Tasmania: Land of the Devils
OR • The Land Down Under the Land Down Under
The island is 226 mi long from the northernmost point to the southernmost point and 190 mi from west to east.
Part I: The People • Tasmanian history is a study of human isolation unprecedented except in science fiction—namely, complete isolation from other humans for 10000 years!
Tens of thousands of years ago, the first Tasmanians crossed a land bridge from mainland Australia.
Once that land bridge was severed at the end of the last Ice Age (14,000 BCE) Tasmanians had no further contact with mainland Australians or anyone until the European arrival in 1642.
Both Tasmanians and mainland Australians lacked watercraft capable of crossing the 130-mile strait between Tasmania and Australia!
The first sighting of Tasmania by a European: 24 November 24, 1642 by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman who named the island Anthoonij van Diemenslandt, after his sponsor, the Governor of the Dutch East Indies.
1770: Captain James Cook claims Australia for Britain – Took years for Europeans to realize Tasmania a separate island
Tasmania: One of a Kind! • A Hilly Island • Dense Forests of Pine, Beech, Eucalyptus • Great Fords along the western coast • Climate: Wet but temperate – like Britain!
Fauna? • Some as in Australia: • Kangaroos and Wallabies • Black Swans • Duck-billed Platypi
But….. • Tasmanian pygmy opposum • Tasmanian water hen • Tasmanian yellow wattle bird
Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger • Looked like a great striped dog • Carried its babies backwards in a pouch beneath its stomach • Could open its jaws so wide that at full stretch they formed an almost straight line top to bottom
Tasmanian Devil • A carnivorous marsupial so named by Europeans for its extremely loud and disturbing screech, and ferocity when feeding
A Unique People • 2,000 to 5,000 native inhabitants were living on Tasmania when English settlers arrived there in 1803.
Anthropologists believe the Tasmanians represented a physically distinct race. Unlike the aborigines of Australia, they had woolly black hair and reddish-brown skin.
Tasmanian males sharpened sticks and obsidian knives to hunt kangaroo, wallaby, and opossum. The women dived in the ocean for shellfish.
Tasmanians wore no clothes (even in cold weather) but they adorned themselves with grease, feathers, and shells.
They fashioned crude shelters from branches and leaves but built no permanent structures. They didn't know how to kindle fire, and they didn't make baskets or pottery.
They were a generally peaceful society of primitive hunters and gatherers, divided into eight tribes speaking different dialects. Their basic societal group was the extended family.
Affectionate by disposition, they celebrated their lives by dancing and singing together. • It’s wattle blossom time, • It’s spring-time. • Bird whistle. • The birds are whistling. • Spring come, • Spring has come. • Cloud sun, • The clouds are all sunny • Bird Whistle. • Everything is dancing • Because it’s spring-time
In 1803, 49 British settlers, most of whom were convicts from Australia, landed in southern Tasmania, est. the penal colony of Port Arthur
May 3, 1804: Three hundred Tasmanian hunters were chasing a kangaroo herd were fired on by nervous British troops. • The dazed and decimated Tasmanians picked up their dead and wounded and departed. • In retaliation, they then attacked and killed several British oystermen. This was the beginning of a very one-sided conflict.
1820 some 12,000 British settlers and just 500-1,000 Tasmanians lived on the island. The settlers considered the Tasmanians as mere wild animals and actually organized hunts--complete with hunting jackets, hounds, and horns--to track and kill the natives.
Men and boys were castrated; women were gang-raped and murdered; the settlers even shot Tasmanians and fed them to their dogs.
The Tasmanian population was further reduced by European diseases, especially syphilis, which became epidemic because of the number of sexual assaults by Englishmen on Tasmanian women.
In 1838, at the instigation of Rev. George Augustus Robinson, the remaining 187 Tasmanian people were transported to Flinders Island off the northeast coast of Tasmania.
On this barren, almost waterless isle, the Tasmanians were placed under the care of Anglican missionaries, who forced them to wear clothes and learn Western customs.
Demoralized, the few surviving Tasmanians lost their will to live and fell easy victims to disease. In one year 50 died of pneumonia.
Finally, in 1847, the survivors were returned to mainland Tasmania and resettled at Oyster Cove, near the capital city of Hobart. Alcoholism and a grinding poverty were their lot.
The last Tasmanian male was William "King Billy" Lanne, who became a local curiosity during the 1860s. An alcoholic, Lanne died of dysentery and cholera in 1869 at the age of 34.
The last Tasmanian female was Trucanini, whose fifth husband had been William Lanne.
Although friend and helper to British missionaries, Trucanini had firsthand experience of British violence against her people. When she was a girl, she was captured with a band of Tasmanians, and forced to look on as her companions were hanged.
She had also watched white men chop off the hands of one of her husbands and stab her mother to death. During her later life she lived in Hobart on a small pension granted her by the British government.
Trucanini died in 1876, and the local citizens hung her skeleton in the town museum.
Van Diemen's Land was proclaimed a separate colony from New South Wales, Australia,, with its own judicial establishment and Legislative Council, on 3 December 1825.
It was officially renamed in honor of its first European discoverer on January 1 1856.
“The Natural State” • Tasmania is promoted as the Natural State owing to its large and relatively unspoiled natural environment. Formally, almost 37% of Tasmania is in reserves, National Parks and World Heritage Sites.
The Thylacine of Tasmanian Tiger became extinct on the Australian mainland thousands of years before European settlement of the continent., though it survived on Tasmania
Intensive hunting encouraged by bounties is generally blamed for its extinction (1936), but other factors may have been disease, the introduction of dogs, and human encroachment into its habitat.
Never Again!! • Tasmanian Devil becomes the symbol of the people of Tasmania, and is fiercely protected by law after 1941. • Population recovered to about 90,000 by 1990
A carnivorous marsupial • The size of a small dog, but stocky and muscular, the Tasmanian Devil is characterized by its black fur, offensive odor when stressed, extremely loud and disturbing screech, and ferocity when feeding. It is known to both hunt prey and scavenge carrion - usually solitary, it sometimes eats with other devils.
Devil Facial Tumor Disease first recognized in 1996 • Has reduced Devil population by over 50% in some areas. • Rare form of transmittable cancer
Affected high-density populations suffer up to 100% mortality in 12–18 months.
T.A.C. • Book Fair • April 22-23, 2009 • Student Life Bldg, • Foyer by the Cafeteria