpine zone, which number more than four hundred.

View or purchase e-book edition


View or purchase e-book edition

Protecting the Shipwrecks of Tasmania

As an island colony and later state of the Commonwealth of Australia, Tasmania has always been fundamentally dependent on shipping services to connect it to the outside world. However, lying in the path of the winds known as the ‘roaring forties’, the waters around Tasmania have proved treacherous to mariners.

Since the wreck of the ship Sydney Cove in 1797, around 1,000 vessels of all sizes are known to have been lost in Tasmanian waters up to the present day.Although the locations of less than 10% of these shipwrecks are presently known these sites are an important part of our national maritime heritage, a unique gift from our past.

While many shipwrecks can only be visited by suitably qualified divers material may also be seen on the sea shore or in tidal zones. Many shipwreck sites are often left unlocated or undisturbed for years and some natural processes of decay and decomposition are stopped or substantially slowed in the underwater environment. For these reasons shipwreck sites are time capsules which can open a window into history.

Managing Tasmania’s Shipwrecks

In Tasmania the Historic Heritage Section of the Parks and Wildlife Service is the government authority responsible for the management of the State’s historic shipwrecks and other maritime heritage sites. From its base in Hobart the Branch is actively involved in researching, locating and surveying shipwreck sites. It is also concerned with the dissemination of information through publications and actively works with organisations such as the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, on the conservation and display of artefacts. In recent years the Branch has also carried out an extensive research and excavation program on the Sydney Cove shipwreck in Bass Strait.

The Historic Heritage Section is also responsible for the administration of legislation that provides protection for a number of shipwreck sites in the State’s internal and coastal waters, including sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island.

Shipwrecks and the Law

Two laws protect the remains of shipwrecks in Tasmanian waters. The Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 applies to Australian Commonwealth waters extending from the low water mark to the outer edge of the continental shelf. The State Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995 applies to shipwrecks that lie within the state waters of Tasmania (harbours, enclosed bays, estuaries, rivers and lakes).

Under both these Acts all shipwrecks and their associated artefacts which were lost over 75 years ago are automatically protected. Shipwrecks that occurred less than 75 years ago may also be individually protected under these Acts if they are considered to be significant. In special circumstances when a shipwreck is considered highly significant or vulnerable a ‘Protected Zone’ may be declared around the site, requiring a permit from the management authority to enter. There are currently no ‘Protected Zones’ in Tasmania.

In all instances members of the public are welcome to visit shipwrecks provided they do not collect artefacts or otherwise disturb or damage the sites. Underwater sites are often quite delicate and even apparently small disturbances can result in considerable long term damage. Under the current laws it is illegal to interfere with a protected shipwreck site without a permit from the managing authority.

Both laws require discoveries of a shipwreck or the possession of artefacts from protected shipwrecks to be reported. For the reporting of sites, permits, advice or information concerning Tasmania’s shipwrecks and other maritime heritage places please contact the Maritime Archaeologist. Historic Heritage Section, Parks and Wildlife Service

Shipwreck Profiles

Michael Nash of the Parks and Wildlife Service has posted profiles of  eleven shipwrecks found the waters surrounding Tasmania during the last two hundred years:

Courtesy Michael Nash and Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife. Learn more at:

Parks & Wildlife Service – Shipwrecks of Tasmania

Discovering Penguin Jasper

One of the great geological treasures materials you can find in Tasmania is Penguin Jasper.
While jasper is a fairly common gemstone, the coast between the towns of Penguin and Ulverstone in north-western Tasmania is a particularly good place to find high-quality stones. There is even a dedicated Fossicking Area in Penguin, which is a great place to get started, and where you can still find some great quality material. Given how good the fossicking is in Penguin, I was surprised that it was actually pretty hard to find any information about it online, so here’s my go at fixing that.


The place to look is the cobble and gravel beaches in a piece of rocky coast between Tea Tree Point and Penguin Point, just to the east of Penguin, on the road to Ulverstone. You can find jasper boulders and cobbles at the steep, back part of the beach, near the high tide line.

The Penguin Fossicking Area is just east of Penguin, on the road to Ulverstone. The main collecting locations are on the beaches between Tea Tree Point and Penguin Point.

Because it is a designated fossicking area, anyone can fossick there and no permits are required. Please abide by the conditions set out in the Fossicking Areas in Tasmania booklet.

Parking can be tricky around the area. If you’ve never been before, it pays to do a drive-by or two beforehand to see where the few available spaces are,  being mindful of private property and people’s driveways. There is a large space of the uphill side of the road, opposite the railway tracks, with enough room for 2-3 cars, right near the main area. If you have a GPS, the coordinates are -41.12146, 146.11124. Cross the road and railway tracks, and about 50 meters west of the carpark there is a sort of a track to get down to the beach.

What does Penguin Jasper look like?

Jasper cobbles in shades of yellow-cream to red and purple. They often hide under basalt cobbles. They range in size from pebbles to large boulders.

The main material that makes up the beach is a dark basalt, sometimes full of holes. Among the basalt, cobbles of Penguin jasper stand out from their cream, reddish or purple colour. A lot of the better quality material hides under the surface boulders, so it pays to look carefully and move a few rocks around. A lot of the pieces of jasper have little bubbles or cracks running though them. They’re very beautiful, but not as good for lapidary. It pays to look around for a while and find solid stones. You’ll be able to tell the better quality ones because they’re heavier. They look and feel much more solid.

Good quality pieces range from small pebbles, good for tumbling and not much else, to large boulders the size of washing machines. Sometimes good pieces are on the darker side, and they camouflage well among the basalt. Visiting during a rain shower makes the jasper really stand out. The best pieces I’ve found are a pale cream background with red and purple blotching and veining, or darker purple or red with contrasting pale-coloured veins.

A piece of Penguin jasper, before and after polishing

Watch out for the blue-rings!

The coast in this part of Bass Strait is a classic locality to find blue-ringed octopus, and they’re very common under the coastal rocks in the Fossicking Area. Take care when turning over rocks in the water, quite a lot of them have a resident blue-ringed octopus. Gloves are a good idea. Needless to say, please don’t touch them, their bite IS painless, but deadly within a few minutes if untreated.

Here’s one we found under a piece of jasper we turned over:


I hope you enjoy fossicking in Penguin!