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Ship: Coral Discoverer
Date: 26 March to 02 April 2019
We boarded MV Coral Discoverer at Macquarie Wharf mid-afternoon. By 5pm we were off on our cruising adventure and as Captain Josh expertly manoeuvred the vessel away from the wharf and through the waterway, we were able to explore the ship and settle into our cabins. At the sounding of the General Alarm we carried out our mandatory safety drill and then Purser Sara introduced us to our crew and pointed out many of the features of the ship and told us how things would run during our seven-day journey. Expedition Leader Steve then introduced, Dawn (Assistant Expedition leader) and John and Liz (Guest Lecturers). In the meantime, the ship carried us smoothly down the Derwent to our overnight anchor at Quarantine Bay.
After breakfast, the Xplorer dropped us off at Adventure Bay, Bruny Island. We had a ‘wet landing’ and experienced Tasmania’s cold water on our feet but soon warmed up as we walked towards the Fluted Cape, via the Grassy Point whaling station. Most ventured up to the spectacular views from the Fluted Cape with Dawn and John, while others stayed at Grassy Point exploring with Liz and Steve. Along the walk we observed many Bennett’s Wallabies, and Tasmanian birds.
Upon returning to the MV Coral Discoverer John gave an entertaining presentation about Tasmanian Carnivores. After lunch we departed on the Xplorer to visit the Port Arthur Historic Site. This site was originally a timber station, but then changed into a penal colony after 1830. We enjoyed a fascinating tour ‘behind the scenes tour’ with our colourful guide before returning to the MV Coral Discoverer.
After dinner some watched ‘Coast Australia- Tasmania’ in the Bridge Deck Lounge.
We awoke to a clear and warm Tasmanian morning whilst steaming into Wineglass Bay on the Freycinet Peninsula. Liz gave her first presentation titled ‘Tasmanian Birds’ before we boarded the Xplorer for our morning activities. The “long walkers” headed off along the beach to begin their trek up to the Wineglass Bay lookout and on down to the beach again with Dawn and Liz. Others opted for a relaxing morning with a gentle walk, swim and some ‘deck chair’ time on the beach with John and Steve. Some of the long walkers had a quick swim with Liz before getting back on the Xplorer and returning to ship for a nice hot shower and a well-deserved lunch.
Back on-board Coral Discoverer we travelled around to Schouten Island (named by Tasman in 1642) where after lunch some ventured out on the Xplorer for a beach walk with all the expedition team. We saw the remains of the coal mining days and explored the whalers hut. Inside the whaler’s hut Liz showed us the resident Pygmy Possum. There were many whale bones scattered outside, reminders of the whaling days in this area. After leaving Schouten Island we enjoyed our pre-dinner drinks, as Captain Josh delivered us to the Ile des Phoques (Seal Island) with the low sun lighting up the scene from the west. The Australian Fur Seals were here in number, on land and in the water. Their noise, and to a minor extent, their distinctive aroma, ensured that we did not miss them. After another delicious dinner, some retired to bed while others watched David Attenborough’s Tasmania in the Lounge.
Maria Island was our destination this morning, now a World Heritage site in recognition of its significance as the most intact example of a convict probation station in Australia. The island is a National Park and important refuge for Facial tumour disease-free Tasmanian Devils. From the original twenty-eight Tassie Devils released on the island there is now a healthy population in a few short years. We split into two groups, one group went to the Fossil Cliffs with Dawn, Liz and John. The others went straight to Darlington to explore the historic buildings. Most of us observed an abundance of Cape Barren Geese, and Tasmanian Native Hens as well as pademelons, wombats and Forester Kangaroos. Those on the long walk enjoyed great views from the Fossil Cliffs of the imposing dolerite plugs of Mts. Bishop and Clerk as well as back towards Schouten Island to the north.
We boarded the Xplorer and headed back to ship for lunch. During lunch Captain Josh steamed towards to southern area of Maria Island. When on anchor, we set off again on the Xplorer to Encampment Cove for a walk to Point Lessur convict ruins. It was difficult to comprehend that so many convicts lived under such difficult conditions in very small cells. We saw many wombats and devil scats on the walk. We returned onto Coral Discoverer to afternoon tea followed by a presentation by John, Marsupials and Monotremes. After dinner some retired to bed after much walking, others watched ‘The Wilderness’ in the Bridge Deck Lounge as Captain Josh steamed us towards the remote south west of Tasmania.
Although it was a long night for some, the calm waters of our anchorage between Bathurst Channel and Bathurst Narrows reminded us of citizen Jacques-Julien Labillardiere (1792) comment in his journal that, “It is difficult to express the sensations we felt at finding ourselves at length sheltered in this solitary harbour at the extremity of the globe”. We of course had only taken one night to get here whereas the famous French botanical explorer had been at sea for many months before getting to Tasmania. The early morning light through heavy clouds and the site of the quartzite mountains were amazing.
After breakfast, Xplorer took us deeper into the wilderness through the Narrows, past the Celery Top Islands and Clayton’s Corner and up through Melaleuca Inlet. Liz and John told us about some of the history and flora and fauna of this remarkable area. We observed the reflections in the tannin stained waters and the remote silence as we slowly followed the inlet.
At Melaleuca, which was home to Denny King for many years, we followed the Needwonnee (Palawa/Tasmanian Aboriginal) walk and visited the Orange-bellied Parrot feeding station and museum. John and Liz told us all about the conservation management of this parrot and showed both groups the nest box site. We were unlucky not to see several of these critically endangered parrots. Back on board Xplorer after morning tea we cruised up the inlet and then experienced a chilly trip back to the Coral Discoverer as the wind and rain set in quickly. After a warming lunch, some passengers set off again for a cruise and a beach walk with John, Liz and Steve giving commentary. Later in the afternoon Liz gave a lecture about mitigating extinction in Tasmania. We then all gathered in the dining room for Taste Tasmania hosted by Sara and her wonderful hospitality team. After dinner some retired to their cabins after a full day while others watched ‘Tasmanian Terrors’ in the Bridge Deck Lounge.
We woke at our anchor in Bathurst Harbour after a relaxing night of sleep in World Heritage Area. After breakfast, we boarded the Xplorer for a cruise and short walk to Clayton’s Corner. The guests who stayed on the Xplorer with Liz enjoyed some quiet time as we drifted along the inlet with Bree at the wheel, only hearing the sounds of silence. The other group with John, Steve and Dawn explored the cottage that was once the home of Win and Clyde. Both groups ventured back to the Coral Discoverer for lunch. Captain Josh then raised the anchor we started to make our way back to civilization. As we rounded the Breaksea Islands into the Southern Ocean, John and Liz gave their final presentation. We all enjoyed views of Albatross, shearwaters, dolphins, seals and other marine life as our journey through the waves continued into the night. Steve then gave a presentation about the Papua New Guinea expedition.
We enjoyed our second last dinner together in the dining room with the waves filling our views. After dinner, Dawn hosted the Tassie Trivia Night in the lounge.
We woke in the calm waters of the Huon River. After breakfast we boarded the Xplorer to the Wooden Boat Centre at Franklin. The crisp Tasmanian morning woke us all with the presence of autumn coolness in the air. The Wooden Boat Centre Without was a most interesting visit and it was great to see these old skills being taught and passed on to another generation. We returned to the ship for a lovely lunch on route to the historic Quarantine Station.
Early afternoon the Xplorer took us to the Quarantine Station on North Bruny Island. Our host volunteer guide at the site, Bob, told us of the history of this picturesque site. We agreed the young German sailors incarcerated here in WWI were probably some of the luckiest men in the world, seeing out the war in splendid isolation. We then went back to Coral Discoverer for farewell drinks with Captain Josh on the Bridge Deck Lounge.
Tomorrow we will dock in Hobart we will say our farewells to the ship, her crew and our fellow travellers. We sincerely hope you have had an enjoyable and memorable experience.
Captain: Josh, Chief Officer: Miles, Second Officer: Bryce, Chief Engineer: Ray, First Engineer: Dale, Second Engineer: Darren, Deck Crew and Xplorer Drivers: Aidan, Bree, Wairu, Scott, Chef: Jacob, Purser: Sara, Assistant Purser: Willow, Snr Cruise Attendants: Gina & Bonita, Cruise Attendants: Holly, Sarah, Jess, Sarrah, Marie, Annie, Melissa, Expedition Leader: Steve, Assistant Expedition Leader: Dawn, Guest Lecturers: John & Liz.