Cockle Creek is the end of the road in southeastern Tasmania and the furthest south you can drive in Tassie. You can walk a further seven kilometres to the southernmost point, which Lee and I were lucky enough to do.
Located within Southwest National Park, Cockle Creek is also, quite possibly, the most beautiful free camp in the world. Clear calm blue-green waters lap the shores of the vast Recherrche Bay. Paddymelons hop around the bush at dusk.
The colonial history–like all Tasmanian history–is violent, dark, heart wrenching. Aborigianls lived here for tens of thousands of years before the Europeans arrived.
What’s interesting is how different the French explorers were from the British. Of course the French have their dark chapters of colonial history elsewhere on the globe, but when Bruny d’Entrecasteaux arrived on his ship to what is now known as Cockle Creek, he came to observe.
He took on board with him artists, botanists, zoologists and philosophers. The French explorers were there in 1792 to gather information about the people, flora and fauna. They learned and recorded some of the local language and one Frenchman on this trip wrote in his journal (echoing Rousseau) that the locals were, “close to nature . . . whose candour and kindness contrasts so strongly with the vices of civilisation.”
The British, on the other hand, saw Tasmania as the perfect place for a prison.
They came and chopped down thousand year-old Huon pines. Logging remains a significant industry in Tasmania.
In something that many call genocide, the Aboriginal Tasmanians (except for a few remaining descendants) were wiped out.
And they slaughtered whales in the name of progress, for their precious oil. It’s hard to imagine those calm blue waters running red with blood and stinking to high heaven with smouldering whale blubber.
There used to be around 100,000 Right whales. Now there are 1-2 thousand. The baleen from the whales was used to keep women corseted half a world away in England.
It makes you wonder about the meaning of the word, “civilised”.