Category Archives: Geography

The Murray River and a Submarine

Whenever we had a whole day of driving ahead of us,

I always made sure to find a few little interesting places to visit

…merely so we had an excuse to get out of the car and walk around.

So, when we crossed the Murray River,

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I declared that we HAD to walk along the Murray River.

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I claimed that it was an important river

(and it is),

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and that we should mark the occasion of crossing the river

with a little walk and visit.

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My family thought I was mad,

but, at the same time,

it was nice to be out of the car.

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Our next little stop was in Holbrook,

 where we found a submarine

…although the town is nowhere near the sea or ocean.

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The submarine was in the middle of their town park.

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There was a great story to this submarine,

and we’d know the story

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if we hadn’t found this note on the museum door!

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Okay, well, despite being frustrated,

we did track down the story.

This little town used to be called, “Germanton”,

but, during WW1, this wasn’t a popular name.

The townspeople wanted a name change,

so they adopted the more patriotic name of Holbrook

after Lieutenant Holbrook,

who was the first submariner

to receive a Victorian Cross.

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He and his crew,

after being shot at,

almost running out of power,

and staying under water longer than was safe,

had penetrated rows of sea mines in the Dardanelles,

to sink a Turkish battleship.

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Hence, the installation of the above water section

of a submarine, the HMAS Otway, in the town park.

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After we left Holbrook,

Google Maps took us on another little off-road excursion.

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Okay, well it was partly hubby’s fault too.

He wanted to take a scenic detour

and he took the turn off

before I could google how much longer

the ‘little’ detour would add to our drive.

Three hours turned out to be a detour

that no one wanted to take,

so Google Maps took us,

via whoop-whoop,

back to the highway.

This is what whoop-whoop looked like.

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Our road improved slightly

and then some cows were added to make things interesting.

Never a dull day of driving.

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But, we eventually arrived in Canberra

and our new-to-us accommodations.

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Natural Features of Tasman Peninsula

When you visit Port Arthur,

make sure to take some time

to explore the peninsula itself.

There are all sorts of natural treasures to be found.

Our first stop was the Tessellated Pavement

(which is technically on Forester Peninsula

just before you cross Eaglehawk Neck isthmus).

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People say it looks man-made

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and I suppose it kind of does,

but, it’s actually a natural formation.

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At high tide, water washes over the rocks

and down into their joints.

Then, the water retreats

and the remaining water evaporates

creating salt crystals.

As these salt crystals grow,

they put pressure on the rocks,

leaving the rocks more susceptible to erosion.

This process mostly happens in the joints

creating loaf type shapes.

However, where the water sits in pools

and where those pools are further from the ocean,

the salt crystallisation process is more intense on the surface,

creating a pan shape rather than a loaf.

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You can easily see both shapes at the Tessellated Pavement.

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You can walk down to the Tessellated Pavement,

but, we didn’t.

We had so much to jam into one day

that we prioritised seeing lots of things

over spending a lot of time at a few sites.

That’s how we roll.

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So, onto Tasman Peninsula we went.

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A short drive away,

we stopped at Tasman Arch.

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The arch was formed through erosion.

Initially, it would have been a cave structure,

and, then, when the roof of the cave collapsed,

it left this arch formation.

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Given this information,

do you think you’d walk across the arch?

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We didn’t,

(based on time, rather than being ‘sensible’ people)

but, you can walk across if you wish..

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Mind you, sensible people,

who won’t walk across the arch,

would probably freak out

when they read that there was a new sea cave forming

right below their perceived ‘safe’ viewing spot.

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A short distance away

is the Devil’s Kitchen.

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The Devil’s Kitchen also began as a sea cave,

however, its roof completely collapsed.

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Erosion continues to change the landscape at Devil’s Kitchen.

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Two new sea caves are being formed,

(although it’s hard for short people – 5ft – to photograph them!).

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Inside this one,

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you can see

(with the help of a tall person and a zoom lens)

rocks from the cave roof have fallen

so the sea can continue to expand the cave.


Geology is fascinating outside of a classroom textbook!

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After a day at Port Arthur,

we stopped at the Blowhole.

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It was a bit of a non-event.

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Hightide (on a rough sea day)

is the best time to view the Blowhole,

but, sadly, we caught the tide in its retreat

and on a quiet sea day.

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This is what we saw…

Here’s the little cave tunnel

that the water funnels through…

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And this is its end point

with a bit of a splash…

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However, most of the time,

this natural feature looked like this…

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We waited for ages at the Blowhole

to see a little spray action

and this is probably the best we saw…

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On that note,

we piled back into the car

and drove the 90 minutes home

for our last night in Hobart.




The Dog Line at Eaglehawk Neck

On our second day out to Port Arthur,

we arrived on the peninsula early

to explore some of the other sites

that the peninsula has to offer.

The first site we visited was the Dog Line at Eaglehawk Neck.

Of course, the dog line is no longer there,

but, there is a small museum.

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Now, let me explain.

Port Arthur was a great location for a prison

because it was located on a peninsula

(the Tasman Peninsula),

and the only survivable way off the peninsula

was via the peninsula’s isthmus,

which is appropriately called,

“Eaglehawk Neck”.

Hence, the peninsula was considered

an ideal natural prison.


Now, all that was needed was a system

to prevent the convicts from escaping from the peninsula.

It wasn’t a very wide isthmus;

it’s only about thirty metres across.

Here you can see the water on one side

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and, standing in the same location to take the next photo,

the other sea is just behind these bushes.

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With the roar of the sea

breaking on the shores on both sides of the isthmus,

and the topography of the isthmus,

sentries would have been useless,

so a different plan was put in place.

A stretch of land was cleared

and covered with white cockleshells.

A line of lamps were placed across this space

and the lamps and reflective white shells

worked together as ‘security lights’.

Then, a line of vicious guard dogs was added

to create an effective alarm system.

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They were evenly chained across the isthmus,

and even placed on platforms out in the water

to deter escaped convicts

from trying to swim past the isthmus.

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Then, sentries stood guard on the isthmus

and close to the waters

to act upon the alarms of the dogs.

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Very few convicts ever made it past

these ‘gates of hell’.

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A short walk from the museum,

out on the isthmus itself,

you will find a lone sculpture of one of these dogs.

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I loved this quote about the dogs:

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As you can see,

they weren’t very friendly dogs,

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and, they clearly did a good job

of apprehending the bad guys.

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Mawson’s Replica Huts in Hobart

As very few people will ever visit the real Mawson’s Huts at Cape Denison in Antarctica,

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full scale replica huts have been built in Hobart,

where Mawon’s expedition left from,

and this is where we visited next.

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The main hut is a squarish building with a pyramid shaped roof.

On three sides of the main hut

is a lean-to verandah

which is about 1.5 metres wide.

Attached to the main hut is another smaller hut.

At the replica huts, you enter via this smaller hut

and then move into the verandah area,

where you learn about Mawson, his expedition,

the people and dogs who went with him and life in Antarctica.

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Then you enter the main hut,

which is decked out just like it might have been back in 1912.

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This is the first sight you see in the main building.

The kitchen is on the left

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with its stove

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and preparation area.

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Oh and just before the kitchen area,

there’s what looked like a dark room for photography.

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Here’s another view of the kitchen and dark room.

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On the right is the dining room table.

(Sorry, I’m standing facing the entryway in this picture

so you’ll have to imagine yourself standing at the other end of this table

to get the right perspective.)

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This table would have had many purposes.

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I loved that they consider their souls

when planning what to take with them.

I wonder if modern researchers in Antarctica

pack things like musical instruments.

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Mawson hauled an organ all the way to Antarctica with him!

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I had my eye on these books!

That’s what I would pack

(after very warm clothes!!)

No, these aren’t the actual titles they had in the hut with them.

Yes, we asked.

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Along the walls, on either side of the hut,

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were the bunk beds for the 17 men

who came to Antarctica with Mawson.

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I’d like to know why those 17 men got such little bunks

with no personal space

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while Mawson got a WHOLE room to himself!!

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I’d also like to know the story behind the golliwog doll on Mawson’s bed.

I read online that the doll has some connection to Anna Pavlova

(which is interesting as one of the huskies was named after Anna).

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Now, don’t imagine that this hut was a lovely warm and cozy abode

(well, in comparison to the outside, it was definitely warmer).

In winter, the hut was usually a chilly 4 degrees Celsius.

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It didn’t help that Cape Denison was the windiest sea-level location on Earth.

So, odds were against a balmy evening in their little hut.

Oh and this you have to know.

The wind would often freeze their eyes and the glare off the snow would causes snow blindness,

so the men would put a little bit of cocaine under their eyelids to ease their discomfort!

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I find Antarctica a fascinating place

(although I have NO desire to visit!)

Did you know that Antarctica is bigger than Australia?

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It’s also a lot further away than you might think.

It’s 2473 km from Hobart to Cape Denison in Antarctica.

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Now compare that to some other significant distances in Australia.

Oh and it’s not 1800km from Brisbane to Hobart

(as the sign says),

unless you are flying or something.

We’d driven from the Gold Coast to Hobart

and that was more than 3000km!!

So, technically, we’d driven further than Antarctica.

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Can you imagine building a house in that hostile environment?

Back home, it just needs to drizzle and work stops on the work site.

But in Antarctica, they work through all but the bitterest conditions.

I mean, gosh, these men had to put the dynamite in their pockets to keep it warm!!

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Oh and they couldn’t get the concrete to set because it was simply too cold.

They even tried adding warm urine into the mix…but still the concrete wouldn’t set.

In the end, they had to use wedges to hold the building supports in place.

It’s a wonder that these huts were ever built at all

…or that they remained standing.

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This is a piece of timber cladding from the original huts in Antarctica.

Look at how eroded it is.

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Oh dear, I’m just assuming you know the story of Douglas Mawson and his expedition.

Let me give you a quick summary.

Seventeen men went to Antarctica

with Douglas Mawson for scientific research

in 1912 (well, they left in December 1911).

In November, 1912,

Douglas Mawson, along with Xavier Mertz and Belgrave Ninnis,

set off inland over two glaciers and into the unknown

to collect scientific data and specimens.

All went well for three weeks and then disaster struck.

Ninnis, and six of their best dogs, fell into a crevasse and died.

One of the sledges went with them,

taking the tent, all of the dog food and most of the rations.

Mertz and Mawson were forced to turn around and head back.

As time wore on, they got hungrier and weaker

and had to eat their remaining dogs.

But the dogs didn’t provide them much nutrition;

they were mostly muscle and, at the time, also starving.

Plus, by eating the dogs’ livers, they were actually poisoning themselves

by consuming too much vitamin A.

Consequently, Mertz became sick and died

and Mawson had to bury him

and continue on alone.

Mawson cut his sledge in half,

boiled all of the dog meat to use up the remaining kerosene,

and tied the soles of his feet back on

(yes, tied them on because they’d separated from his feet!!!)

with bandages.

Twice Mawson fell through snow bridges into crevasses

but, each time, was able to save himself.

He slipped without crampons, was pushed by the wind,

and often crawled,

all the while dragging his sledge

that carried their data and specimens.

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Finally, Mawsn reached a supply cave,

appropriately named Aladdin’s Cave,

that was only 8 kilometres from the hut.

He knew the ship to take the men home had arrived

as there was fresh fruit in the supply cave,

but a blizzard trapped him in that cave for over a week.

When he was finally able to set off again,

he saw the ship’s smoke on the horizon,

leaving him behind.

After all that effort to survive,

only to be left behind in Antarctica.

However, when he made it back to the hut,

he found that 6 of the 15 men had stayed behind

to search for the three missing men.

They stayed behind knowing that they’d have to enduring another Antarctic winter.

(We should also remember that the men on Macquarie Island,

who were providing communications between Australia and Antarctica,

also stayed and endured another winter.)

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We should also remember the dogs.

None of the dogs who went to Antarctica

ever returned.

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These are the names of the dogs who went to Cape Denison with Mawson and his men.

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Basilisk and Alexandra were the two leaders of the dog pack.

Basilisk was a big black dog, with a white chest,

and his female companion was Alexandra.

She had a lovely ginger coat.

(In the monument pictured below,

Basilisk is the dog who is standing

and Alexandra is the sitting dog.)

Belgave Ninnis and Xavier Mertz were responsible for the dogs

and had a close relationship with them.

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When Belgave Ninnis plunged to his death,

the dogs Basilisk, Alexandra, Shackleton, Franklin, John Bull and Castor died with him.

Later, Mertz would have to eat the dogs that he loved and cared for.

The dogs George, Mary, Haldane, Jack Johnson, Pavlova, and Ginger all gave their lives to their masters.

Now, after such a sad story,

here’s something a little lighter for you to read.

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The Mawson’s Replica Huts, aside from reminding us of a tragic expedition,

were a fascinating place to visit.

But I have to warn you though.

You have to be the kind of people

who like to read information plaques,

otherwise the experience will be over all too quickly

and you’ll walk away feeling disappointed.

We were not at all disappointed!!

Oh and to complete the Mawson’s Huts experience,

wander down to the wharf

and see if the Aurora Australis is in dock.

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The Aurora Australis is Australia’s first Antarctic icebreaker.

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You can’t miss her if she’s in dock.

She’s the bright orange ship.

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And that completes another wonderful day in Hobart.