Blog 219 Tasman Peninsula 28th – 29th March 2012.

Please note the dates (on the titles) of these blogs. These are still adventures that happened pre the accident of 27th April 2012. We are trying to get up to date but Karen still has a full on physio regime and Kev is being her carer. We are also very busy getting a presentation ready for the V twin rally in the UK and designing new calendars.

Please bear with us we are doing our best, at least we have something for you to read while Karen recuperates.


Blog 219 Tasman Peninsula 28th – 29th March 2012.


The Tasman peninsula isn’t just about Port Arthur and we headed to the other side and Lime bay to camp where we caught a beautiful sunset. The geology in the rocks was highlighted in the sun rays bringing out the colours.

There were many tracks and trails to explore and the next day we did just that, for it was here that the Coal Mines Historic Site was situated on the Tasman Peninsula near Saltwater River.

We stopped to look down at the remains of the main shaft that was 101yards deep it was dug sometime in 1845. The miners were lowered down the shaft by a steam winch sitting face to face with another man astride an iron bar and the whole shift came down thus in pairs. The work was hard, dirty and dangerous and accidents were common.

The object lying on its side is the steam pressure vessel circa 1842 which stored the presssurised steam to run the winch. It was interesting to note the repairs dotted about the pressure vessel. The jetty was some distance away and use of an incline plain similar to the one we saw in New Zealand was needed to reach it, this one was all overgrown and needed a lot of imagination to visualise.

It was Tasmania’s first operational mine. Developed both to limit the colony’s dependence upon costly imported coal from New South Wales, as well as serving as a place of punishment for the “worst class” of convicts from Port Arthur, the mine was operational for over forty years and ran from 1833 – 1920′s.

It was in 1833 coal was discovered here and by 1838 this semaphore was in operation, now just a jumble of rotting wood and the bricks on which it stood. It was 30kms to Port Arthur by road but only a few minutes by semaphore. 1843 saw the building of a new jetty and the commissariat store built at Plunkett Point. The photos show a mock up of how the mines might have looked.

By 1845 the coals mines reached their peak of population and production, 576 convicts, 27 military personnel and 125 civilians worked here and produced 11,375 tons of coal.

In 1846 new solitary cells and private apartments were built to separate the men’s sleeping quarters, homosexuality was apparently rife with so many men living in close proximity. Even now the single cells are very dark and dingy despite the light pouring in from the roof cave in at the end of the tunnel.

It was a short lived boom and by 1848 the government closed the mine due to low quality coal, production inefficiency and concerns about the moral state of the station. The mines were now leased to private operators Clark and McShane and by 1851 the military guard was removed.

The mines continued to operate under private operators but the buildings began to fall into disrepair with sheep roaming the land. The last recorded leasehold of mine workings was in 1901.

But by 1938 four hectares had been gazetted for the coal mines reserve under the scenery preservation act of 1915 this grew to 214 hectares by 1971.

Leaving all the ghosts of the past behind we went to explore some of natures offerings.

We were spoilt for choice over where to take lunch but settled on this beautiful setting, the new jetty built just a little way up from the very picturesque rickety old one.

Although the sun was out it was a chill wind as we parked up ready to view Cape Raoul, only visible on a clear day. In the far distance we could just make out the tall pillars of dolerite rock rising from the sea. They formed during the age of the dinosaurs as molten rock cooled slowly just under the surface of the earth, often cracking into long polygonal (more than three sided) columns. They are the same structures as the organ pipes of Mt Wellington.

Nearby was the aptly named Remarkable cave, here the rock was formed between dolerite and sandstone with a little help from earthquakes and volcanoes. It occurred when the dolerite met the sandstone as it was being forced towards the Earth’s surface as molten rock, it baked some of the crumpled sandstone as it cooled. The heating changed the structure of the rock, highlighting the crumpled concertina pattern. The result truly remarkable….

As usual we could have spent much more time on this peninsula but also as usual we were running short on time to visit the rest of Tassie, so we made tracks to our camp for the night over looking the Freycinet peninsula our next destination.

We made a brief detour to Spiky bridge first. Spiky bridge was part of the old convict built coach road to link Swansea with Little Swanport, although Swansea had been settled by whalers and farmers in the 1820′s it wasn’t till the 1840′s that the road link was completed by the convicts. We headed back to camp to enjoy another fine sunset with the Freycinet peninsula in the background.

Next up – Freycinet and meeting the Mayor

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