Cruising the Gordon River Tasmania

Tree huggers win

The Gordon and Franklin Rivers have close to mythical status in Australia. They symbolise the start of the political party “the Greens” and intervention by our Federal Parliament into what had previously been considered State business. 

Back in the 1980’s the Tasmanian Government planned to dam the Franklin River for the purposes of hydroelectricity. A massive and effective protest movement arose with a strange alliance between old loggers and “tree-huggers” to protect the wild rivers. 

Eventually in 1983,  the newly elected Federal Labor Government led by Bob Hawke stopped the development and the area is now a UNESCO World Heritage protected area. 

The pristine, undeveloped and wild area cannot be easily accessed by vehicle and most areas remain undisturbed except by intrepid bush walkers. Several tour companies also run river cruises for the first 12 km of the river. They are required to travel at very low speeds in the river  to prevent bank-damaging wash. No commercial crusies are allowed beyond the 12 km mark. 

The area near Strahan had been selectively logged for the fabled Huon Pine since colonial settlement but now, no commercial activity other than boat cruises are allowed on the river.

World Heritage Cruises

As part of my Great Southern Road Trip, I booked a Premium seat (aka window seat) with World Heritage Cruises. The cruise leaves the jetty at Strahan at 9 AM and returns at approximately 3PM. Prices vary but I paid $165. In the height of summer (December and January) there is a second afternoon cruise. 

The cruise includes lunch. Normally a buffet, but in these times of COVID it was a prepackaged bento box with a bread roll, cold meats including smoked salmon, salad and cheese. Drinks and snacks can be purchased separately throughout the cruise. If you book a Gold ticket, morning tea is included.

The cruise takes you out of Macquarie Heads through “Hell’s Gates” a very narrow opening to the ocean, Sarah Island, an aquaculture area and the Gordon River. At the end you can also watch a traditional saw mill in action cutting up salvaged logs.  

You get off the catamaran at Sarah Island for a half hour walk around with a very entertaining guide from the Round Earth Company and you can also leave the boat at the 12 km turnaround point for a short board walk through the forest. 

There is extensive commentary from the boat’s captain and owner as well as some video clips displayed on monitors. This commentary was detailed and interesting. The Grining family who runs this particular cruise company have lived in the area for generations. Firstly as loggers, then loggers with a tourist side business and now the tourism business is their main activity. The family were also actively involved in the 1980 protests. The Grining family lobbied their passengers to sign a petition, ran supplies to the protesters as well as ‘smuggling’ in new protestors to the protest line.

Sarah Island

Sarah Island is a small island in Macquarie Harbour. It was a penal settlement for secondary offenders, that is convicts who reoffended. It was a “hell on earth” with harsh weather adding to the man-made deprivations and frequent floggings. Many of the convicts tried to escape. It’s history is bloody and it was closed after 12 years and the convicts moved to the equally infamous Port  Arthur. The history of Sarah Island is certainly worth checking out. 

As you can see it was raining heavily!

Poor weather

The Western coast of Tasmania is wild and the weather can be just as wild. At a latitude of 40o South the area is buffeted by the “roaring forties”. The next closest landmass in South America. It rains here frequently with the average annual rainfall being a little over 2 metres.

On the day of my booking it was raining heavily and cold. Visibility was poor but the sea was relatively calm. When we got out at Sarah Island, even though I had wet weather gear on, I still got soaked through. Cold I know is a relative thing. Cold here in Australia counts as anything less than about 15C! The previous day had been clear and 25C but on this day it maxed out at 15C.

One of the lighthouses at Hell’s Gate.

The boat

The Harbour Master 2 was only launched in 2020. It is an impressive double hulled aluminium catamaran. It has comfortable fittings and seats. It has large windows and open decks at the front and rear. There is a bar/cafe. As stated they usually serve a buffet but because of COVID restrictions still in play they served prepackaged Bento boxes.

Gold Tickets holders sit on the top deck and have access to the roof deck. When you are boarding and awaiting departure watch the time lapse video of the boat’s construction.


Despite the poor weather, it was still a good day out and I would recommend it. There are other tour companies which run similar trips. Gordon River Cruises also have a catamaran and Stormbreakers run an over night cruise in a sailing boat. I wish I had of seen this before I booked the other cruise!

Note: because of the poor weather and reduced visibility I don’t have many photos! I did make this tongue-in-cheek video of highlights.

Boomers and television.

An idea that hit me recently was that my generation and a little older, say up to about 65, is the first generation to have had television available from birth. People older than this would have had some time in their life when a television in their home was not a thing.

I quizzed my editorial team (my Mum and step-dad Mauri!) on what they remembered about the introduction of TV and life before the Goggle Box.

Memories of TV’s first years

My own mum and dad used to hire one from Radio Rentals as they were too expensive to buy outright for most families. I was 3 months old when the first TV came into our family home. Before that,  radio serials were a big part of life. With some of the favourites being When a Girl Marries, The Goon Show and Caltex Theatre.

You needed to buy a  license for listening to the radio and watching TV. My mum didn’t pay for hers once and ended up in court!

There were many more cinemas than today. Mauri says:

“The visual appetite was satisfied by the local cinemas. When living at Kogarah we had the choice of Rockdale, Kogarah & Carlton – all within walking distance. Two more at Hurstville weren’t much further away. I can’t remember the entry prices but it must have been affordable because we went quite frequently.”

When TV’s were first introduced they were the focal point of attention. People would stand outside shops and watch with a crowd. Since not all households had a TV, families with them became very popular! If you went to someone’s place, eyes would stay locked on the television and there was no conversation. I remember my paternal Grandfather being glued to the set in his TV room. My brother and I had to tip-toe past and not disturb him.

Transmission time was limited to certain hours and the stations would close down. Even I remember the test pattern! Colour TV came to the Australian market in time for the 1976 Olympics. The first colour transmission on ABC TV (the government-run station) was Aunty Jack.  Aunty Jack is an Australian enigma. You’ll need to see it to believe it!

test pattern

 

These days podcasts step right back in where radio left off. The ability to be freed from a screen while still being entertained is very satisfying. I have added to my list of favourite podcasts.  The most recent addition to my listening library being “A Beautiful Anarchy”.

Back in the 1950s TV was the big disrupter. A technology that no doubt caused many people to lament the state of future generations.  We talked about “square eyes” in the same way we are now concerned about screen time.

These days I watch very little “TV” as in free to air shows. I do use the TV for streaming of shows on subscription services like Netflix. We no longer have to wait a week for the next installment of a series, as we can watch on-demand. In fact, many people wait until the whole season is available and binge-watch it. Many shows are released all in one go for just this express purpose. I wrote about some of my favourites in a previous post.

YouTube has become the instruction manual for so many aspects of our lives. Need to know how to change the seal in your washing machine? You’ll find 50 different versions.

The internet has meant that we have the ability to create our own version of TV. This is good and bad. It gives people a voice but also means that some of the loudest voices are the ones that mean to do us harm. It also means we get to hear about things that perhaps others would like us not to hear. It’s power to the people, use it wisely!

 

Australia’s Day? Mini-Doc 4

Should we change the day we celebrate Australia Day?

This clip was taken down at Wollongong Harbour on Australia Day 2020. While offering no answers, it raises the question “is the 26th of January the best day for celebrating our nationhood?”

Should we choose a different date or should we commemorate it in a different way?

 

All footage on iPhone SMAX edited using iMovie and Spark Video on my phone.

You can find lots of information about this issue. This SBS News clip is a good place to start.