Sullivans Cove 1804
In the mid-1800’s, European settlement of Tasmania- then still known as Van Diemens Land – was well established. But its roots went much further back. Back to November 24, 1642, when Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman first sighted what he wrongly believed to be the southern most tip of Terra Australis. Tasman had been sent south by the Governor General of the Dutch East Indies, Antony van Diemen, to explore southern and eastern waters. There was a considerable gap between Tasman’s visit and the next European contact with the island 130 years later, in 1772, when Frenchman Nicholas Marion du Fresne went ashore at North Bay. He was the first European to make contact with the native inhabitants of Van Diemens Land. In the next 30 years, Van Diemens Land was visited by Captain James Cook, William Bligh, Captain John Henry Cox, Rear Admiral Bruni D’Entrecasteaux, Commodore John Hayes, George Bass, Matthew Flinders and Commander Nicolas Baudin. It was Baudin’s exploration that was to result in Lieutenant John Bowen’s settlement on the River Derwent at Risdon Cove in 1803. Today, this place is known as Bowen Park.
By the time transportation of convicts ceased in 1853 – 65,000 convicts had been unloaded on Van Diemens Land’s shores. Among those early convicts were engineers and architects who would map the future establishment of the island’s roads, homes and public buildings – and, eventually, her cities of today.
Many of the convicts were not from the wretched streets of East London or Liverpool, but political prisoners exiled from England and Ireland. They included George Loveless, leader of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. For the first 20 years of settlement, Hobart Town struggled for survival and starvation was a real threat. So desperate was the situation that Governor Collins had no choice but to release convicts into the bush to hunt for food. The kangaroo became the staple diet of the colony for a number of years.