Art Exhibition and Competition

One of Dani’s after school activities is Art Club. He is not very good at it (not that I am really qualified to say) but he genuinely does like it. And that is what is most important.

For most of this term his Art Club group have been making a painting for an exhibition at the local library which just also happens to be a youth art competition. The prize is several hundred dollar worth of art supplies, so the kids at the Art Club are keen to win. The other day I spotted it on display. There was plenty of competition too. See below…

Some of the large collection of artwork entries
The painting by Dani and his school Art Club

Dani’s Art Club painting (above) is basically a collage of individual paintings – one per member of the club – brought together to form two hands. A clever idea that allowed the kids to more or less do their own thing while being part of the bigger picture.

It is located half way up the stairs in quite a prominent position. Hard to miss actually. Perhaps that will sway the judges. I will of course keep you informed.

Oh, and Dani’s contribution? The second square from the right, on the top row.


Snails and a Bad Reptile Movie Review

How much do you know about the sex life of snails? More specifically, I suppose, what do you know about snail reproduction?

The reason I mention this is that we have a fish tank – bought for Dani’s birthday a few yeas ago. Recently it has become infested with tiny snails and I was sure they were breeding like crazy. So, eventually I decided to look it up (i.e. google it). And this is what I found…

Right you can forget rabbits. These little shell covered bastards are even more prolific breeders. It turns out that they don’t even need to meet a snail of the opposite sex!

Many species of freshwater snails are hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female reproductive organs. Hermaphroditic snails can actually fertilize themselves, so all it takes to establish a breeding colony in your tank is a single snail. Well, I can confirm that we are well past that ‘single snail’ stage.

They usually have to climb above the water line to lay their eggs. That’s (mostly) when I see them and try to scoop them out. It turns out that snails don’t go through different forms as they age. They hatch out of their eggs as tiny, perfectly formed versions of their parents. That’s why I often see lots of tiny snails hanging around on the tank walls – which I also scoop out.

The first snails must have got into the tank on a plant I bought (for the tank) some months back. Anyway short of cleaning out the whole tank and getting new gravel for the bottom it is going to be hard work getting rid of the slimy little f*ckers. But not to be put off I have once again sought the help of the internet and come up with a plan to sucker the little suckers into a trap.

Apparently if you put a piece of lettuce in the tank overnight, they all come out to feast on it. By early morning it should be covered in snails, large and small. Then all you have to do is scoop out the lettuce leaf and voilá! Or so they say… We shall see.

Reptilicus – A Really Bad Movie

Classic poster. The posters were so much better than the films in those days eh?

The other day I found out about something called ‘The Bad Movie Club’. They show old films at the local library, deliberately picked out for being really awful.

Of course there are plenty of candidates – the majority of which most of us will have never heard of. This was one of them. It is called Reptilicus, a Danish monster movie made in 1961. It was terrible, but funny. I thought Dani would like it and sure enough he did. He saw the funny side of it but also thought it wasn’t that bad. I understand what he means. For the time it was made, I suppose…No. Hang on. It really is crap regardless of the year it was made and the lack of special effects.

Plot and Spoiler Alerts (as if!)

After copper miners discover part of the frozen tail of a prehistoric monster in Lapland, scientists take it to an aquarium in Copenhagen where it is kept frozen in a cold room.  However the cold room door is inadvertently left open and the tail thaws and is brought back to life. Scientists then notice that it is regenerating. One scientist calls the creature Reptilicus. Foolishly they decide to keep it alive and enhance the regeneration by drip-feeding the tail section. Inevitably the monster grows far quicker than they could have imagined and soon fully develops and breaks free.

Reptilicus goes on an unstoppable rampage through the Danish countryside and into the sea. Then to the panic-stricken streets of Copenhagen. The monster is finally knocked  unconscious by a sedative developed by the scientists. The drug is administered via a  bazooka shot into the creature’s mouth – in one of the funniest parts of the movie.

The film was made twice. It was remade in English for the American audience and a few scenes were deleted from the original (Danish) version – like where Reptilicus flew. This was due to the fact that it looked so bad. Speaking of which, some effects – like the monster spitting a luminous green acidic slime – were added afterwards, and very amateurishly. I am sure the flying monster scenes would be no worse.

The acting was very poor. Wooden. Plus it was full of bad timing. But we stuck with it. And why not? There was a supply of free drinks and snacks. At least I think it was free. Dani helped himself to a can of coke and two bags of popcorn. So overall he enjoyed himself. As he correctly pointed out; it is only the most modern monster movies with up to date CGI graphics that don’t have silly looking monsters (like this one). At school his class is working on making a short stop-motion movie in art class, so he was actually very interested in this ‘bad movie’.

Another poster for the movie.

Surprisingly, you can even find the “official trailer” on that old favourite, YouTube. Here is the link for anyone interested:

If you are really keen you can buy the movie on Blu-Ray and DVD. But best keep your money eh? Spend it on some modern crap movie. There are more than enough of them.

Unsurprisingly, this was Denmark’s first, and up to now, only giant monster film. That said, and as always with these daft old movies, they are worth a look, if only for a good laugh.

Sheffield – Town of Murals

Sheffield – Town of Murals

More from our Tasmanian tour…

We passed through this little town on our way from Cradle Mountain National Park to Launceston. It was well worth stopping off to spend some time strolling around. The artwork is everywhere. Mural after mural. I am sure we never saw them all. And I am certainly not going to try to get all of those I managed to photograph on this post. But here is a fairly good sample…

Dani almost looks part of this life-like mural

A Bit About The Town…

Sheffield is a town 23 kilometres inland from the north-west coast of Tasmania and sits in the shadow of Mount Roland. The Sheffield area is well known for dairy farming, lamb and beef production. It has a population of around 1,600.

The town was named by Edward Curr (who was appointed manager of the Van Diemen’s Land Company in 1824) after his home town in South Yorkshire, England. I worked there a long time ago – it’s a great city. But this much smaller place of the same name is very different.

Mount Roland overlooks the town and dominates the local scenery.

As usual with rural towns in Australia, the architecture is also interesting.

The town thrived during the 1960s due to the construction of seven dams and seven power stations nearby. But things started to decline after the completion of the power scheme in 1973 and the population began to decline.

Becoming the Town of Murals

Sheffield’s revival as the Town of Murals began as a bid by a small group of residents determined to save their town. The Kentish Association for Tourism (KAT) had a vision to combine art and tourism to revive their town’s fortunes, which was apparently inspired by the story of Chemainus, British Columbia. That small Canadian town did a similar thing using artwork and murals to revitalise itself.

Personally, this place reminds me very much of the NSW town of Eugowra, which is like a walk-around art gallery. You can read more about that place by following this link: The Village of Eugowra – A Living Art Gallery.

The first mural was painted in December 1986 and it grew form there. Sheffield has now become a major tourist attraction promoting itself as a “Town of Murals”. The murals attract an estimated 200,000 people to the town each year.

More Murals…

Cradle Mountain – Top Tasmanian Destination

Cradle Mountain National Park

Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park (to give it its full name) sits in the central highlands about 103kms north of Hobart. It covers over 1,600 km² (about 620 square miles). Definitely one of the places you need to visit in Tasmania.

Very few vehicles are allowed entry into the park so most visitors check in at the visitor’s centre and take the regular buses that drop you off at several key locations in the park. From any of those stops you are free to walk the many tracks laid out specifically for tourists and too keep the environment as untouched as possible.

The highlight is undoubtedly Cradle Mountain and its adjoining peaks. We got off the bus at Dove Lake where the iconic views across the lake awaited us…

Cradle Mountain

Words cannot describe it. They rarely even get close. Neither can photographs. I am a firm believer in that, but we all try and take them anyway eh? However clear and striking they may be, photos only show that one small area. But as that is all I have, here are some pictures from our visit to Cradle Mountain…

Look closely. There are some people up there.
Dove Lake Boatshed from across the lake


Here are some more photos, mainly from the other side of the lake…

First Live Wombat

We had seen countless dead wombats along the side of roads. Usually on their backs legs stiffened and up in the air. But we had never seen a live one. We were told that there was a spot in the park where there would be a good chance of seeing wombats. And sure enough we found one.

Our first live wombat!

Fun Fact: Even if you are not lucky enough to spot a wombat during the day there is plenty of evidence that the animals live in the area. Their scat (aka shit!) is quite distinctive. Almost cube shaped – see photo. Weird eh?

Wombat poo

Another park native. The red wallaby.

Platypus country; but we were not that lucky.
Never saw one of these little rascals either.

The park is also home to the platypus but we were not fortunate enough to see one. I think that requires a fair bit of time and patience. Maybe… One day…

From the national park we drove to Launceston, Tasmania’s 2nd biggest city. En route we stopped off in the small town of Sheffield known as ‘The Town of Murals’. More on that one next post…

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Mapping Australia – Part Three

Here Come The Dutch…

In Part Three of this look at the mapping of Australia we have reached the 17th century and the arrival of Dutch explorers.

If you have not seen them yet please check out these links for Part One and Part Two .

It’s the 17th century. But only just. In 1605 Willem Jansz (aka Janszoon) sailed his ship Duyfken along most of the west facing side of what is now known as the Cape York peninsula. (That’s the fairly big pointy bit that sticks out at the top of the east coast of Australia). By this time the Dutch were well established just to the north of Australia where the Dutch East Indies company had traded from its base, in what we now call Jakarta, since 1602. Willem Jansz charted about 300 km of coastline – See his map below. However the Cape York peninsula along with the first part of the western coast only begin to appear on official maps in 1630. The charts made by these explorers were really the property of the company and would have been available when possible to other Dutch sailors. 

Willem Jansz map, of what is now Cape York, from 1606

On 26 February 1606, Jansz landed near what is now the town of Weipa. This is the first recorded European landfall on the Australian continent. Although Jansz became the first person to chart the coast of Australia, he actually thought it was a southerly extension of New Guinea. The reason being that he had not sailed through the Torres Strait. Jansz’s ship was actually in the Torres Strait in February 1606, a few months before Spanish explorer Luís Vaéz de Torres sailed through it. While Jansz is famous for his discoveries it is the Spaniard’s name that goes to that strategic stretch of water. Jansz is said to have found the people of this new land inhospitable and several of his men were killed on various shore expeditions. These were the first fateful recorded contacts between Aborigines and Europeans. 

It is worth noting that most (if not all) early maps of Australia show Cape York almost attached to New Guinea and this continued long after Torres sailed through that body of water that bears his name. (We shall see more of this in later posts.) All the way in fact till Cook sailed up the east coast and through the same Torres Strait. But that was still an almost incomprehensible one hundred and sixty four years after Jansz’s landings. That’s 164 years later! Still hard for me to believe as I type… Anyway, back to the Dutch…

Such was the power and wealth of the Dutch East Indies Company at that time, that it was guaranteed there would be plenty of (mainly Dutch) ships heading in that general direction and exploring the region. 

The sightings of Cape York were predictable (at some point) as they were only just south of the East Indies. But the early sightings of the West coast of Australia were as much by accident as design…

Hitting the West Coast (literally in some cases)

It was suggested that the quickest way that Dutch ships could reach Java was to head east after passing the Cape (South Africa) then turn north at a certain longitude. Great if you got it right. But back then (as any good sailor will tell you) calculating longitude was still far from accurate. Consequently many ships headed too far east and hit the west coast of Australia. Some quite literally; getting wrecked!  So most of the discoveries that followed were, strictly speaking, accidental. Also they were not mapped for several decades in most cases, but they were used as naval charts to aid other Dutch sailors.

Dirk Hartog made the first sightings (and landing) of the west coast of Australia in 1616 – an incredible 154 years before Cook’s landing in the east coast. Hartog was the first European to suggest to have found a continent there. On 26th October 1616 he landed at what is now known as Cape Inscription, on what is still called Dirk Hartog Island. Before departing, Hartog left behind an inscribed pewter plate affixed to a post. This plate was discovered and replaced by Willem de Vlamingh (in 1696) and the original was taken to the Amsterdam where it is on display in the Rijksmuseum. Hartog’s plate was inscribed with the following:

1616, on the 25th October, arrived here the ship Eendracht of
Amsterdam; the upper merchant, Gilles Mibais of Luyck; Captain Dirk
Hartog of Amsterdam; the 27th ditto set sail for Bantam; undermerchant
Jan Stein, upper steersman, Pieter Doekes from Bil, A[nn]o 1616

Willem de Vlamingh’s plate replicated Hartog’s text and added some more. This later plate eventually made its way to Shipwrecks Galleries of the Maritime Museum in Fremantle. And don’t I suddenly feel a complete fool for not going to that museum while we were visiting Fremantle in January of this year!? Damn!

Plenty more Dutch visits followed Hartog during that century, charting virtually the whole of the west coast and parts of Australia’s northern coast. Most notably perhaps, Frederik De Houtman. In 1619 Houtman in his ship Dordrecht, and Jacob d’Edel, in another ship (Amsterdam) sighted land on the Australian coast near the Swan river estuary (present-day Perth). After sailing northwards along the coast they made landfall in Eendrachtsland – previous been named by Hartog – and then returned to Batavia.

Another notable charting of the west coast came eight years later when Gerrit De Witt’s ship (Vianen) was meant to return from Batavia to Europe but was blown too far south and encountered the northwest coast. De Witt then charted 370km of the northwest coast. The year was 1627. 

It was another early visit to the new continent that did little to inspire. De Witt reported “a foul and barren shore, green fields. and very wild, barbarous inhabitants.” The crew reported seeing indigenous Australians. Probably the first European sighting of Indigenous Australians in Western Australia.

First Map Showing West Coast Australia

The Hondius World Map by Jodocus Hondius the younger (1594 – 1629) is the earliest printed map to show the recent Dutch explorations on the West Coast of Australia. This map was thought to have been issued in 1625. It clearly shows Dirk Hartog’s discoveries.

The Hondius World Map c.1625
Detail of Hondius World Map showing west coast of Australia

Hats off to the Dutch 

The Dutch were extraordinary sailors, navigators and cartographers. They were of course very well funded in the 17th century by what was then the largest company on the planet; the legendary Dutch East Indies Company. Where the Dutch fell down was their inability or, perhaps more apt, their greater reluctance to wage wars on their European neighbours and far off native peoples. I say “greater” when comparing to the British, French and Spanish, of course. All three of these nations at this time were feverishly trying to expand their empires and were not averse to a bit of maritime fisticuffs and human slaughter. Any one (or all 3) of those nations would have been in a semi-perpetual state of war during the 17th and 19th centuries. (You could even skip the “semi” when it comes to Britain and France!)

That’s not to say that the Dutch never got involved in naval battles and other wars in general. They did. They enjoyed the odd scuffle on the world stage but they just never had the same appetite for it as the main three European empire builders. They were primarily explorers interested in business rather than conquering, subjugating local native populations and pillaging. If the Dutch had the same capacity to kick arse that the French and British had no qualms in displaying back then, perhaps most of the world would be speaking that strange language they speak in Amsterdam. Yet here in the 21st century their language is barely spoken at all outside of Holland (The Netherlands). But the Dutch did stake a claim on the giant continent down-under when they named it New Holland. And that’s how it appeared on maps for many years to come. 

None other than Captain James Cook himself confirmed the importance of the early explorations of Australia by the Dutch. On 22nd August 1770 he wrote this in his journal:

I therefore may find no more upon the Eastern coast of New Holland and on the Western side I can make no new discovery, the honour of which belongs to the Dutch navigators.”

Putting It All Together.

Meanwhile a guy called Hessel Gerritsz was employed as a cartographer by the Dutch East Indies Company. Between 1617 and 1632 Gerritsz constantly updated maps of the coastline based on the many records of the Dutch sailors. The map of Australia’s western coastline gradually took shape. Meanwhile the collective, unpublished charts of the East Indies company sailors were slowly taking shape. (More on Gerritsz’s work to come later..)

Henricus Hondius’s map of India and the East Indies published in 1633
Willem Jansz Blaeu’s map of India and East Indies c.1635

The Hondius map of the East Indies as well as a world map he produced was one of the first to be published showing parts of Australia (parts of the west coast and western Cape York peninsula). The map by Willem Jansz Blaeu was published several years later and almost identical to the Hondius map. This level of detail remained largely unchanged until in 1627, an adventurous explorer who had been blown off course to the most south-westerly point in Australia, decided to keep heading east. That was the first known sighting of the south coast of Australia. And that’s where we will continue in Part Four…

Quite a long post this one. However, please don’t forget to “like”, share with friends & family and also subscribe/follow via email or twitter. Thanks. 

Risks Associated With Being An Old Dad?

An odd title for a post eh? I had never heard anything like this, so let me explain. Here’s what happened…

I recently had a chat with a young lady about being an older dad. She works for a TV company and came across this blog while doing an online search for “older fathers”. She has been doing some research, trying to find out some of the reasons why there are now (apparently) a lot more older dads in Australia. Almost like it is becoming a trend? (you may well ask). Maybe. But this was just a part of what she was trying to ascertain. 

The TV company is interested in making a current affairs/news article about the rise in older fathers. No doubt this was spurred on by the recent news that actor Robert De Niro has fathered a child at the age of 79. Coincidentally the age my own father would be if he were still alive. It’s hard to imagine that. Having a new born brother or sister at my age! It would seem very odd, especially initially. I am sure my boy Daniel would think that would be fantastic. Having an uncle/auntie who was nearly 10 years younger than himself. He would end up babysitting for them in a few years… But all jokes aside there is a serious side to all this as I have tried to point out in certain posts, and certainly my initial thoughts when I started this blog. 

I Had Never Heard Anything About This

One of the questions I was asked was whether I had heard of the health risks for the child of an older father. I had not. But it does seem to be a real thing… Read on…

I suppose the first and most obvious question is: Why hadn’t I heard of this before?

The short answer is: I have no idea! Naturally I had heard of the risks for both mother and child when an older woman is pregnant. We all have right? It’s just old mother nature doing her thing. It is also why women cannot get pregnant after a certain age (not fixed of course). When it comes to procreating, women have a definite body clock thing going on, which men do not. This – as far as I always thought – was common knowledge. Perhaps less well known, although still widely acknowledged, is that there are risks for the child when the mother is “older”. 

 But what about the risks for the unborn/newborn child if the father is older? 

I decided to do some research (so that you don’t have to). So here are a few links to articles about this subject if you want to learn more…

You can find out a little more about this subject here, here, here and here… (And of course there will be lots more if you want to really delve deep.)

I soon discovered that this is not a new idea or recent subject of medical research. What is interesting is that it is not widely known or talked about – at least that is how it seems to me. Even the TV researcher admitted that she was previously unaware of the potential dangers associated with having an older father. 

Is It True?

First of all, thankfully, none of this has been the case for my boy. He is (touch wood) a normal healthy child and always has been. Lucky us eh? Well, maybe. What has medical research found in relation to the potential health risks?

As always, it is probably best that you do your own research into this. But here is a brief summary of some of my findings:

  • Fathers older than 45 had a 14 percent greater chance than fathers in their 20s and 30s of their babies being born prematurely and at low birth weight
  • As the fathers’ ages rose, their babies were more likely to need help with breathing and require admission to the neonatal intensive care unit.
  • Other studies found that the risks of childhood leukemia, breast and prostate cancers were elevated among offspring of older fathers
  • Older fathers (≥ 40 years) could increase risks of cardiovascular abnormalities, facial deformities, urogenital abnormalities, and chromosome disorders in their offspring.
  • In general, younger fathers had less effect on birth defects compared with older ones.

Certainly not the same risks for an older mother, where clearly her own life could also be in danger. But it seems that being an old dad can prove a little risky for the child. I know I am repeating myself but; I had never heard anything about this. 

All’s Well (and all that)

As I am sure you already know, none of this has affected my own son. Have we been lucky? Maybe. But entering this world has always carried many risks. Just as growing up in today’s society carries many of the same risks that have always been there throughout history.

Life is, to some (you could even say “large”) extent, a game of chance, and luck always plays a big part. Would I have chosen not to have my son if I had read all of those reports and research papers? Of course not! It’s like that old saying, which i will paraphrase: If you worry about everything you hear or read then you would never do anything. 

Is there some kind of agenda to scare men off from being old dads? Maybe. Certainly cases like De Niro are examples of dads being far too old – I’m sure we can all agree. But I am more than comfortable with my own decision. As for Dani; well he may start to develop his own thoughts on the subject as he gets a little older. But as I always tell him: ‘I bet not many of your mates get to listen to Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd with their dads.’ It is also true that the older you get the wiser you get. For Dani it’s a bit like having a dad and grandad all rolled into one.

It will be interesting to see how the TV company addresses this topic and what their own conclusions/summaries are. As always, I will try to keep you posted…

A Day at the Cross Country Races

It’s been a busy week. Mother’s Day last Sunday. My birthday the other day. And today Dani ran in the inter-schools cross country race that he had wanted so badly to qualify for.

I have just realised that I never wrote about that one – but never mind. Here is a quick recap. The school’s own cross country event took place last term and the first 8 from each year qualify for this inter-school event. Dani really wanted to qualify as some of his friends had the previous year. Long story short he finished 6th so qualified for today’s event. So here we are… The cross country event took place in Queens Park, a tree dotted sports area right next to Centennial Park in Sydney’s east.

Conditions and Age Group

There had been quite a lot of rain these past few days & nights and parts of the course were a little treacherous. Dani was running in a crappy pair of old running shoes with zero grip left on the soles. I mean, worn out! If this had been a sliding contest…But it wasn’t.

On the way to school he admitted that he felt quite nervous. He hadn’t bothered about it previously but this was race day. He had butterflies. No bad thing when you have a race to run…

For these events Dani competes in his birth year category rather than his school year. Better for him as he is really small for his school year. Even then he was still one of the smallest and (with a birthday in November) still one of the youngest among those born in the same year. But who’s making excuses already? On with the race…

The Race

Before the start of each race the starter went into a very long and boring explanation of the course and things that the kids should and shouldn’t do. I am surprised some of them never nodded off. I nearly did.

Lining up for the start of the race…

The race began and Dani got swallowed up near the back of the large field of runners. Out in front however, one of his school team immediately took the lead in the race for the first bend. Within the first quarter of the race he had blown the opposition out of the water and ended the race with a genuine sprint finish. The kid’s name is Theo and he is a real running talent. I swear, he could be representing Australia in the future. He is excellent over both short (sprints) and long distances. If there was a pentathlon/decathlon type of event just for running different distances that kid would excel. Come to think of it, maybe he is good at the field events also. I wouldn’t be in the least surprised to discover that he throws a better javelin than the 300 Spartans and jumps more sand than a kangaroo.  But anyway, he is certainly an excellent runner.

Then they all disappeared behind the trees only to reappear not far from the finish line. I took the much shorter path diagonally across the park to the finish area. The leaders soon emerged from the woods and sure enough Theo lead the charge showing a clean pair of heels in a sprint finish. Bloody hell that kid has some engine!

Not a million miles behind Dani emerged from the tree covered part of the course. He had clearly picked his way through many of the field. In the end he finished well in the top third. In fact 31st out of 113 runners. (A packed field right?) Quite a respectable finish I thought. But better than that; his time was over a minute faster than he ran in the school’s event to qualify for today. A new personal best time – or PB in sporting parlance – smashing his old one. Well there was only one other time to go on, but hey… it really is still a PB thing.

Meanwhile it is this sports reporter’s belief that he could have finished even higher up the field – with an even better PB – if he had not got caught near the back at the start. Also I am sure the really top runners take it very seriously whereas Dani’s idea of training for the event is just talking about it. When he finally has a good growth spurt and bothers to train for these things you never know. And those bloody tread-less running shoes! The winning boys had good footwear.

Ah….But that’s all ‘ifs buts and maybes’. Wudda. Cudda. Shudda. OK; it’s not like these are the musings of a proud old dad or something. As if! I’m just happy that he did as well as he did. Even happier that he enjoyed it all.

When interviewed after the race, Dani had this to say about his PB: “I really think I perform much better under pressure.”  Yes, he actually said that. Spoken like a true professional hahahaaa…

Best was yet to come…

Dani’s school left their best almost till last. In one of the final races – which was for the boys from Dani’s school year – they took first, second and fourth places. And apparently the kid who finished fourth had an injury and was otherwise expected to finish 2nd. It could have been a podium sweep!!

Meanwhile, Mikey had the race won at the first bend after a wild sprint start. That kid has a great engine and insane stamina. Another to watch out for in the future.

He demonstrates that steely-eyed demeanour top sportsmen/women possess. Eyes like an eagle; and his prey is the finish line. A really excellent performance. All in all a good day for the school. Well done to everyone who took part. Especially to the winners. And of course, to anyone who managed a new PB.

Mapping Australia – Part Two

Here is Part Two of this investigation into how the continent of Australia was mapped long before James Cook first stepped on the island and claimed it for the British crown.

If you haven’t already read it, I suggest you start with Part One – click here for that.

Pre Tasman Maps

As far back as the late 13th century Marco Polo, on returning from his explorations to the east, spoke of a great land south of the eastern islands. It is widely thought that sailors in the ‘far east’ – especially the Chinese – would have come across (at least) northern Australia.

Fast forward over two hundred years. In the mid 1500s there were several world maps drawn by French cartographers in Dieppe, France. These became known as the Dieppe Maps. One example – Dauphin or Harleian map from around 1547 – is shown below. This map (and other ‘Dieppe maps’) shows a landmass pointing north to meet Java and Indonesia. Australia perhaps?

Dauphin or Harleian world map, circa 1547

What the Harleian map really shows remains contested. There had long been beliefs or myths about a great southern continent (Terra Incognita) and this was represented on the very earliest of world maps. But there were no reliable reports or genuine charts for 16th-century cartographers to go off. In those days the mapmakers often went along with existing theories and old tales. They would have been reluctant to erase the mapping of their predecessors without good reason. Indeed mapmakers would not have wanted to depict a huge void where once was shown a huge landmass. There was also the hope that those mythical lands would eventually be discovered. The unknown southern landmass became known as Java Major or Java La Grande.

It appeared on another of the Dieppe Maps, one produced by french cartographer Jean Rotz, even earlier, in 1542. If you tilt your head to the right – and with a little imagination – the charting of Java La Grande does look a little like an outline of Australia.

Jean Rotz’s World Map – 1542

Again, however, people pointed out the lack of hard evidence and there were too many questions. The absence of New Guinea and the Gulf of Carpentaria for example. Also there is a huge breadth of sea that separates Australia from Java, whereas the Rotz map shows only a narrow channel between the two. Take a look at the map below and decide for yourself.

Rotz map overlaying modern day map of Australia and region

The Dieppe Maps aside however, Portuguese explorers are thought to have been responsible for the first sightings of Australian land by Europeans – as long ago as the late 1500s. It is believed that their findings were the reason part of the northern coast of Australia appears on a map by British cartographer Edward Wright in 1600. Below you can clearly see what must be part of northern Australia – albeit a tiny fragment – sticking out just north of the Tropic of Capricorn. It’s as if the map-maker thought; ‘there is definitely something there, we just don’t have much detail – yet!’

Portion of Edward Wright’s map in 1600 – perhaps showing part of north Australia?

Wider view of Wright’s world map. Thought to be the best map of its time:

The problem is that there is no hard evidence that the Portuguese mapped that small part of the new country. Did the Portuguese discover Australia (and even New Zealand) in the 1500s? and if so how much? It is quite likely that they did. In fact I would be surprised if they did not! But that is a whole other rabbit hole to go down. If you want to delve into that one then be my guest; but for now I had to concentrate on what we can prove with real facts and charts.

Enter the Dutch 

For real evidence we need to look into the next century – the 1600s – and give thanks to the Dutch. From that point onwards – at least until Cook’s time – it was the Dutch who had the biggest say in the mapping of the great southern continent. And for that part of this journey of discovery, stay tuned for Part Three…

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Mapping Australia – Part One

I don’t know what it is about maps. But I just like looking at them. New ones, like the Ordnance Survey (OS) maps we used to study at school. The world atlas you have at home and in school. Road maps when on a road trip. Or even google maps. There is something about them. Especially really old maps. And even more especially first maps of the world and specific countries. If you don’t like maps and maybe think people like me are a bit (lot?) weird, then you may still be interested in this set of posts. Because it is a fairly deep dive into the history of how Australia was mapped. If you do not already know it may just surprise you…

How I Fell Down The Rabbit Hole…

It all started when a book caught my eye while visiting the local library. In one of those brief, fleeting milliseconds something can really grab your attention. So I picked up the book and read it. Then I slipped down a rabbit hole and I was fascinated…

The book that sent me down a rabbit hole

The map on the front cover is part of a map called Mar di India (from around 1700) but the outline of a huge chunk of Australia’s mainland along with part of Tasmania, is taken from a more famous map – The Tasman Map (aka the Tasman-Bonaparte map). The Tasman map is thought to have been made in the mid to late 1600s in Batavia (now known as Jakarta), home of the Dutch East India Company, on Japanese paper. It was also thought that it was most likely compiled by a team of draftsmen from a range of charts from two voyages made by Abel Tasman. But here’s where I went further down the rabbit hole…

The Start of My Quest…

I already knew about Abel Tasman. He was a Dutch explorer whose name lives on in Tasmania; as he was the first European to chart part of the coast of that state. Tasman actually named it Van Diemen’s Land after Antonio Van Diemen, then boss of the famed Dutch East Indies Company. What he never realised at that time however, was that it is an island.

The Tasman Map was published in the mid to late 1600s; more than 100 years before James Cook hit the east coast of Australia and claimed the land for the British crown. What surprised me was the  uncanny accuracy of the west and south west coasts on this and other maps from that era. Tasman’s voyages never covered those parts of Australia (more below). So I decided to dig deeper….

The Tasman Map

NSW State Library

When I started digging I realised that I could not cover this subject in a single post. Or even several, to do it real justice. But don’t panic! I intend to cover it as well as I can in three or four posts; OK, maybe five (so keep an eye out for the follow-up posts). Of course there are many books and works on this very subject. In this, the first post on the subject, I need to mention the New South Wales State Library in Sydney city centre. When searching for the Tasman Map online I discovered that the original is held in the NSW State Library. So off I went to see it. Or so I thought…

NSW State Library. Matthew Flinders statue and entrance to the Mitchell Room

In fact the map is held in a safe. Inside an underground bunker-like room with all the usual alarms and climate control you would expect in a Mission Impossible movie. If you want to see it with your own eyes you have to complete a series of forms and go through certain checks. And as for touching it… well don’t be silly! I thought about it – for all of 5 seconds – and decided that was just a bit too much. In any case there is plenty more to see and read in the state library.

As you enter the old part of the library (called The Mitchell Library) the reception area floor has a tiled reproduction of the Tasman Map. And it is fantastic. The photos just do not do it justice. Not even close. I definitely recommend seeing this even if maps are not your thing. As I said to the lady in the reference library who explained what was required to view the Tasman map; ‘I doubt the actual map will look as good as the tiled floor over there.’ She agreed.

The photo above shows parts of the tiled floor enlarged including; top right, the first mapping of Tasmania (Van Diemen’s Land) and (top left) the first glimpse – on any map – of part of New Zealand.

Inside the Mitchell Library Reading Room: Similar to the well built old Victorian libraries we saw in Adelaide and Melbourne. They really don’t build them like this any more…

Mitchell Library Reading Room

The library also hosts regular exhibitions

Inside the Map Rooms:
Top right – The eastern hemisphere of Mappe-monde by Louis Denis from 1764.
Bottom left – The southern hemisphere of Gerard Valck’s map from 1695.
Bottom right – Image of Vincenzo Coronelli’s globe from the 1680s.

The Plot Thickens…

From a book in the reference section of the Mitchell Room I then found out that Tasman’s two voyages of discovery in the early 1640s did not include any of the west coast nor the south coast.

The routes of Abel Tasman

Tasman hardly went near the whole bottom left quadrant of the continent in fact. Tasman is very well known of course, so that got me thinking. How could a map, bearing his name, contain such accurate mapping of the west and south coasts when Tasman himself never saw that part of the country? It seemed that there was some missing link(s) in the production of the Tasman map. Or so I thought… More to come…

Be sure to check out Part Two of this investigation in the near future…

Welcome to Tasmania

Question: What do you do if you arrive on a clear day in Hobart, Tasmania and only have a few hours of daylight left?

Answer: You drive up Mount Wellington and take in the breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding Derwent river estuary.

And that is exactly what we did on our arrival at the smallest state in Australia. The other island. This was the start of our holiday. Welcome to Tasmania…

It was chilly up there exposed to the cool autumn wind.

The mountain rises steeply almost out of the city but it is about 22 kilometres (14 miles) from Hobart central business district. It rises to 1,271 metres and dominates the area. Clearly visible from most parts of the city it provides a perfect backdrop for the small coastal city (compared to the likes of Sydney) of Hobart. It was a clear day but boy was it cold up there…

Another shot, showing most of Hobart city

Can we go now? LOL

As always photos never show such sights in their true glory. Ever. These places need to be seen with your own eyes and a four inch mobile phone screen shot is never going to do it justice. But all I can do is try and relate how awesome these places are.

Into the City via an Old Factory…

And after bearing the chilly winds up at the top of the mountain what better way to warm up than a few cold beers. Erm… Well, a trip to Australia’s ‘oldest operating brewery’. The Cascade Brewing Co. which sits snuggly below the hug mountain is said to be the oldest “operating”. They all make these claims though eh? But in this case I think they may be correct – and the key word is “operating”. Anyway, we were very hungry and I wanted to try some Tasmanian beer…

Historic Cascade Brewery Co.

Just enough daylight left to have a quick wander around the city centre where we found another smaller (craft) brewery hiding behind the big old dock buildings. After sampling the beers that left just enough time to grab a meal and get some sleep. This was just a quick stop over. We would return to Hobart before flying home…

A few pictures from Hobart

Hobart Brewing Co.

The next day we would head off into the wild Tasmanian countryside on the start of a hectic tour.First impressions are simple: I liked Tasmania the minute we arrived. Let’s see how that develops…

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