HOBART…the Docks Area

It was a long day’s drive from Strahan to Hobart …300 km. We had stopped at New Norfolk for afternoon tea and had a stroll around this interesting town, not far from the headwaters of the Derwent River. Our destination in Hobart was the Henry Jones Art Hotel in the dock area of town. It used to be the old IXL jam factory but its central location meant it was a perfect spot for a hotel, not far from Constitution Dock which is the end point of the Boxing Day Sydney to Hobart yacht race. This area’s importance to Hobart is like Circular Quay’s significance to Sydney. Not 30 metres from the front door of our hotel was the edge of Hunter Island where in 1804 Lieutenant Governor David Collins came ashore with the 262 men and women, 187 of these were convicts.

After we had settled into our hotel we decided that it was time to explore the dock area outside our door. Just over the road was the UTAS School of Art and just in front of this building were the sculptures of 3 women and two children, part of the Footsteps Towards Freedom project memorialising the experience of convict women sent to this island in the early 19th century. The sculptures were unveiled in 2017 by the Irish President, Michael Higgins.

Not far away from the sculptures of the Convict women is another group of sculptures in front of Victoria Dock. On the walkway is a memorial to the men who were amongst the first explorers of the great Southern Ocean and Antarctica. The subject of the sculpture is Louis Bernacchi, a scientist and writer seen here taking a self-portrait of himself while his huskies play nearby. Over the edge of the walkway on the rocks below are a number of seals and seabirds. They are a tribute to the English explorer James Ross (1800-1862) who sailed from Hobart to Antarctica by sail in 1840. The sculptor of this large group is Stephen Walker who himself twice visited Antarctica in the 1980s

On the pathway over the road (Hunter Street) from the Henry Jones Hotel I noticed embedded in the path a series of plaques that appeared to be delineating the old shoreline of Hunter Island where the first fleet into Hobart had set up their base camp. Below is a drawing of Hunter Island from 1804 that illustrates why a lot of the first arrivals had to be carried ashore, across the channel to the mainland. In the early years of the Hobart settlement, the island remained an important storehouse for goods brought in by ships that couldn’t dock against the mainland. An information board near Victoria Dock explained, “In 1820-21 a substantial sandstone causeway was built to connect the island to the shore, and the first warehouses were built on the island.” It seems that this first site of the arrival of Europeans in Van Dieman’s Land slowly but surely disappeared under landfill and warehouses until the complex dock area we have today took shape.

From the very informative area next to Victoria Dock we strolled along the Franklin Wharf admiring the facilities for all the various sailing boats and ferries that this was home base for. It was also an opportunity to look out for an eating place for dinner. At the end of this road in front of the docks, there is a very famous area of Hobart. Over the road is Parliament House with a large park in front of it and then the road turns left into the open-air market area of Salamanca Place.

In between the Parliament Lawns and Salamanca Place there is a small lawn area that contain a large memorial dedicated to the Dutch explorer and sailor, Abel Janzoon Tasman who sailed along the South West coast of Tasmania and named it after the Dutch Governor of Batavia, Van Diemen in 1642. To the left is the text of a plaque attached to the fountain. I have always wondered at the historically powerful action of planting a flag on “uninhabited regions” by, for example, the Englishman, James Cook at Sydney Cove in 1770. I note that Abel Tasman’s superiors encouraged him to do the same thing but the English nor history have considered his flag planting actions (ie. sending a carpenter to swim through the surf at North Bay to do so!) of any legal merit compared to their own flag planting escapades. Clearly none of the colonising European powers of the time considered that the locals (in Hobart’s case, the Mouheneener tribe), had any flag planting capabilities over Terra Nullis.

Just as for the dedication of the Convict Women statues at the other end of the dock area was opened by a head of state, this impressive sculpture and fountain was opened by none other Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in 1988.

Later in the afternoon we returned via the parliament lawn heading back to our hotel. The statue that is the main feature on the lawn is of Albert Ogilvie (1890-1939) who was a successful Premier of Tasmania after the Depression years.

We had heard a lot about the Salamanca markets and so decided to have a look at this area, knowing we would be back on the next Saturday, when the market would be operating. During its off-market time, Salamanca is a busy place with lots of restaurants and bars operating here. We strolled into the Salamanca Plaza behind Castray Esplanade and explored this open space.

There are two sculpture groups we encountered in this space. On the left below is a sculpture (Gillie and Marc, 2014) usually called Happy Birthday Mr President, a reference to the relationship between President John Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. This is a sculpture that is being reproduced in other parts of Australia such as Melbourne and where we park our bikes outside Indooroopilly Shopping Centre in Brisbane. It has also been referred to as ‘Dogboy and Rabbit Girl’!

The other sculpture (on right above) is the third piece of Stephen Walker’s we encountered as we strolled along the docks area of Hobart. It commemorates the Dutch, British and French Explorers who discovered Van Dieman’s Land. It was unveiled in 1979 at Risdon Cove but fell victim to social changes when the land there was handed back to original indigenous owners in 1995. It was “decommissioned” and returned to Stephen Walker’s shed before being resurrected here in Salamanca Square.

We circled back to the Castray Esplanade and crossed the road to have a look at the University Of Tasmania building on Princes Wharf. The title of this building is the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and it seemed fairly predictable that outside the main door there would be a bronze sculpture of the famous hero of Antartica exploration, Roald Amundsen (1872-1928). He was a Norwegian Naval Captain and Polar explorer who lead the first expedition to reach the South Pole on the 14th of December, 1911. There is a back story to the journey of the original plaster work for this sculpture. It was made by the American sculptor, Victor Lewis when Amundsen was in Seattle in 1921. The cast was one of three made and the one in Hobart was brought here in 1988 and presented to the people of Tasmania to commemorate Amundsen’s 1912 visit to Hobart to announce the news of his South Pole triumph.

The boat to the right above is the RV Investigator, an ocean research vessel associated with the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. The vessel was purpose built and commissioned in 2014. To quote its website, “The vessel supports biological, oceanographic, geological and atmospheric research, as well maritime training and education and outreach activities. It accommodates 40 researchers and technicians and 20 crew, and has an endurance of 60 days and 10,000 nautical miles without resupply.” Its website can be found at https://www.marine.csiro.au/data/underway/ and has the unique feature of a display of the onboard camera where fans of its research work can see the camera feed from the front of the boat and a map of its latest voyage.

Our late afternoon stroll around the dock area of Hobart was very enjoyable. We had five days in Hobart with a series of trips to interesting places outside the city and in between we would be able to explore other areas of Hobart beyond the Dock area.


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