Overland Track Day 4: Pelion Rainforest

23 August 2017, Overland Track (Pelion Plains to Kia Ora Hut), Tasmania

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The conditions had eased from the previous three days and there was less far to walk so I was able to pause more frequently to take photographs.  Consequently, this is the first of two posts for this day.
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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

This is Douglas Creek Cascade, a short walk off the track.  There’s a lot of water flowing through.

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What impressed me more, though, was the view up a side channel, with this magnificent boulder in the middle.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

We walked through a grove with many pandani.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

Pandani (richea pandanifolia) are an endemic Tasmanian semi-alpine plant, unrelated to the similar-looking Pandanus of the tropical Pacific and South-East Asia.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

So they look tropical but they’re a cold climate plant.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

Apparently they can grow as high as 12 metres.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness .

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

It takes a consistently wet environment for the trees to be covered in moss and lichen.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness .

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

This tree is a natural hybrid between a King Billy Pine and a Pencil Pine.  The two are both ancient slow-growing Tasmanian trees in their own genus but related to junipers and the Californian redwood.  Some suggest the hybrid is actually a separate species.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

The one on the left is I think a King Billy Pine and the other the hybrid.

I had assumed King Billy was a reference to William IV (1830-1837) but it is to William Lanne, who died in 1869.  He was Truganini’s third husband and purportedly the last “full-blooded” male Tasmanian aborigine.  After he died, his skull was stolen by surgeon William Crowther (who later became Premier of Tasmania) and may have ended up in Edinburgh.  The scandal led to the Anatomy Act of 1869 which established that any “medical experiments” required prior permission of the deceased person or permission from their relatives.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

A family of Pandani.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

Rainforest with snow.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness .

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

The Overland Track is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness area, that stretches from Cradle Mountain down to the south coast and the Maatsuyker Group.  It is a World Heritage area and has been since 1982.  One thousand and seven World Heritage sites are listed worldwide and nineteen in Australia.   There are ten criteria for World Heritage listing, six cultural and four natural.  The Tasmanian Wilderness satisfies seven of the ten criteria for listing.  At the time of its listing, it was the only one with so many qualifying categories.  Now there is one other with seven, Mount Taishan in China, which satisfies all six cultural criteria and one natural, whereas the Tasmanian Wilderness satisfies three cultural and all four natural.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

The cultural criteria for the Tasmanian Wilderness’s World Heritage listing relate to Tasmanian Aboriginal activity in the area over at least thirty five thousand years (until about 1831).  This includes caves in areas south of the Overland track with tools made from stone, bone and Darwin glass (formed in the heat of meteorite impact).  There are separate caves with red ochre stencils, some areas with rock incisions and many middens on the coast. There are remains of beehive-shaped huts on the west coast and one open campsite has been found.  They didn’t always live in caves or huts but campsites in what is now rainforest are understandably elusive.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

There were (at least) three or four different migrations to Tasmania, all when it was connected to the mainland.  At that time, there was a vast plain in what is now Bass Strait and a large lake in the middle.  14,000 years ago, rising sea levels caused the submersion of the land bridge (and around the same time, New Guinea would have separated from Queensland).  This was part of a process of withdrawal from the ice age and also led to the Alpine vegetation area over much of what is now Tasmania being replaced by rainforest.  The primary food source of the Aborigines was Bennett’s Wallaby.  They congregated in grasslands which in turn may have been partly created by aboriginal firestick farming.  They were scarce in rainforest and not easy to hunt and the Aborigines were unable to turn the rainforest back to alpine grassland.  Consequently, the Aborigines withdrew from the Tasmanian Wilderness area 12,000 years ago and did not start to reoccupy it until 4,000 years ago, initially from the coast.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

While Bennett’s Wallaby was the main food source, groups living in areas with more rainforest would also hunt other game such as pademelon (a kind of wallaby), possums and platypus.  Those on the coast also hunted fur seals, elephant seals, various bird species, crayfish and shellfish.  It was thought that they abandoned eating scaled fish many thousands of years ago, from a tentative finding in 1963 and perhaps a misquote from Captain Cook.  This is now thought unlikely though fish was always but a small part of their diet.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

 

The Tasmanian Wilderness area was also World Heritage listed for all four criteria.  It is an area of “exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance” as I hopefully demonstrate in the images in these posts.  It has outstanding examples of the geological history of the planet.  It provides outstanding examples of the development of ecosystems:  Here we are in this post walking through ancient rainforests that go back to the time of Gondwanaland.  And it is a haven for rare and threatened wildlife:  I showed a picture of a Bennett’s Wallaby earlier, other examples include Tasmanian devils, eastern quolls and the Tasmanian wedgetail eagle.

Further reading:

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Overland Track Day 3: Pine Forest Moor to Pelion Plains

22 August 2017, Overland Track, Tasmania

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Pine Forest Moor, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness
Because I was the slowest in the group, I took off first in the morning and reached Pelion Creek with enough time to pull out my tripod and take a few shots of the torrent.

This image was the last shot with my wide angle zoom.  It was in a lens case hanging off one of my shoulder straps and I had forgotten to pull off and dry the lens case the previous night.  It got wetter during this day and dampness had got through the case and lining and the lens stopped working.  The lens is currently being repaired.

This was another day in which I took very few photographs because of the conditions.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Pine Forest Moor, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

Pelion Creek.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Pine Forest Moor, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

Misty trees through a break in the forest.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Pine Forest Moor, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

I don’t know the name of this waterfall, I think beside the track.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Pine Forest Moor, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

Frog Flats with Perrin’s Bluff in the background.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Pine Forest Moor, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

Rainforest with a touch of snow.

Wet shoes were the order of the day on this trip.  The path was often under water.  There were many roots but they were not safe to walk on and bypassing the path was not responsible so the only option was to walk right on through the water.  This meant the water would come up above the top of the shoes which became very wet.  Not as much of an issue in practice as one might think.

I was expecting I’d be looking to get up before dawn to take photographs and to be out taking photographs late in the afternoon and the evening.  It wasn’t really possible, though.  Especially on rainy and snowy days like this, once I got my wet clothes and shoes off, had a shower and changed, I didn’t feel inclined to put the wet stuff back on and go out again.  And the exertions of the day meant I took all the sleep I could.

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Australia, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Pelion Plains, Photography, Pine Forest Moor, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness

I tried photographing the night sky from the hut.  It looks OK at this size on the page but it isn’t really in focus.  Manual focus wasn’t possible with the lens I was using and autofocus didn’t really work in the low light.

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