Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tasmania, part 4: Western Wilderness

Western Tasmania is known for its vast expanses of untouched, impenetrable wet forest. We were also delighted by the nice mountain peaks all around us. The picture above, taken at a lookout between Derwent Bridge and Queenstown, can perhaps give a bit of an impression.

We were staying in Queenstown, which had the advantage of being nicely central with easy access to the national parks to its east and the coast to its west. Unfortunately from an aesthetic perspective, it has long been a centre of the Tasmanian mining industry. The above picture shows a part of the famed Western Wilderness of the island after open cut mining.

The information signs around town must have been sponsored by the mining industry because they oscillate between (a) outright pride at how the area around Queenstown looks now and (b) acknowledging the devastation but attempting to shame the reader into complicity. The one above this mine, for example, pointed out the following, and quite correctly it has to be admitted:
We mine the copper but you use it! You might not realise, looking out on this mining landscape, that this is all about you. Copper is still mined at Queenstown and it is a critical part of what keeps our cars, houses, computers and mobile phones working.
So hey, maybe we should buy less shiny new electronic gadgets and recycle more metal? Yes, we are collectively sawing off the branch on which we are sitting; nobody can escape their partial responsibility. Still, some of us cheer for waste and destruction but others at least try to slow the process.

Case in point: The Franklin River, focus of one of Tasmania's great politial battles of the 1980ies, when those who wanted to dam it for electricity generation clashed with those who wanted to keep this last natural river system of the island intact. Whatever you may think about it - and water power is clean energy, no doubt about that - the latter side won, and now the river brings in money as a tourist attraction.

This beautiful waterfall is Nelson Falls at the western end of the Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. Both here and at other nature walks in the area you will find several information signs on the flora and the geological history of the area. I just wish they would have consulted a knowledgable botanist when they wrote some of them...

Telopea truncata (Proteaceae), the Tasmanian Waratah, at Scarlet Creek. I have now seen three of the five species of the genus, hooray!

A beautiful moss at Hogarth Falls Nature Walk. These rainforests in western Tasmania must be paradise for bryologists. Unfortunately, I do not know the name of this intricately branched species.

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