Having arrived in the small fishing village of Strahan on the remote southwest coast of Tasmania, I booked into my accommodation & decided to look around to see what was on offer in the way of tourist attractions in the area.
At the harbour, the signs for the Gordon River Cruise caught my eye, and having heard so much about the beauty of the wilderness areas of the Franklin - Gordon Rivers through the brilliant photographic works of Olegas Truchanas, a Lithuanian-Australian conservationist and nature photographer & the controversy surrounding the building of a dam back in the early 1980s, something that many people were against, as it meant that a vast area of Franklin River, which was pristine wilderness, would be flooded by the proposed dam on the Gordon River.
During the ensuing protests & blockades of the work site that saw news coverage from the world’s media, people chained themselves, up in huge trees that were to be cut down, to bulldozers to prevent them from doing clearing & earthworks and some 1400 people arrested, including Dr Bob Brown, who was a key figure amongst other prominent people, in the formation of the Tasmanian Wilderness Society, an activist group that later merged with “ Greens” parties from New South Wales & Queensland to eventually form a national Greens Party, led by Bob Brown. The Greens are now the third most popular national political party in Australia.
At the same time, the wilderness area around the Franklin River was listed as a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site but despite this ruling, the Australian Government still refused to step in and stop the Tasmanian Government from building the dam.
However, this changed, at the next Federal election, as the incoming government, which saw the Labour Party come into power, led by Bob Hawke. They too, were against the building of the dam & introduced legislation to protect the Franklin River.
When the Tasmanian Government refused to stop work on the dam, the Australian Government took the case to the High Court & won, forcing the Tasmanian Government to abandon the Franklin Dam project.
As a photographer myself, I admired the works of landscape & wildlife photographers from around the world, including that of Olegas Truchanas & his friend/protégée, Peter Dombrovskis, both of whose incredible images, helped raise public awareness of the importance of the south-west of Tasmania.
Unfortunately, Olegas drowned in the Gordon River in 1972 after slipping and falling into the current, having died doing what he loved the most, photographing the marvels of a great wilderness area. His body was found, trapped beneath a log, by Dombrovskis.
Strahan is some 300kms from Hobart & at the 2016 census, only had a population of 658.
Originally developed as a port for accessing the mining & Huon Pine logging settlements in the area, the town was known as Long Bay or Regatta Point until 1877, when it was formally named after the colony’s Governor, Sir George Cumine Strahan.
Historically there has been a port to a small fishing fleet that braves the west coast conditions and Hell's Gates. It is the nearest inhabited locality to Cape Sorell and is literally the 'gateway' to the south-west wilderness - as boats, planes and helicopters utilise the town as their base when travelling into the region.
The airport is the location of the only all-weather commercial airport in Western Tasmania & also the site of the only fully automatic weather station, which is very important to western Tasmania weather observation.
Strahan is the home of the Round Earth Theatre Company, which conducts explanatory tours of Sarah Island & has produced a daily enactment/play about the island, which was an extremely harsh penal colony & ship building dock on the other side of Macquarie Harbour. The play called The Ship That Never Was, has exceeded 5000 performances since January 1994 & is Australia's longest running play.
Imagine it's January 1834. The Frederick, the last ship built at the convict settlement of Sarah Island, is about to sail for the new prison at Port Arthur. Ten convict shipwrights have other ideas. So begins the story of an amazing escape, an extraordinary voyage, & an intriguing twist in the tale. The description alone made me want to see it that night & it certainly proved to be very entertaining.