Hobart is the most southerly of Australia’s capital cities, the capital of our only island state, Tasmania, firmly sited in the Derwent Estuary. It nestles under Mt Wellington, at latitude 43 degrees South. Our workshop and retail space at 21 Hunter Street is in the historic docks precinct of Hobart – the first piccy shows the view of Mt wellington from Victoria Dock, the traditional fisherman’s dock, just 30m across the road from our workshop, with a scallop dredge hoisted at the back of a fishing boat being readied for working the beds which have just been opened for the first time in five years just to the NE of Flinders Island (quite superb scallops are currently available in our local fish eateries). From being a cesspit following early settlement, with fishmarkets, fishwives, tallow, soapmaking activities, taverns, brothels and shanty town housing, the surrounding district known as Wapping has been tarted up of late, but the council still can’t track down all the early fairly direct means of waste water disposal into Victoria Dock!
Hobart still can boast “working port” status (they did take the crane down on Macquarie Wharf several months ago), as most of Tasmania’s container freight now is unloaded in Burnie or Bell Bay, in the north of the state. At the moment (just into spring) Australia’s Antarctic supply and research vessel, Aurora Australis, has just left her winter quarters where she was undergoing maintenance, together with the French Antarctic supply vessel, L’Astrolabe. Hobart has a long history of Antarctic support, being the last port of call in many cases, and is today the centre for Australia’s Antarctic and marine Research through the CSIRO – Roald Amundsen, who lead the first successful Antarctic expedition to reach the South Pole, announced his success to the world by sending a telegram from the Hobart GPO, on march 7th, 1912.
We are strategically placed in the laneway between two of Hobart’s iconic buildings, The Drunken Admiral – built 1825, seafood restaurant of over thirty years standing-oozes atmosphere – and the multi award winning boutique Art Hotel, The Henry Jones. The docks area of Hobart is still a very relaxing area for visitors to wander around – just 30 metres from our front window, I regularly watch crayfish, squid, scale fish, shark and abalone being unloaded in season. Our business premises shares a common sandstone wall with The Drunken Admiral, Mures restaurant is just 100m across Victoria dock, as is Fish Frenzy which has been rated as “the best fish & chips in Australia” by Leo Schoefield, Arts Festival Director, food columnist and critic (anyone for “albino walrus”) and concerned Heritage Consultant, now resident in the historic village of Kempton, southern Tasmania.
Nevin Hurst, the genial old rogue who runs Masterpiece Gallery from the IXL courtyard on the northern side of our premises, has an early woodcut showing the three storied sandstone building as an isolated monolith on the side of the causeway linking Hunter Island to the foreshore, with several sandstone Government store buildings on the eastern end of the island.
The sandstone causeway was constructed in 1821, Hunter Island being the original site of embarkation and settlement in the Derwent estuary (weʼll conveniently forget Lt Bowen in 1803) when Lt Colonel Collins ceremoniously dumped 153 convicts and soldiers, together with free settlers, on the island in February,1804 and an c.1893 painting of this scene is shown below – the original sketch was probably done by one of the Officers from the brig HMS Ocean.
You should be able to just make out the picket lines of the soldiers and convict tents in the trees to the right – the early stores unloaded were stockpiled on the Island, and guarded night and day by the soldiers.
The Hobart City Council has placed bronze plaques into the pavers of what is now Hunter Street to show the original route of the causeway, and itʼs intersection with Hunter Island is just 10m from our front window. Two walls of our building premises certainly ooze history, and a certain amount of rising damp as well!