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Tasmania’s Stories

Hobart’s Antarctic vision

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As Hobart excitedly prepares for the second Antarctic Festival, a recent Senate Inquiry unveiled a bold vision for the city as the gateway to the frozen continent.

It visualises the southern capital not only as a world leader in Antarctic science, but also as a base for tourism to the icy continent.

The Federal Government inquiry into Australia’s Antarctic interests, recently tabled its final report and concluded: “Given the Australian Government’s commitment to significantly increasing its Antarctic infrastructure and scientific research capabilities, [Hobart] becomes Australia’s key Antarctic Gateway.”

One of the inquiry’s main recommendations is that key scientific organisations – including the CSIRO – should be co-located at an integrated Antarctic hub at Macquarie Point on the Hobart waterfront.

This would necessitate a move of the CSIRO from its current location, at Hobart’s Castray Esplanade, to Macquarie Point where it would be joined by other Antarctic organisations: CCAMLR, the Tasmanian Polar Network, Bureau of Meteorology and parts of the Australian Antarctic Division.

“The proposed hub offers the opportunity to bring key Antarctic agencies together providing innovation and collaboration opportunities,” the report said.

The Senate Inquiry also highlighted other initiatives that add to Hobart’s increasing role as a centre of Antarctic science.

Among them a permanent air-link to Antarctica, made possible by plans to build a paved runway at Davis Base that would allow year-round access; and the recently completed $40 million extension of the Hobart airport runway.

Another key component is the new ice-breaker Nuyina, which will be based in Hobart from 2020, and is set to replace the Aurora Australis.

Then there are the financial windfalls.

The Antarctic Sector is worth $442 million to Tasmania’s economy every year, and it employs more than 1,000 people. But the report leaves no doubt that this could be bigger – much bigger.

With its ideal location the inquiry recommended Hobart “as a base for outbound Antarctic tourism”.

While there are suggestions about tourist flights to the frozen continent from Hobart’s recently upgraded runway, the focus is on cruise ships heading south from the city’s magnificent deep-water port.

“Evidence to the committee suggested that an Antarctic tourism sector could be enhanced by the development of a cruise ship terminal and related infrastructure as part of the development of Hobart’s port infrastructure,” the report continued.

Tasmanian businesses that support Australia’s Antarctic endeavours are also ear-marked as having significant growth potential.

“The opportunities available within the Tasmanian Antarctic sector are broad and include infrastructure projects in shipping, aviation, and Antarctic science within the proposed Macquarie Point Development,” the report concluded.

It’s an exciting vision for Hobart, and one shared by local stakeholders.

Among them, leading businessman – and Brand Tasmania Chairman – Michael Grainger, who is convinced we are just at the start of this exciting story.

“Excuse the pun, but Tasmania has only scratched the tip of the iceberg,” Mr Grainger said.

“The Capital City of Hobart as the gateway to Antarctica is truly significant, and really important for all the right reasons. I feel very strongly that we have the ideal location, and the valuable infrastructure – the airport and our deep-water port – which are able to support both the scientific community and Antarctic tourism.”

But this is also about branding.

Mr Grainger – who runs international maritime company Liferaft Systems Australia – is excited that a CSIRO re-location would present Hobart with two incredible opportunities.

“The CSIRO’s current waterfront address is one of the best real estate sites in Hobart, and if they move it gives us the opportunity to create something really special there,” Mr Grainger adds.

“Likewise, Macquarie Point needs an iconic design that truly reflects Hobart as the Capital City gateway to Tasmania.

“This is our chance to bring structures to life that really place Hobart on the global map.”

There is no doubt that Hobart’s status as the Antarctic Gateway continues to grow, giving cause for celebration.

And that’s exactly what will happen next month, when once again the local community turns out in force for the Australian Antarctic Festival.

The inaugural biennial festival in 2016 was a great success with 40,000 participants celebrating Hobart’s Antarctic links. Organisers are confident numbers could reach 60,000 for this year’s four-day event.

“The festival is all about showing people what we do in the Antarctic, showing them how important it is, and raising support for those endeavours", Festival Director, Paul Cullen said.

“Most people have some idea of what happens there, but you can’t see it, it is over the horizon. We are going to bring Antarctica to town.”

Festival highlights include conducted tours of the soon-to-be-retired ice-breaker Aurora Australis, and the CSIRO’s research vessel Investigator. Also, an exhibition at Princes Wharf will give people the chance to see all the amazing “big Antarctic toys” – giant bulldozers, giant tractors, even a helicopter.

But just how important is Antarctica to the tight-knit community who live on its doorstep?

“Massively – and in more ways than one,” Mr Cullen says.

“As well as all the enormous economic benefits and the jobs, it is very much part of life in Hobart. There are so many people who live here who have links to Antarctica, including a large group of polar scientists.”

“Antarctica is woven into the fabric of our community.”

The 2018 Australian Antarctic Festival will be held on Hobart’s waterfront from August 2 – 5 and a full program of festival events can be found at www.antarcticfestival.com.au.

Image courtesy of Dr Frederique Olivier

View our video below on Hobart’s increasingly important Antarctic Role and the Polar Network:

Video still - Tasmania’s private sector Polar expertise
Watch video on YouTube

11 July 2018, Edition 196

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Facts about Tasmania


Tasmania is the southernmost state of Australia, located at latitude 40° south and longitude 144° east and separated from the continent by Bass Strait. It is a group of 334 islands, with the main island being 315 km (180 miles) from west to east and 286 km (175 miles) north to south.


Tasmanians are resourceful and innovative people, committed to a continually expanding export sector. In 2012–13, international exports from the state totalled $3.04 billion. USA, China, Taiwan, India, Japan and other Asian countries account for the bulk of exports, with goods and services also exported to Europe and many other regions.


Tasmania is similar in size to the Republic of Ireland or Sri Lanka. The Tasmanian islands have a combined coastline of more than 3,000 km.


The main island has a land area of 62,409 sq km (24,096 sq miles) and the minor islands, taken together, total only 6 per cent of the main island’s land area. The biggest islands are Flinders (1,374 sq km/539 sq miles), King, Cape Barren, Bruny and Macquarie Islands.


About 250km (150 miles) separates Tasmania’s main island from continental Australia. The Kent Group of Islands, one of the most northerly parts of the state, is only 55km (34 miles) from the coast of the Australian continent.


Twice named ‘Best Temperate Island in the World’ by international travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler, Tasmania has a mild, temperate maritime climate, with four distinct seasons.


In summer (December to February) the average maximum temperature is 21° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit). In winter (June to August) the average maximum is 12° C (52° F) and the average minimum is 4° C (40° F). Snow often falls in the highlands, but is rarely experienced in more settled areas.

Annual Rainfall

Tasmania’s west coast is one of the wettest places in the world, but the eastern part of the State lives in a rain-shadow. Hobart, the second-driest capital city in Australia, receives about half as much rain as Sydney.

Annual Rainfall

Annual rainfall in the west is 2,400 mm (95 inches), but hardy locals insist there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. If you travel 120 km east to Hobart, you experience a much drier average of 626 mm (24 inches) a year.


The 512,875-strong community spreads itself across the land; less urbanised than the population of any other Australian state. Hobart, the capital city, is home to more than 212,000 people.

Capital City

Hobart nestles at the foot of kunanyi / Mount Wellington (1,270 m / 4,000 ft) and overlooks the Derwent Estuary, where pods of dolphins and migrating whales are sometimes seen from nearby beaches. Surrounded by thickly forested rolling hills, the city is home to the state parliament and the main campus of the University of Tasmania.

Capital City

Its historic centre features Georgian and Regency buildings from colonial times. Hobart is home port for coastal fishing boats, Antarctic expeditions and vessels that fish the Southern Ocean.

Land Formation

Mountain ranges in the south-west date back 1,000 million years. Ancient sediments were deeply buried, folded and heated under enormous pressure to form schists and glistening white quartzites.

Land Formation

In the south-west and central highlands, dolerite caps many mountains, including Precipitous Bluff and Tasmania’s highest peak, Mt Ossa (1617 m / 5300 ft). More than 42 per cent of Tasmania is World Heritage Area, national park and marine or forest reserves.


Vegetation is diverse, from alpine heathlands and tall open eucalypt forests to areas of temperate rainforests and moorlands, known as buttongrass plains. Many plants are unique to Tasmania and the ancestors of some species grew on the ancient super-continent, Gondwana, before it broke up 50 million years ago.


Unique native conifers include slow-growing Huon pines, with one specimen on Mt Read estimated to be up to 10,000 years old. Lomatia tasmanica, commonly known as King’s holly, is a self-cloning shrub that may well be the oldest living organism on earth. It was discovered in 1937.


Tasmania is the last refuge of several mammals that once roamed the Australian continent. It is the only place to see a Tasmanian devil or eastern quoll (native cat) in the wild and is the best place to see the spotted-tailed quoll (tiger cat), all carnivorous marsupials.


The eastern bettong and the Tasmanian pademelon, both now extinct on the Australian continent, may also be observed.


The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was Australia’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and is a modern day mystery. The last documented thylacine died in captivity in 1936 and although the animal is considered extinct, unsubstantiated sightings persist.

History and Heritage

Aboriginal people have lived in Tasmania for about 35,000 years, since well before the last Ice Age. They were isolated from the Australian continent about 12,000 years ago, when the seas rose to flood low coastal plains and form Bass Strait.

History and Heritage

Descendants of the original people are part of modern Tasmania’s predominantly Anglo-Celtic population.

History and Heritage

Tasmania was originally named Van Dieman’s Land by the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642. The island was settled by the British as a penal colony in 1803 and the original name was associated with the convict era. It was changed to Tasmania when convict transportation stopped in 1853.


A resourceful island culture has generated leading-edge niche industries, from production of high-speed catamaran ferries and marine equipment to lightning-protection technology.


Tasmanians produce winches and windlasses for some of the world’s biggest ocean-going pleasure craft; large-scale inflatable evacuation systems and provide specialist outfit-accommodation services to the marine industry.


The Wooden Boat Centre at Shipwrights Point has re-established the skills and traditions of another age and attracts students from around the world.


Tasmania is a world leader in natural turf systems for major sporting arenas and in areas of mining technology and environmental management. Its aquaculture industry has developed ground-breaking fish-feeding technology and new packaging.


Tasmanians sell communications equipment to many navies and their world-class fine timber designers and craftsmen take orders internationally for furniture made from distinctive local timber.


The state is a natural larder with clean air, unpolluted water and rich soils inviting the production of 100 varieties of specialty cheeses, as well as other dairy products, mouth-watering rock lobsters, oysters, scallops and abalone, Atlantic salmon, beef, premium beers, leatherwood honey, mineral waters, fine chocolates, fresh berry fruits, apples and crisp vegetables.


Tasmania is a producer of award-winning cool-climate wines, beers, ciders and whiskies. Other export products include essential oils such as lavender, pharmaceutical products and premium wool sought after in Europe and Asia. Hobart is a vital gateway to the Antarctic and a centre for Southern Ocean and polar research.


The industries in Tasmania which made the greatest contribution to the State’s gross product in 2010–11 in volume terms were: Manufacturing (9.4%), Health care and social assistance (8.2%), Financial and insurance services (7.2%), Ownership of dwellings and Agriculture, forestry and fishing (each 7.1%).

Getting to Tasmania

Travel is easy, whether by air from Sydney or Melbourne, or by sea, with daily sailings of the twin ferries Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2 each way between Melbourne and Devonport throughout the year.

This site has been produced by the Brand Tasmania Council © 2014

Brand Tasmania

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