Following the footsteps of the Tasmanian Devil. The Authors Collection.

Amidst the remote beauty of Tasmania.
Amidst the remote beauty of Tasmania.


Before we stepped off the plane in Hobart, all we knew about Tasmania was that the Tasmanian Devil made its home there.

Tasmania is located about 150 miles across the Bass Strait from Melbourne, Australia.  To its west is the Indian ocean and to its east is the pacific ocean.  It is about 225 miles from north to south and generally about 190 miles from east to west, and has a population of just over half a million.

James R. Callan
James R. Callan

The British settled it in 1803 and in the first 50 years, over 75,000 convicts were transported to Taz.  One of the first places we visited was Port Arthur, just 35 miles from Hobart, and site of one of the most famous prisons in Australia.

We then headed into the interior, a thinly populated, but gorgeous area.  On one forty mile stretch, the residents hold a contest each year to see who can make the most interesting mail boxes.  There were rocket ships, cartoon characters, tractors, animals – some quite large, other smaller, but every design interesting and different.

Beyond that, we found a preserve and research center for Tasmanian Devils.  Here we were told about the Devils and why they are now listed as an endangered species.  We were even allowed to pet one, but cautioned to keep our hands away from its head.  They have extremely strong jaws and can easily crush the leg bone of a kangaroo.  A finger would hardly be a challenge.

A relatively small island, Tasmania is the most mountainous state in Australia.  Mount Ossa is over a mile high.  These mountains spawn many rivers.  While we viewed Taz as more like the U.S., say, sixty years ago, that does not describe their production of electricity.  They generate all of their electricity needs by hydro plants on the rivers, and even sell a large amount of electricity to mainland Australia.  One river supports seven generating plants before the water reaches the ocean.

ATonOfGold-3dLeftQuite by accident, we came across “The Wall in the Wilderness.” Here, well-known Artist Greg Duncan is carving a stunning sculpture out of Huron pine.  We found the artist when we left the visitor’s gallery to explore a back room.  He was working on another 3-D panel there and was gracious enough to visit with us and explain what he was attempting with this project.   When finished, the sculpture will portray Tasmanian history from the indigenous people to pioneers, to lumber men, farmers, miners, and hydro workers. It will stand ten feet high and 300 feet long.  At the time we visited, it was perhaps 150 feet long.  In fact, he said he was going to have to stop the carving and extend his studio to accommodate the rest of the wall.

We made our way to Strahan on the west coast and made arrangements to take a float plane into the wilderness of the southwest part of Tasmania. Over a third of the island lies in reserves here, and there are no roads or settlements in this area.

Earlene and I and the pilot took off and circled out over large fish farms in the Indian Ocean.  Then we headed in-land. It was truly a pristine wilderness, with inspiring, untouched forests, and the white water Franklin River.  After awhile, we were tracking another magnificent river, cutting between mist-covered mountains and dense rain-forest.  We began to descend into the thousand-foot deep Gordon River Gorge and slowly settled down on the river.

As the pilot taxied over to the bank, a small dock came into view.  He hopped out and tied the plane up and we deplaned.  A short walk through the rain-forest took us to a magnificent waterfall.  The only noise was the falling water. No boom-boxes, no cars, no people. Enchanting.  Eventually, we walked back to the dock, got in the plane, and the pilot – standing on the dock, untied the plane.  The swift current quickly began to sweep the plane away from the dock.  What we would do it the pilot didn’t manage to get in before we drifted away from the dock?  Earlene could fly the plane, but could she take off from a rushing river?  But, he managed to catch a strut, swing on to the pontoon and climb into the cockpit.  Obviously, he’d done this before. It was a magical trip.

Our entire Tasmania visit was captivating.   If you get to Australia, allot ample time for Tasmania. We spent a week there, and would have enjoyed a month.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Jim, I had never in my wildest dreams even thought about traveling to Tasmania. In my mind, I’m not sure I even believed Tasmania existed. Now, after reading your post and digging through Google to look at photographs, it has moved to the top of my bucket list. I may never go, but I will always want to leave my footprints in dirt where the Tasmanian Devil walks, too.

    • Elaine Faber

      Well said, and your opinion is shared.

  • James Callan

    You would love it. And it’s OK to leave your footprints there, but don’t challenge the Devils. They win against many things – but not cars – one of the reasons the Tasmanian Devil is an endangered species. Thanks for the comment.

  • Darlene Jones

    My mom has been and she was captivated. Unfortunately, when I was in Australia, I went the other direction (my aunt and cousin were in Queensland) so didn’t make it to Tasmania.

    • James Callan

      I have no trouble believing your mom was captivated by Taz. It is delightful, the people are charming and very friendly. It is sort of an unspoiled paradise. I’m sure that will change. But what a delight it was for us. Thanks for your comment, Darlene

  • Chris Swinney

    I would love to go to Tasmania. This was very cool.

    I have read Jim’s book, it was outstanding 🙂

    • James Callan

      Thanks, Chris. I appreciate your endorsement.

  • Elaine Faber

    I don’t understand what is a ‘devil?” sounds like an animal. Can you describe what it looks like? Lizard? Very interesting trip. Can you share more?

    • James Callan

      The Tasmanian Devil is a relatively small animal, maybe the size of a large raccoon, but shaped more like a small dog – maybe getting to 2 or 2.5 feet in length. They are normally black, with some white markings, and the inside of its ears is red. They are marsupials. While the mother may give birth to 20 to 30 babies (that are about the size of a grain of rice), few survive. The mother has only 4 nipples and once a baby gets on a nipple, they do not let go. So, generally no more than 4 of the litter survive. Between that, and cars, the population doesn’t grow much. Now (and for a dozen years maybe, there has been a contagious cancer that attacks the face of the devil and is fatal. So, there are efforts to try to breed more devils and isolate many from catching this fatal disease. They are mostly carnivorous, eating all including the bones. They like wombats and have been known to take small kangaroos – by catching up with one, grabbing a leg and crushing the bone with the devil’s amazingly strong jaws.
      Well, I’ve rattled on too long. But we really did enjoy seeing the Devils. Just another nice feature of Tasmania. Thanks for asking about them.

      • Elaine Faber

        Goodness, they do sound dreadful, but sounds like they face some awful risk of extinction as well. Poor things.

  • Dac Crossley

    But it’s so far away…

    • James Callan

      Isn’t that the truth. But then, often those great things are way out there. Otherwise, it would just be the everyday normal. Thanks for the comment.

  • Eileen Obser

    What an amazing place, Jim. How lucky you are to have visited “Taz” and how fortunate we are to have you describe it in detail. Thanks for this!

    • Jim Callan

      It IS an amazing place, and we did feel luck to visit there. Thanks for the comment, Eileen.

  • James R. Callan

    This is from Marja (who had trouble leaving a comment, so sent it by e-mail(.

    “In the late 1980s I visited Tasmania with a friend from Australia. Everywhere we went we stayed with her relatives, and her cousin took us on a driving tour of the island. It’s an amazing place and a memory I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. I know you will, too.”
    Thanks, Marja. It is an amazing place and yes, I will treasure that memory forever.
    Jim Callan

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