Log of Tasmania Field Course
All of us meet as prearranged in the JFK check in line for Qantas, with great excitement and prospects of a real adventure. Little did we know that the extra security at check in was due to the tightened concern related to the JFK scare. Because of this and some bad weather our Qantas flight was delayed by six hours, only adding to our anxiousness to get our trip started. Upon arrival in Sydney (some 20 hours later) we quickly adapted to the sunshine and bused it on over to the Domestic terminal to wait our flight to Hobart (via Jetstar Airlines). This was all taking place Sunday evening the 3 of June and so we lost an entire two days, one to travel across the US and Pacific Ocean and he other due to the crossing of the Date Line. We arrived in Hobart at around 7:00 PM with temperatures in the 50's, which we thought were quite reasonable but all about us were wrapped in sweaters and jackets. With the kind help of Dr. Patti Virtue, of the University of Tasmania's International Antarctic Institute and her entourage, we were taken to the Central City Backpackers hostel, in downtown Hobart. This was to be our base for the next five days.
We gained our jet legs and checked out the local eateries and then took a strenuous hike up over the Queen's Domain to the Royal Hobart Botanical Gardens, where we learned about the native flora, such as wattles (Acacias), gums (Eucalypts), myrtles (Southern Beech or Nothofagus), the ancient lineage of conifers, and the Banksias. The fernery was the big hit but we also got quite a kick out of the Macquarie Island house, which hosts cold blowers misters and sounds of the Subantarctic Island which is administered by Tasmania.
Figure 1: A group photo of the students in the Botanic Garden fernery. Back row left to right: Sam Bromley, Mike Millar, Andrew D'Amico, Richard Munschauer., Sarah Powell., Alyssa Kanagaki. Front row, left to right: Katherine Goodwin., Abigail Carpen, Cody Westphal, Kim Roe, and Julia McDougal.
Figure 2: Professor Katheryn Doran and Kim Roe ('08) examine notes on the man fern, (Dicksonia antarctica).We were to see these tree ferns later in, a temperate rain forest, where they reached over 40 feet in height.
Today was our day to get our hiking legs in tune as we ascended the slopes of Mt, Wellington, repeating the hike that Charles Darwin completed in 1836 when the HMS Beagle visited Hobart Town on its journey in the Pacific Ocean. Mt Wellington is the most imposing site in Hobart as it towers to over 1270 m above the city. The rocks on Mt. Wellington represents the top of the classic Gondwanan stratigraphy, which are Late Paleozoic rocks common to all the southern continents of Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, and India. In our first week here we made this stratigraphy the focus of our geology portion of the excursions.
Figure 3: The group heads up the slope of Mt Wellington, just below the snow line in dense forest of Snow Gum trees and Button Grass.
Figure 4: Julia McDougal, Sarah Powell, Alyssa Kanagaki, and Kim Roe stop for a breather amongst the talus blocks of the Jurassic dolerite which comprise the massif of Mt. Wellington. Dolerite is the essential Tasmanian rock, being found across most of Tasmania not on the mainland, but more common to Antarctica. We learned that Tasmania actually has more geology in common with Antarctica than the political entity of Australia, to which it belongs as a state.
Figure 5: View looking up at the "Organ Pipes", the columns of Jurassic dolerite which forms the crown of Mt. Wellington.
Figure 6: Kim Roe, Katie Goodwin, and Richard Munschauer make the last climb into the sun lit top of Mt. Wellington. One can see the alpine scrub, columnar jointing of the dolerite. In the left background (to the east) is seen Storm Bay, the entrance into the Derwent River and harbor of Hobart.
Figure 7: Group photo of the "mob" as we descend Mt. Wellington, still in sunshine but now with the background showing the city of Hobart and the Tasman Bridge.
This day meet us early, as we had to arise and make the 1.5 hour drive north to meet the ferry at Triabunna for the jaunt over to Maria Island National Park. Maria Island is now a nature preserve but at one time it was a small penal settlement, cement works, and limestone quarry.
Figure 8: The "mob" came upon a group of kangaroos just before this photo was taken. Here we are looking out over the spectacular cliffs on the NE end of the island. A place called Fossil Bay, (aptly named as you will see).
Figure 9: A big hopper (Foresters Kangaroo) taking off across the plains of Maria Island (photo by Kim Roe).
Figure 10: The group poses on one of the most spectacular geologic sights in the world, a giant granite boulder that was plopped down right at the bottom of the Permian sea, some 230 million years ago. The strange thing is that the rocks that the boulder imbedded itself in are fossiliferous limestones, rocks usually associated with warm climates, but here the evidence for cold conditions, dropstones are rafted by floating ice, seems to challenge our understanding of geology. It's good that such mysteries still remain to be solved by the next generation of geoscientists (perhaps one of them is in the photo).
Figure 11: A close up of the fossil-rich beds in the Darlington Limestone, the same unit which hosts the dropstones (see above). Here the fossils consist of the large shells of Eurydesma, an extinct bivalve related to mollusks.
Tasman Peninsula and Port Arthur
Today we headed up north again but this time to visit the wonders of the Tasman Peninsula a rugged and irregular coastline that juts out into the Tasman Sea about 50 miles northeast of Hobart. Here we found the most spectacular exposures of the upper Permian mudstones which Gene went wild over. At one of the exposures we pondered the strange tessellated patterns of the bedding planes which looked like some ancient stone cutter had sliced into the rock along perfect sets of squares and rectangles.
Figure 12: Unusual pattern of weathering on the rocks of the Tasman Peninsula, called tessellated pavement.
Fig. 13 Professor Eugene Domack and his students on the
Figure 14: Here Kim Roe stands on the top of the Malbina Sandstone
Figure 15: Nice view of a Sulfur Crested Cockatoo (photo by
Kim Roe) in the trees of Port Arthur.
Figure 16: Ruins of the penal settlement of Port Arthur now
a national historic site.