This time, Heather Ewart travels to Strahan in Tasmania, a tiny coastal community in one of the oldest and most spectacular wilderness landscapes on this planet.
With beautiful heritage buildings lining its waterfront, Strahan has just over 700 locals, but it’s made world headlines – not once but twice – and even boasts a world record. Heather meets two young locals, Mikaela and Tahlia, sisters who remain excited to this day about taking part in that 2012 record setting water skiing event.
Strahan’s magnificent harbour, six and a half times the size of Sydney’s, was key to that achievement. Its vast expanse isolates Sarah Island, one of the most brutal convict settlements in Australia, pre-dating Port Arthur. In one year alone, 1825, two hundred and forty men received a total of ten thousand lashes on Sarah Island.
Because of that and despite its isolation, two of the most famous escapes in our convict history were from the island. One of them is celebrated each night in Strahan itself.
The longest running play in the Southern Hemisphere, ‘The Ship That Never Was’, has been running for 27 years. Heather meets Kiah Davey, the daughter of its playwright, who ropes Heather into performing in it – much to the audience’s amusement.
On the same night musician Mick Thomas, from the popular Aussie band, ‘Weddings Parties Anything’, performs a song he wrote celebrating the other famous convict – turned cannibals – escape from Sarah island, ‘A Tale They Won’t Believe’.
In a community rich in stories, Heather also meets two proud young Aboriginal women, Sharni Read and Nala Mansell, who show her what they describe as their “open library”- the breathtaking coastal sweep of West Tasmania.
In the early 1980s, the Gordon below Franklin World Heritage wilderness area was almost flooded by a dam. A blockade sparked international interest and outrage and stopped the dam.
Heather meets the Morrison family, locals who supported the blockade and saved their family’s historic timber mill as a result. In the 1940s, three Morrison brothers journeyed up the Gordon River in search of much sought-after Huon Pine. Their story inspires Heather to see the world heritage Gordon River for herself.
Joining Trevor Norton on his yacht, the Stormbreaker, Heather’s overnight journey into the heart of one of the world’s great wildernesses, is an unforgettable climax to her Strahan adventure.