The Hidden Danger Of The Bush

Memorial bears for the victims of Drop Bears. York, Western Australia

As I have been tramping around the local woods this spring photographing orchids and birds I noticed something that I’d never seen before. That something was teddy bears tied to trees in odd remote locations. At first I thought it was strange game being played by the local kids, but after I saw my tenth one I decided to ask about and find out what was going on. It took ages to find someone who would answer my questions. Eventually an acquaintance told me to go and see Cliffy. 

Memorial bears for the victims of Drop Bears. York, Western Australia

 

Cliffy wasn’t that easy to find. The directions up to his shack in the wandoo forest were very vague – turn off the Great Southern Highway onto Talbot Road, drive for 10 Km and then take the third track on the left. Turn right at the dead tree that looks like an “excited” Tony Abbot in Speedos and then right at the big rock. I found the shack. When I say shack that really sounds better than it is. A few sheets of corrugated tin and some bush poles was all it was. When I saw Cliffy it was plain to see that he’d had a hard life. He is a compact sinewy man with skin the colour of tanned leather and hair like iron filings. His hands were a testament to hard physical labour – even the callouses had callouses. As to his age, well if you told me he was 100 I’d believe it and if you said he was 50 it wouldn’t surprise me either. So after the usual “Howz yer doin’?” Followed by a quick discussion about rainfall and rain gauges* I asked him about the bears. Cliffy sucked his single tooth and rolled a couple of strands of tobacco in some paper that looked like it had been torn from a pocket Bible. Slowly and quietly he says in a voice that sounded like he’d been gargling on razor blades “They’re memorials to victims of Drop Bear attacks”. He lit up and took a long drag and then told me the strangest tale. I scurried home to do some research.

Memorial bears for the victims of Drop Bears. York, Western Australia

 

Most people throughout the world know about the Koala Bear or to give them their proper scientific name “Phascolarctos cinereus”. Well firstly they are not a bear but a tree-dwelling marsupial that feeds on eucalyptus leaves. Secondly they are relatively harmless because all they do is eat and sleep. Occasionally you come across a grumpy one but all you’ll suffer is a few scratches. Well apparently the koala has an evolutionary cousin, the Thylarctos plummetu. Most animals in Australia are known by their Aboriginal name, but this one hasn’t got one as the Aboriginal Peoples are so scared of it they refuse to talk about it. Colonial settlers came to refer to them as Drop Bears for reasons that will become apparent later. Few people have seen the animal, and of those that have only a couple have lived to tell the tale. I’ll quote the Australian Museum’s description:

Identification

“Around the size of a leopard or very large dog with coarse orange fur with some darker mottled patterning (as seen in most Koalas). It is a heavily built animal with powerful forearms for climbing and holding on to prey. It lacks canines, using broad powerful premolars as biting tools instead.”

Size range

“120kg, 130cm long, 90 cm at the shoulder.”

Habitat type

“Vegetation Habitat: closed forest, tall closed forest, tall open forest, tall open shrubland”

Feeding and Diet

“Examination of kill sites and scats suggest mainly medium to large species of mammal make a substantial proportion of the animal’s diet. Often, prey such as macropods are larger than the Drop Bear itself. Drop Bears hunt by ambushing ground dwelling animals from above, waiting up to as much as four hours to make a surprise kill. Once prey is within view, the Drop Bear will drop as much as eight metres to pounce on top of the unsuspecting victim. The initial impact often stuns the prey, allowing it to be bitten on the neck and quickly subdued. If the prey is small enough Drop Bears will haul it back up the tree to feed without harassment from other predators.”

The Australian Geographic magazine did an article in 2013 about a University of Tasmania (UTAS) research project looking at who were more susceptible to attacks. In 2012 there was a research project looking to track Drop Bears in bush and see how many there actually are. An excerpt from that paper can be read here. I even managed to find online an old public announcement film for new migrants dating from the 1950’s warning of the dangers posed by Drop Bears.

 

When Cliffy had finished his tale of horror I had to lift my jaw up from the floor. “But why oh way don’t the government send in the police or the army to do something about it?” I say incredulously. This sent the old man into a fit of hysterical laughter. After ten minutes he managed to regain his composure. “Yer dopey pommy bastard, don’t yer know nothin’? The last time the Australian Army was called in to deal with an animal problem was in 1932 when Emus invaded Western Australia and that was a complete fu*king fiasco and made them look like complete idiots. It would be too dangerous to let that mob loose in the bush. The bloody pollies are all too busy guzzling at the trough to care about a few bushies goin’ missing.” 

So if you venture into the Australian bush and see teddy bears tied to the trees be aware that Drop Bear attacks have happened in the area and you’d be best advised to leave.

* All conversations in this part of the world follow this pattern. It’s considered very rude not to ask about someone’s rain gauge.

Recovery Mode

Frida doing post surgery recovery.

This is Frida. I wouldn’t say we own her, more like she deigns to live with us. Anyway she had surgery to remove a lump last week, and she is now taking recovery very seriously. The lump turned out to be benign 😊👌.

 

Frida doing post surgery recovery.

Recycled

Recycling Marxism
Recycling Marxism. Waste bin, Parliament Square, Hobart. Olympus Pen EP-5 with Olympus mZuiko 25mm f1.8. Exposure: 1/800, f2.0 at ISO 200.

My last post from Tasmania. On Saturday we move back to York in Western Australia. According to my dictionary recycle can mean “return to a previous stage in a cyclic process “. So heading back to York is indeed returning to a previous stage. Can’t wait!

 

A Walk Back Through Time – the Hobart Rivulet

Hobart has a fascinating colonial history which on many levels can be seen from the the buildings of the era, but they don’t really tell what life was like during that period. Wouldn’t it be great if you could go back through time and see Hobart and how the people lived? Well you can – sort of. No this doesn’t involve travelling back through time à la Doctor Who, but rather a short walk of just over 5.5Km (or 3.4 miles) return and a morning of your time.

Hobart Rivulet Park
Following Hobart Rivulet upstream from the city to the foot of kunanyi / Mount Wellington, this trail has a gentle uphill grade and is well suited to bikes and dogs on lead.

The starting point for our time travelling adventure is the Collins Way Car Park situated on the corner of Molle and Collins Streets. Walk through the car park to the start of the Hobart Linear Park and then follow the sign for the Hobart Rivulet Walking Track. The Hobart Rivulet was crucial to the establishment of Hobart as a city. Back in 1803 the Van Dieman’s Land colony was first established upon the banks of the Derwent’s eastern shore at what is now Risdon Cove. Its purpose was to a be a place where Nineteenth Century Britain could send its convict population and a defence against possible French colonial intentions in the region. Fresh water was a problem and after approximately twelve months the settlement was moved to its present location because of what Lieutenant-Governor David Collins described as ‘a run of clear, fresh water’ flowing down off of Mount Wellington (kunanyi, Unghbanyahletta or Poorawetter in the local aboriginal languages) into the River Derwent. The settlement, initially known as Hobart Town or Hobarton, was named after Lord Hobart, the then Colonial Secretary. From 1804 to the 1860’s the rivulet was Hobart’s primary source of drinking water, drain and sewer. Industry quickly established itself upon its bank using the force of the descending water to power the factories. In 1816 Robert Nash, was a miller who was convicted of breaking and entering (or B and E in the parlance) and had his death sentence commuted in favour of transportation for life to Norfolk Island and was then lucky enough to earn a full pardon and be moved to Hobart, established a flour mill near the Gore Street Weir. The mill had a short working life due to the high costs of maintenance and was closed in 1818 to be replaced by a windmill.

 

Hobart Rivulet
The site of one of the many sluices that were used to control the flow of the water so it could power the many factories that had set up on the banks of the Rivulet.

 

Milton House
Milton was originally the residence of George Wilson who settled in Hobart in 1831 with his family. Wilson opened Hobart’s first tobacconist and snuff shop. The house is a good example of Georgian colonial architecture.

 

After walking just over 500m you can see a rather nice specimen of colonial Georgian architecture on you right hand side. Milton House was originally built on a one acre allotment which was originally granted to George Wilson soon after his arrival in Hobart Town 1831. George Wilson was born in England in 1801 and he was, by trade, a tobacconist and snuff maker in partnership with H.B.Tonkin. Wilson was on his way to Sydney in 1831 with his wife and two daughters, but during his stopover in Hobart he was so taken with the colony that he decided to settle in Hobart. A few years later his partner arrived from England and they set up the first tobacco and snuff shop in Tasmania. Owning the colony’s first baccy shop was obviously a nice little earner for George.

 

Mount Wellington
Just before reaching Wynard Street you get the first uninterupted view of Mount Wellington.

At the 1Km point you get the first uninterrupted views of the summit of Mount Wellington if the weather is cooperating. By 1820 there were four or five tanneries operating along this stretch of the Rivulet. Leather was an essential commodity in the colony and was used not only for saddles, horse tack, belts, and shoes it also was used to replace metal in the manufacture of buckets and hinges amongst other things. Leather tanning is a water intensive process and after it was finished with it was returned to the Rivulet along with the tanning agents it had dissolved. Now there is only one tannery in existence which supplies leather to Blundstone the Tasmanian boot maker.

 

Hobart Rivulet Park
Until the 1860s Hobart Rivulet was the main source of fresh water for the new settlement and so the colony grew up along its banks.

Walk past the C3 Church complex, or if you’re in need have a drink at the Rivulet Cafe (open Monday to Fridays between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm) and on to Degraves Street. Here on your right is the Cascades Female Factory. Back in the penal colony days the male prisoners were segregated from the female ones and initially the women were held at the Macquarie Street Gaol. This was only seen as a temporary arrangement and the facility soon became over crowded. Between 1788 and 1853 around 12,000 women were shipped to Tasmania, mostly for what we would now consider petty crime and anti-social behaviour. But in 1823 it was a big problem and the Cascades Female Factory was set up as a workhouse and it remained in operation until 1856. There is not much left of the original buildings, just the matron’s cottage really, but it is worth going in and having a look. Take the tour and learn about what happened to these poor women and the depravations they lived with while there.

 

Cascades Female Factory
The entrance to the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site in South Hobart. The factory was essentially a workhouse where female convicts were held, educated, put to work and finally placed in indentured labour for the term of their prison sentence.

 

Cascades Female Factory
Just inside the main gate of the Yard 1. The guide is explaining what happened when the women first walked through the gates. This is where the women would be processed. The words on the wall are descriptions of the prisoners taken from their prison records.

 

Cascades Female Factory
The matrons quarters at the Cascades Female Factory. Originally built in 1850 the it was a simple four room cottage. Three of the rooms were assigned to the matron – the parlour, bedroom, and kitchen – the fourth was used messengers. It is the only surviving building from the convict era on the site.
Cascades Female Factory
The parlour of the matron’s cottage in the Cascades Female Factory.

On leaving the Female Factory keep walking up Degraves Street until you get to Cascade Gardens and the Cascades Brewery. The brewery was opened in 1832 as an adjunct to the Macintosh and Degraves Sawmills. The early history of the venture would probably make the basis of a good TV drama. Hugh Macintosh was a retired East India Company officer who migrated to Australia in 1824 with his brother-in-law Peter Degraves. Degraves was a bit of a rotter and scoundrel being a thief and an undischarged bankrupt. The law catches up with Degraves and from 1826 to 1832 he ends up in debtors prison. Macintosh does the right thing by him and dissolves the partnership and pays out the debts and then moves to New Norfolk to farm. Degraves on his release takes over running the brewery. All fairly amicable and straight forward at this stage. Unfortunately Hugh Macintosh dies in 1834 and his share in the business passes to his son William who was in Madras, India. The dastardly Degraves offers to buy William’s inheritance off of him and run the booming business himself. Degraves reneges on the deal and poor William dies a pauper in 1840. Degraves rewrote the history of the firm saying that he was the sole founder of the company and that remained that until 2011 when historian Greg Jefferys discovered the truth. The brewery is now owned by Fosters and produces a range of beers, homebrew, apple cider and non-alcoholic beverages including apple juice, blackcurrant syrup and carbonated beverages. The brewery has a visitor’s centre and runs two tours: the brewery tour which takes you round the brewery and have a tasting; the heritage tour takes you round the gardens and museum and it is more family orientated.

 

Cascade Gardens
Cascade Gardens. Autumn is probably one of the best times to do the walk as the tree leaves start turning a wonderful golden colour.

 

Cascade Brewery
Australia’s oldest brewery situated near the Rivulet, the stream that was the reason Hobart was built.

 

Cascade Brewery
Cascade Brewery

 

Messing About In Boats.

“What?” cried the Rat, open-mouthed: “Never been in a—you never—well I—what have you been doing, then?””Is it so nice as all that?” asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.

“Nice? It’s the only thing,” said the Water Rat solemnly as he leant forward for his stroke. “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,” he went on dreamily: “messing—about—in—boats; messing—”

“Look ahead, Rat!” cried the Mole suddenly.

It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt. The dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the boat, his heels in the air.

“—about in boats—or with boats,” the Rat went on composedly, picking himself up with a pleasant laugh. “In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not. Look here! If you’ve really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together, and have a long day of it?”

Wind In The Willows, Chapter 1 by Kenneth Grahame

2015 Australian Wooden Boat Festival Hobart
The MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival is held every two years and Hobart’s historic waterfront comes alive with the colour and excitement of Australia’s rich maritime culture and history.
2015 Australian Wooden Boat Festival Hobart
There were hundreds of wooden boats, from magnificent tall ships to classic sailboats, rugged working boats to superbly detailed models.
Madoc, Hobart
The Madoc is a Fenwick Williams “Annie”. The MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival is the largest wooden boat festival in the Southern Hemisphere .
2015 Australian Wooden Boat Festival Hobart
2015 Australian Wooden Boat Festival Hobart
Hop The Wag
Hop The Wag is an old English saying which means to play truant.
The Black Pearl
Captain Jack Sparrow has docked and gone walkabout at 2015 Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart.
Hanging From The Yard Arm
Hanging From The Yard Arm. The captain of the Lahara deals with pirates very seriously as pirate Ted found out.
Tasmanian Gilbert & Sulivan Society
The Tasmanian Gilbert and Sulivan Society get all swash buckling at The Elizabeth Street Pier.
Tasmanian Gilbert & Sulivan Society
A Member of the Tasmanian Gilbert & Sulivan Society at the Elizabeth Street Jetty.
Ride the prancing ponies
The much-loved 1880 Steam Carousel was whirling all weekend in the Princes Wharf Forecourt.
Single-oar sculling
Single-oar sculling is the process of propelling a watercraft by moving a single, stern-mounted oar from side to side while changing the angle of the blade so as to generate forward thrust on both strokes.