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EXC In-Depth Field Notes: Tasmania, Adelaide, Port Lincoln and Albany

Over the holidays, our EXC In-Depth Voyage was exploring Tasmania and Australia. EXC In-Depth Onboard Naturalist/Zodiac Driver Kristy King and Polar Historian/Naturalist Andrew Atkin sent some Field Notes from Hobart, Port Arthur, Adelaide, Port Lincoln and Albany. Enjoy this installment, and stay tuned as the ship continues this adventure.

Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
By Kristy King, On Board Naturalist/Zodiac Driver

This morning we awoke to blue skies and sunshine in Tasmania’s capital, Hobart. Hobart is Tasmania’s main cruise port, having Australia’s deepest harbour. The port is located on Derwent River, while the city’s background is dominated by the beautiful Mount Wellington.

We started Christmas off a little differently down here in the Southern Hemisphere, with Santa arriving by water onboard one of the fleet of zodiac’s that now resided on board Massdam as part of the EXC In-Depth program. EXC In-Depth provides guests with extra EXC programming on board with interactive activities, insight from location experts and EXC Guides, as well as cultural encounters and zodiac excursions to make each cruise more engaging and meaningful.

Fishing vessels at the Port of Tasmania, Derwent River.  Photo: Kristy King ©

Fishing vessels at the Port of Tasmania, Derwent River. Photo: Kristy King ©

With the city of Hobart closed for Christmas Day with the exception of a few small businesses, many guests joined tours that were on offer. With so few people around due to the holiday it meant that guests onboard were able to explore the city at their own pace. The many parks around the city were a hot spot for most enjoying the beautiful weather, whilst others spent their time down around the water-front checking out the various tents that had been set up for the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race due to start at 1 pm on Boxing Day (26th December).

Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia
By Kristy King, On Board Naturalist/Zodiac Driver

Overcast conditions greeted us at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the former convict settlement and small town of Port Arthur on Tasmania’s Tasman Peninsula. With Massdam anchored in Port Arthur just off the Small Township and historic site it was a short tender ride across to the wharf.

Massdam anchored in Port Arthur, Tasmania Photo: Kristy King ©

Massdam anchored in Port Arthur, Tasmania Photo: Kristy King ©

I spent my morning with many of the ships guests exploring the site and learning more about what took place here. Port Arthur is a small village and historic site of a 19th-century penal settlement, and it is now an open-air museum. The grounds are vast with some buildings still intact and others merrily ruins of their former self. This includes the huge penitentiary which could be viewed from the tender as we made our way ashore this morning. As the convict numbers increased here, the flour mill and granary were converted into a four-storey penitentiary. The penitentiary’s two lower floors contained 136 cells for prisoner’s that were described as having ‘bad character’ and the top provided space for a further 480 prisoners.

Ruins of the Penitentiary at the Historic Port Arthur Village, Tasmania Photo: Kristy King ©

Ruins of the Penitentiary at the Historic Port Arthur Village, Tasmania Photo: Kristy King ©

The site is so large, yet there’s plenty of information located throughout each building detailing the people that lived in them, including prisoners, hospital staff, soldiers and many others. Hours were lost today in the sunshine trying to absorb all of the information that was being provided. A fantastic day full of history here in Port Arthur.

Adelaide, Australia
By Andrew Atkin, PhD. (Antarctic Studies), F.R.G.S., Polar Historian & Naturalist

What’s not to like about Adelaide? The Outer Harbour train station adjacent to the wharf provided an easy, 45 minute straight shot to the city centre. Walking up North Terrace towards the Botanic Gardens I found the impressive edifices of the Art Gallery of South Australia, the South Australian Museum (Home of an impressive collection of Antarctic memorabilia amongst other things) and Adelaide University. In the Botanic Gardens there are shady groves, spectacular displays of succulents, native plant gardens and a number of impressive glass houses and conservatories, new and old. The few spots of rain didn’t interrupt my extended enjoyment of the sylvan delights of the gardens. Looping back up to Rundle Street took me past a couple of beautiful historic pubs and other typical South Australian buildings constructed primarily of stone. The Stag Hotel is a well known venue. Then Rundle Mall is the heart of the shopping district complete with some clever buskers and a wide choice of coffee bars and, of course, all the usual fashion outlets and department stores. There are plenty of reasons to re-visit the ‘City of Churches”.

The Stag Hotel at the corner of Rundle St. and East Terrace.

The Stag Hotel at the corner of Rundle St. and East Terrace.

Port Lincoln, Australia
By Andrew Atkin, PhD. (Antarctic Studies), F.R.G.S., Polar Historian & Naturalist

It was appropriate that Maasdam was berthed on the grain loading facility of Port Lincoln. The hinterland is a massive wheat, barley and canola growing region. We looked out from the ship directly onto the industrial workings of the port, that seemed purposeful rather than a lonely outpost. Although a gateway to the Australian outback, Port Lincoln is also a major fishing port. We left the ship by coach, bound for a bushwalk on the far side of the bay. Stopping at a well established by Matthew Flinders during his epic coastal survey we had our first sample of the mallee vegetation that blankets much of southern Australia. Further on, at the start of the trail we enjoyed views of the crystal-clear waters and could clearly see the boundary of the seagrass growth below the surface. Heading uphill on a good path we stopped for a few natural science chats and some informative commentary by our Aboriginal guide Aden. At the crest of the hill is a cairn of marble that would have been brought from over one hundred kilometres distant. We enjoyed splendid views all round, and across the bay we could see the township of Port Lincoln and the upper works of Maasdam. Descending the far side of the hill gave us a long view over some of the vast mallee country then we skirted around the base of the hill back to meet the coach. After the three-hour walk we returned to the ship via the fisherman’s wharf area and saw many of the local prawn trawlers and smaller abalone and cray fishing boats. Most of the tuna fishers were out at sea in spite of it being New Year’s Eve.

View of beach at the base of Stamford Hill showing transition from sand to seagrass near tideline.

View of beach at the base of Stamford Hill showing transition from sand to seagrass near tideline.

Back on board it was a big night of celebration throughout the ship to welcome the New Year. Everyone dressed up in their most elegant attire and joined the festive spirit.

Albany, Western Australia
By Andrew Atkin, PhD. (Antarctic Studies), F.R.G.S., Polar Historian & Naturalist

The morning zodiac operation was to head across Princess Royal Harbour and land on the beach beside the inlet to Oyster Bay, within Gull Rock National Park. Then, with a local guide, take an easy bushwalk. Unfortunately the wind and associated swell caused cancellation of the planned zodiac operation for safety reasons. This freed me to take the convenient shuttle to the town centre. Albany is a vibrant community with a strong interest in heritage preservation. The streetscapes, especially closer to the waterfront, have a Victorian air and there are many handsome buildings. Many have been redeveloped into excellent bars and cafes as well as gift shops and fashion outlets catering to the varied needs and wants of tourists.

Historic Waterfront Street, Albany.

Historic Waterfront Street, Albany.

Most of the townscape was developed during gold rush years. Albany was also the only deep water harbour to service the hinterland, so there is a strong maritime and rail freight heritage also. Like most country towns in Australia there is a very broad main street with centre parking. It’s not congested even though there were obviously many travellers in town including many interstate campers.

If you’d like to join one of these amazing adventures, check out our EXC In-Depth itineraries. Stay tuned to the EXC In-Depth Field Notes as Maasdam makes way to the Indian Ocean.

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