Earlier, in January 1804, The Lady Nelson had sailed further up river to where Launceston now sits at the meeting of the North Esk and South Esk rivers. On seeing this site, William Collins had the following to say:
“On my return I examined the Arm taking a S.W. direction upon opening the entrance I observed a large fall of water over Rocks, near a quarter of a mile up a straight Gully, between perpendicular Rocks, about one hundred and fifty feet high; the beauty of the scene is probably not surpass’d in the World; this great waterfall or Cataract is most likely one of the greatest sources of this beautiful River, every part of which abounds with Swans, Ducks, and other kinds of Wild-fowl.”
“On the whole, I think the River Dalrymple possesses a number of local advantages requisite for a Settlement and merits some attention.”
The area Collins was describing is of course the Cataract Gorge, one of Launceston’s most popular spots. I try to put myself in the shoes of these pioneers, walking these familiar shores when they were new and unknown. There is certainly a romantic quality about discovering new places. It’s not so different from the feelings evoked when thinking about exploring strange new worlds out there in the galaxy. I guess that’s why the same people often write both science fiction and historical fiction. They’re both about exotic worlds distant from the one we currently live in. What I’d give to travel back to the 1800s and stand side by side with these people. Of course in order to achieve this, I’ll either need a Delorean or a TARDIS.
Bethell, Llewlyn Slingsby. The Story of Part Dalrymple. Life and Work in Northern Tasmania. Blubber Head Press. Hobart. 1980.