Perhaps the company's most famous trips are the annual excursions to the West Coast Sounds of New Zealand. These, as the proverbial schoolboy knows, are immense fjords situated on the west coast of Otago, a virgin region, happily aa yet undefined by the sandwich papers and empty lemonade bottles of the picnic party. There, too, is the highest water fall in the world ; the famous Sutherland Fall, named after its discoverer Donald Sutherland, who forms exactly one-half of the population of this primeval region. There is Sheerdown Hill, a perpendicular wall of rock 4000 feet in height. There is Mitre Peak. There is — but I have no space to dwell on the features of a region of which poets have sung, and eloquent authors written, but which has never yet been, and never will be adequately described. The company runs its excursions to the Sounds during December and January of each year, and the passenger lists include names from all parts of the world attracted by the wonderful scenery. Every effort is made to render the journey rather a yachting picnic, plus the luxuries of a large and splendidly fitted steamer, than an ordinary voyage.
As said before, the Tasmanian part of the business is almost quite distinct from the other trades of the company. The head office for Tasmania is in Hobart, under the management of Mr. C. Holdsworth, one of the most able and trusted of the company's managers ; and there are branches and agencies at Launceston, Devonport, Burnie and Stanley. The principal services carried out are Hobart to Sydney, Launceston to Melbourne, North-west coast ports to Sydney, and Hobart to Melbourne and to New Zealand. The fistnamed employs the Oonah, which with her commander, Captain Featherstone, is a prime favorite among ail sorts and conditions of passengers. Built by Inglis in 1888, she has high speed and excellent passenger accommodation, and among Tasmanians her name has passed into a household word. During the summer season the passenger traffic between Melbourne and Launceston is very heavy, and for some time the company had the Rotomahana on this line. Last season the Pateena was found to be equal to the work, and this smart and comfortable vessel, which is under the command of the popular Captain Sams, is still in this run, making two trips a week between the ports.
The trade between the North-west coast ports and Sydney is of a different nature, consisting chiefly of cargo work, and for this the large carrying capacity of the Pukaki is utilised. During the busy season she is supplemented by either chartered vessels or by assistance from others of the company's fleet. The Hobart-Melbourne connection is made by the inter-colonial steamers en route from New Zealand, which also call at Hobart on their way from Melbourne to New Zealand. The principal trade, however, is the Hobart to Sydney. During the season immense quantities of those apples for which Tasmania is famed are exported to New South Wales and Queensland, and every effort is made by means of careful handling and stowing, and special ventilation in the holds, to land the fruit in good order. The run occupies from 46 to 48 hours and departures are timed with a view to catching the fruit markets in Sydney. Another export which has developed greatly of late is that of silver ore. This is shipped in small bags weighing about 1 cwt., and on reaching Sydney is reshipped for Europe, chiefly to Continental ports.
As in other branches of the company's service, every attention is paid to the requirements of passengers, and by arrangements with the Tasmanian and Australian railways and the owners of other steam lines " round tours " can be booked, saving the nervous or inexperienced passenger the worry of rebooking from port to port and place to place. For example one can book for the journey Melbourne to Launceston by steamer, thence to Hobart by rail, then on to Sydney by steamer, and back to Melbourne by rail, thus not only avoiding the trouble of rebooking for each journey, but also effecting a considerable saving in expense. A number of other trips can be similarly arranged, but I quote this as a typical example.
The company also maintains a regular service between both Melbourne and New Zealand and Fiji. The sailings from New Zealand are fortnightly, and from Melbourne monthly. A vessel is kept regularly employed running between Auckland and Tonga and Samoa, and during the winter months a series of excursions to the South Sea Islands are organised, enabling tourists to see the islands of the Pacific at their best.
Though I can hardly say that the Union Liners "survey mankind" from China to Peru, it will be seen that the "red funnels" travel far and wide. They are regularly to be seen in the waters of the Hooghly. the Coral Islands of the Pacific know them well, and they pass and repass through the golden gates of San Francisco. During 1893 they steamed no fewer than 1,888,542 miles, carrying 157,710 passengers and 500,000 tons of cargo, exclusive of 427,000 tons of coal. Over £300,000 per annum is paid in wages, and no fewer than 2600 men are employed. This great line is a standing monument to the sagacity, energy and pluck of its founders, and a just source of pride to Australians generally.
The Oonah is the greyhound of Australian waters. As Van Tromp floated a broom on his foremost head, and Blake a whip, so the Oonah proudly displays the emblem of a cock. She has beaten all competitors. People in Hobart are very proud of the Oonah. She was the last purchase of the Tasmanian Steam Navigation Company before it was absorbed into the Union Steam Ship Company. They are very proud, too, of her commander, Captain Featherstone, who is a Hobart boy. Tasmanians take to the sea much more readily, than the youthful inhabitants of Australia The last voyage I make between Victoria and Tasmania is in the Waihora. She does not profess to be a greyhound, but she is very comfortable not to say luxurious. The waters are as calm as if in Hobson's Bay. We never lose sight of land, which is a consolation to those who do not consider that shipwrecks mostly occur on a shore and not in mid ocean. From Cape Schanck to Wilson's Promontory, thence to the Kent Group and Flinders Island, and, through Bank's Straits, there is a succession of small islands and lonely rocks, on which sea birds brood and against which the waves, driven by stormy winds, dash with a force which would shatter the strongest ship. Rising through the morning mist, these islets assume as strange and varying shiapes as the cloud with which Hamlet fooled Polonius. We pass one rock which bears the exact semblance of a kneeling camel. Round the line of roof which girts Swan Island, the lighthouse of which is a warning beacon to seamen, and our course in due south.
Then we have many hours' voyage along a romantic coast. High rocky headlands, higher mountains inland, dark forest wild, silent, virginal. The coast looks as primal as when Tasman first sailed along these shores and imagined them to be in habited by giants. Beyond the coast there is a -
Vastness of verdurous, forest complexity complexity boundless,
Where is no stir save the fall of a leaf, or the wave of a wing;
Lone sunny regions, where virginal Nature roams, ceaseless and soundless,
Rich with the richness of Summer, yet fresh with the freshness of Spring.
There is scarcely a dwelling to he seen on the whole east coast of Tasmania, nothing, hut sea and shore and bluff and mountain and wooded valleys sloping inland. It is a charmingly romantic voyage. The passengers have no excuse to be seasick, although they may suffer from indigestion through eating too much. The Union Company from 6.30 a.m. till 9 p.m. provides you with seven meals !. When Captain Anderson has time to talk to me I find him a kindly Scot as well as a good sailor and attentive commander. He is from the Clyde Valley. All the officers on the Waihora are Scotchmen except that most important functionary, the cook, who is from London. So too, is my bedroom attendant, Robert the Ready. Mr. Pollock, the kind steward, is most Scotch of all, though he has been many years away from the Clyde. I shall remember the Waihora, not only for a pleasant voyage, but because I here make acquaintance with a now species of parrot. It was brought from Antipodes Island, which is covered only with stunted grass. This bird resembles a small variety of the New Zealand ground parrot, the Kakapo. When first put into a cage it could not stand on the perch, but has now adapted itself to that position, and recognises that Nature intended it to live on trees although it was born on shrubless shores.
Maria Island has its history, which would have been added to in the present day if the magnificent speculators had floated the companies they endeavored to boom. Marion Bay, named after Marion de Fresne, leads to what is now known as Blackman's Bay, but which is in reality the Frederik Henrik Bay, named by Tasman. A few years ago Mr. Bonwick, the well known Australian historian, was commissioned by the Tasmanian Government to make researches of the British Museum for matter relating to the early history of the island. The results of his researches have been compiled by Mr. James Backhouse Walker, a lawyer and a citizen of repute and literary tastes. This is issued as a State paper. Mr. Walker proves that the present charts are all wrong in nomenclature. The following description is the finest I have read of Tasman's discovery : —
"As you advance along the shore up the bay the banks of shingle on each side curve into two horns shelving out towards the centre, and forming a bar extending nearly the whole way across the entrance to the inner cove. Within the bar of shingle lies enclosed a lovely cove, its quiet waters fringed by a curved beach of great smooth stones. On either hand it is shut in by steep banks crowned with dark forest, and from the steep grey beach at the bottom of the cove a wooded valley runs inland. Standing just outside the shingle bar at the entrance to this inner harbor, it needs no great effort of the imagination to call up the scene on that 3rd December, 1642. Away out in the offing, near yonder grotesquely shaped Green Island, the high pooped old Dutch ships he at anchor. The wind is blowing fresh from the eastward, and two boats put out from the ships and stand for the shore. The wind increases to half a gale, and while the smaller boat runs back to the ships, the larger boat changes her course and heads for this bay. As she approaches we can see on hoard of her Tasman himself, and some of the Heemskirk's officers — Gerrit Ganszoon, the master; Abraham Coomans, the super cargo; and Peter Jacobszoon, the carpenter. The surf breaks violently on the shingle, and Tasman finds that to land in such a sea is impossible without great danger of wrecking the boat. Must he then after all sail away without taking formal possession of the newly discovered land ?. There is a short deliberation as the reowers rest on their oars, and then the carpenter, Jacobzoon hastily throws off his clothes, plunges in to the sea, and, pushing his flagpole before him, strikes out for the shore. Making his way through the breaking surf, he lands on the shingle beach, and there at the foot of the steep slope, where four stately gums stand in a crescent on the hill he plants the flag of the Prince Statholder. We can imagine the cheer which greeted the raising of the flag as the carpenter in the name of the States-General, thus took possession of the new territory of the Great South Land. Then the boat is brought as close in to the shore as possible, the carpenter swims out to her again throggh the surf, and they return on board the Heemskirk. ' Leaving the flag, ' says Tasman, as a memento to posterity, and to the inhabitants of the country, who though they did not show themselves, we thought were not far off, carefully watching the proceedings of the invaders of their territory."
But the only memento posterity has of the flag is in Tasman's log. I expect it was soon hauled down, and perhaps used to cover the nakedness of some aboriginal chief or his favorite wife.
Round Cape Pillar and Tasman's Island we come to the entrance to Port Arthur. The Union boats sometimes steam in here to give passengers an opportunity of seeing its beauty and its ruined settlement. Port Arthur, girt about by hills, nestles at the bend of a land locked bay, formed by the sweep of the long narrow channel opening from the sea. After the abandonment of Port Arthur as a convict station in 1877, almost all the buildings were sold and many pulled down, and the materials, bricks and cut stone, transported to Hobart or otherwise utilised locally. An attempt was made to obliterate the convict reminiscences by renaming some of the old settlements on Tasman's Peninsula. Port Arthur is now called Carnarvon, the Cascades is Koonya, and Norfolk Bay is dubbed Taranna. The outstations at Safety Cove, Impression Bay, Saltwater River and the Coal Mines retain their old names. At Port Arthur the commandant's residence and pleasure grounds are now the Carnarvon Hotel ; and the Arsenal or Magazine and officers' quarters still stand, but are private property. The four-storied Penitentiary belongs to the Government, but is going to decay, and a number of the cell doors have been removed. The Lunatic Asylum is now the Public Buildings, the Hospital, on the top of the rise behind, has been purchased by the R.C. Archbishop of Hobart, but is not utilised. Near it is the cottage where Smith O'Brien lived for a time. The church, surrounded by grand old oaks and elms, was gutted by a bush fire in 1883, and is now but an ivy covered ruin. It is cruciform in shape and its tower once held a peal of eight bells. The Model Prison, where the worst prisoners were confined, is surrounded by a circular stone wall 20 feet high. It is now private property, and a portion is being converted into a private residence for the owner (Rev. J. B. W. Woolnough, M.H.A). The Chapel is dismantled, and is intended to be the ballroom. Visitors are admitted to a portion of the building twice a week.
The Esplanade that once bounded there, claimed land between the Penitentary and the present steamer jetty has been swept away by the sea, and one or two sentry boxes still standing on its edge are used as bathing boxes. The Isle of the Dead, out in the bay opposite the settlement and close to the end of Point Puer, is neglected. Traces of paths and flower beds remain. There are headstones to the graves of free men, the convicts lie unnamed. It is said over 1600 bodies lie here. On the rocks below the headstones that mark the "free" side, is a block erected by Captain Rose, of the Erebus and Terror, on which is an inscription recording high water mark at the time of his visit. The ruined buildings where the boy convicts were kept on Point Puer, are near, the bench, and the ground cells still exist.
Tasman's Peninsula has greater attractions than the relics of convict day, in its picturesque scenery, charming walks and drives, shell strewn beaches, and opportunities for fishing and shooting. Dunolly, East Bay Neck, is rapidly coming into favor as a "rest" resort by by those who desire a change of air and scene among pleasant surroundings. There is a comfortable hotel, vehicles and boats at reasonable charges.