Special Arrangement

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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

Citizen Science with the Tasmanian Land Conservancy – ABC Science Week Wildlife Spotter

Wildlife Spotter — the ABC’s citizen science project for National Science Week 2016 — invites ordinary Australians to be citizen scientists from the comfort of their own homes, contributing to real science by identifying quolls, malleefowl, Tassie devils, cats and many more animals captured in photos. These citizen scientists will identify animals in roughly a million images taken all across Australia by automated cameras.

Wildlife Spotter is the online citizen science project for National Science Week 2016, undertaken by ABC Science in conjunction with the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, Australian Museum, Deakin University, Charles Darwin University, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, and WWF Australia. It is supported by funding through the Australian Government Inspiring Australia strategy.

Participants will help answer questions such as:

  • –  How many endangered bettongs are left?
  • –  Are native predators like quolls and devils are competing with cats for food?
  • –  How common are common wombats.

Spot wildlife for ten minutes or ten hours — every animal identified will help our scientists. Should you need extra help, you can click through a short online tutorial.

As well as helping us understand living Australia, you could win one of two Go Pro Hero 4 cameras. School participants could win a visit from Dr Karl. Register to enter the competition, which is open until Monday 5 September.

How is the Tasmanian Land Conservancy involved?

The Tasmanian Land Conservancy was invited to contribute images taken by monitoring cameras on the TLC’s private reserves.

Each year thousands of images are taken through our monitoring program. Volunteers process the data by identifying the animals that are captured in the images. The TLC are thrilled to participate in the National Science Week citizen science program and strongly believe in the power of nationwide citizen science program that draws in Australians of all ages.

The TLC is a not-for-profit environment organisations that protects nature in our own reserves and in partnership with private landholders. The TLC uses science to inform conservation management of our reserves.

Wildlife Spotter

Media Release: National Science Week’s Wildlife Spotter seeks citizen scientists

Wombat Warriors: Creating a future for Tasmanian wombats

Tasmania boasts a number of unique and interesting species of fauna including the much loved wombat. Tasmania’s Common Wombat – Vombatus ursinus tasmaniensis, is now threatened with becoming an uncommon species on the island. This has led to a name change; now this large burrowing mammal will be known as as the Bare Nosed Wombat.

Like other wombat species, the Tasmania subspecies is under threat from mange mites – Sarcoptes scabiei. The female mite attaches itself to the wombat, burrows under the skin and lays eggs. The wombats’ response to this infestation causes issue with keratinisation of the skin, leading to thick scabs over the body including the eyes which leads to blindness. These scabs eventually crack causing secondary infections. After months of agony the wombat eventually dies. Studies have shown if left untreated, this infestation is almost always fatal.

Unfortunately in Tasmania there has been little done in the way of population research. Dr. Scott Carver from the University of Tasmania has been leading the field when it comes to researching mange infestations in Tasmanian wombats. “Sarcoptic mange appears to infect wombats widely across Tasmania.”  The extent to which this mite pathogen impacts wombat populations varies across the state.

Anecdotally, reports of wombat populations being severely impacted predominate in low lying coastal areas. Most notably, research at the University of Tasmania has documented a large scale decline of wombats at Narawntapu National Park. Research is currently underway into disease management tools and techniques in order to restore this threatened population.” Currently the only access to wombat mange information is through reports from private landholders and the UTAS research group. Treatment of mange is currently the responsibility of the land owners. People such as the family on the Cockatoo Hills property are keen to tackle this harsh and cruel infection.

Conservation Volunteers Australia, in partnership with Highland Conservation Pty Ltd, and with the support and imparting knowledge of Mange Management (Katja Gutwein) and UTAS (Scott Carver), recently undertook a wild treatment project in the centre of Tasmania. The privately owned site, near Bronte Park, boasts up to 4000 acres of threatened Poa grasslands, waterfalls and towering eucalyptus bushland that predates European settlement. The property owners GPS mapped over 800 wombat burrows and selected 200 more active burrows for treatment flap installations. The treatment flaps are simple but effective; when the wombat enters its burrow it receives a dose of cydectin to treat the infestation. Although fairly new, this treatment has been shown to be effective in Victoria with wombats completely recovering from the infestations.

Conservation Volunteers Australia sent a team of 10 volunteers to assist in the installation of treatments and monitoring of wombats on the property. We camped among the hakea trees by night and trekked through the grasslands by day. By Sunday, all 200 of the flaps had been successfully installed and satisfaction was at an all-time high. Volunteers were a mix of Tasmanian university students, local residents, and international exchange students – a handful even made a special trip from interstate to be a part of this project. Lucy Holdsworth, a UTAS student, joined the project because she had previously heard of wombat mange and thought that it was a great chance to help, instead of sitting back and turning a blind eye to the issue. She thought it would complement her degree. Jenny Baxter joined to learn more about wombats and to help with what seemed like a very worthwhile and meaningful project. Being new to the state, she was also keen to meet other people with similar interests and to see the Central Highlands area.

On completion, volunteers were tired, but the inspiration still radiated from their exhausted faces. There are high levels of satisfaction on a project that directly makes a positive impact on Tasmanian wildlife.

“The trip meant a lot to me because it meant that we could solve one of many issues that Tasmanian wildlife has been forced to endure. I know the project isn’t going to cure mange for all wombats, but it meant that we were able to give even a few wombats a little bit of a chance against mange that otherwise would not have been there. I think the project overall meant that we could make a slight dent in a major issue,” said Lucy. Conservation Volunteers Australia will continue to source funding and partnership opportunities to run similar projects around Tasmania so the future of the wombat is more secure than that of the Tasmanian Devils.


Get involved

Conservation Volunteering Projects in Tasmania – Conservation Volunteers Australia

From A Picturesque Atlas of Australasia (1898)

“For how many thousands of years the beautiful island of Tasmania had remained secluded from the rest of the world like a lost or an undiscovered paradise; and at what remote epoch the first human beings drifted across the Straits, to find themselves the sole possessors of a realm more fair and fertile than that from which they had been wafted by accident or design……”

From University of Queensland: http://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:217831

Published in Sydney in 1886-88, the enormous, multi-volume ‘Picturesque Atlas of Australia’ was an attempt with words and pictures to describe the Australia of the time.

Its publication was one of the most significant cultural projects in 19th-century Australia. Writers, artists, academics, and politicians came together to prepare a book of unprecedented grandeur and ambition, and a publishing company was established to publish it. The 1100+ engravings on steel and wood contained in the Picturesque Atlas were among the finest engravings to be found anywhere in the world at this time, and many of the illustrations were specially commissioned works by leading Australian artists of the era, for the publication.

There are thirty maps in the Atlas’s 800 pages, plus hundreds of sketches. The word ‘picturesque’ was popularised by William Gilpin, for it was he who really popularised the idea of travelling in search of picturesque views. Picturesque took on an increasingly acquisitive edge, as admiration of the beauty of the land was joined by a concern to exploit it. A ‘deep reverence for production’ can be seen in the Picturesque Atlas’s many illustrations of mines, factories and agricultural processes. The slag heaps of a mine were now as ‘picturesque’ as a fern-filled valley.

Of the hundreds of images included in the Atlas, you will find street scenes, monuments, churches, hills, seaside, farms, horses, scrub, country towns, ships, daily life activities, headstones, bridges, people, caves, aborigines, and mountains just to mention a few.

Though the Atlas was heavily dependent upon illustrations as its main selling point, these were set within texts describing landscape, industry and city streets. Photography was invented by the time of publication, and it has been said that a number of the engravings in the book were based on photographs, but it was chosen to use the engravings instead, even though it could take weeks to engrave on 7 inch by 1 inch block. By doing this it just adds to the uniqueness and high quality of this publication.

A unique and valuable historical record of Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

A Gateway to Charm – Northwest Tasmania (1955)

This government tourist film offers some interesting glimpses into the Northwest Coast sixty years ago, and a some pleasant scenes of tourist attraction. While it’s perhaps a little overenthusiastic with its promises, and far too dismissive of the Tasmanian Aboriginals, it’s a nice ramble through sunny roads and waterways from an earlier time.


At the Lake of Fire – Abseiling into Marum Volcano Crater

It has been a few years since I came across Geoff Mackley’s body of work, and the image of a silver figure next to a lake of fire has remained vivid in my memory. Over in Vanuatu, to the northwest of the Australian tectonic plate, the basaltic shield volcano of Ambryn contains a very rare and hypnotic lava lake. Geoff and his colleagues descended to the rim of the lake itself and have shared these spectacular moving images of a surreal sight.

You can learn more about Geoff’s work at his web page and more about Ambryn at the Earth Observatory.

Geoff Mackley’s Site Directory

Ambrym’s Lava Lakes : Image of the Day

Visions of the Future

Mixing retro-style travel posters with the most exotic destinations science fiction can imagine, NASA/JPL has recently shared these fantastic images of the solar system and beyond.




You can download these as high-resolution poster images:

Space Tourism Posters

The Illustrated Earth – Ticehurt’s Landscape Physiography

Editor’s note:

On a recent dark Halloween night in Berkeley, California, we found ourselves volunteering at a house party to give out candy and observe the costumes on display. In a hallway indoors, a framed illustration caught the eye with its tremendous detail and complexity. On closer inspection, in was revealed to be a surprisingly complete effort at illustrating the diversity of land forms on our planet. It is a beautiful piece of work, and special thanks to Mr. Ticehurst for allowing us to share it. 

The Illustrated Landscape: H. Ticehurst:  Feb 24th, 1964:

Illustrated Physiographic Symbols - by H Ticehurst - Complete

Illustrated Physiographic Symbols – by H Ticehurst –

Earth – A Nullschool Visualisation

Gorgeous imagery from earth.nullschool.net. Fully interactive animated version online at earth :: a global map of wind, weather, and ocean conditions

Cameron Beccario of Nullschool has kindly let us share some screengrabs from this phenomenal bit of modern cartography. It’s been a marvellous experience exploring the project – the website allows you to select different projections of the planet and overlay real-time oceanographic and atmospheric data.

These images are all animated – they may take a few moments to load. Enjoy!

earth :: a global map of wind, weather, and ocean conditions

Five Decades Ago: A Tasmanian Story

LINC Tasmania Courtesy LINC Tasmania: A 1954 documentary on Tasmania – featuring lifestyle, industry and regions, produced by the Postmaster-General department to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Tasmania. Includes the complete film and sound – from the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office collection.

Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office: Film — Tasmanian Story — (sound and colour) 22 minutes, 1954 (Reference: CB17/4/1/1)

From The Mercury, 1953, announcing the premiere screening of the film:


THE Public Relations Division of the Postmaster-General’s Department has completed a 20-minute colour film to honour the sesquicentenary of Tasmania. The title chosen for the film is “Tasmanian Story.”

In announcing this yesterday, the Director, Posts and Tele- graphs (Mr. J. E. Bonan) said that the film would be given a premiere screening in Hobart next Monday. The producer (Mr. E. J. Brereton) will at- tend to represent the Director General (Mr. G. T. Chippindall). Mr. Brereton will be accompanied) by Miss J. Blackwood, who wrote the story and directed the film.

Invitations have been issued to Federal and State members of Parliament, representatives of civic and business organisa- tions, and members of the Sesquicentenary Committee. Mr. Bonan added that the film would be screened through- out the Commonwealth, and in most parts of Tasmania and should do much to impress upon Australians the importance of Tasmania to the economic welfare of the nation.

Prominence is given to the various industries of the State and their potential.

The film pays tribute to the work of the early explorers and settlers by showing what their labours have accomplished. Lieut. John Bowen and William Paterson are included.