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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 85

Western Tasmania

Western Tasmania.

Although Tasmania ranks as the second settled colony in Australia, yet it is only within the last few years, owing to mining enterprise, that the western portion of the island has become permanently populated and partially explored. I avail myself of the opportunity, this evening, to give a sketch obtained by personal observation of the physical features, resources, etc., of this comparatively unknown region.

In 1876, Mr. C. P, Sprent, Deputy Commissioner of Crown Lands, then district surveyor, on behalf of the Government, led the first expedition to Mount Heemskirk, from the north coast, viâ Mount Bischoff and the Parsons Hood, the extreme southernmost termination of the Meredith Range. Mr. Sprent made many interesting discoveries, and reported favourably upon the mineralogy of the country, which naturally excited the minds of the enterprising spirits, and in the following summer three expeditions were formed to explore the terra incognita Two of the parties proceeded by small sailing crafts, and landed their effects at the Pieman River and Macquarie Harbour, where they commenced their explorations, the vicinity of Mount Heemskirk being the centre of attraction. The third one, under my leadership, had the honour of first crossing the island from the south, via Lake St. Clair, the Eldon Range, and Mount Dundaas. Along this route, endowed by nature's most lovely charms, discoveries were made of numerous small picturesque lakes, dashing torrents, and high rugged mountains. Minerals were discovered and land selected by each party, the result of these finds being an influx of population and the permanent settlement of the coast generally.

Western Tasmania is divided from the other portions of the island by continuous chains of high mountain ranges, commencing in the north in the granite peaks of the Meredith Range, followed by the eon glomerate-capped Silurian heights of the West Coast and Elliot ranges, and terminating in the white cliffs of the Willmot, Franklin, and Archer ranges. These insurmountable barriers attain heights of between three to four thousand feet above the sea level, and run parallel within fifteen to twenty tuiles of the coast line.

Owing to the inaccessible nature of these massive piles of rock only three practicable routes for overland communication have been discovered. One in the northern part taps the important gold deposits of the Pieman district, and has a commencement at Mount Bisehoff, viâ the north end of the Meredith Range. A central track leading from the vicinity of Lake St. Clair I had the honour to discover in the summer of 1883, when ex- page 11 ploring for the Government. This passes between Mount Lyell and Mount Sedgwick, through the only accessible saddle in the West Coast Ranges, and, after following a dividing spur situated along the auriferous zone of the King River goldfields. terminates at the Macquarie Harbour.

The most southerly one to Port Davey starts from the township of Victoria, and. after following the course of the Huon River for a considerable distance, passes through a splendid opening between the Franklin and Arthur ranges.

As yet horse traffic has only been attempted on the Pieman route, the Other proposed lines of communication being merely used by explorers, no roads or horse track having as yet been constructed, but an expenditure of public money ¡a voted for opening out the central thoroughfare during the coming summer.

By examining the map other ranges may be observed to be charted within a short distance of the coast. The first of these, north of the Pieman River, are the quartzite and conglomerate rocks of the Norfolk Range; south of that stream the granite slopes of Mount Heemskirk; and between Macquarie Head and Port Davey the slate, schist, and quartzite formations of the D'Aquilar, Junction, and De Witt ranges.