From the once-in-a-millennia landslip that created the Organ Pipes, a source of fresh water for indigenous people, a plundered resource by colonial settlers and industry to a spectacular vantage point over a bespoke capital city, the mountain's story is still relatively untold.
The geology of Wellington Park forms the physical foundations for the landscape and the soil. It is estimated that more than six glacial stages have occurred in Tasmania over the last few million years and this erosive change has shaped the mountain to form the landscape we know today.
Whilst the Wellington Range has not been subjected to extended periods of ice accumulation or glacial activity, dolerite forms were considerably eroded by water freezing and expanding within the columnar cracks. This resulted in the dolerite talus and columnar jointing evident on the higher slopes. Where the soil and detritus has been washed from the crevices, amazing displays of rock arrangements have emerged among the alpine vegetation. (and this is not lost on our design team!)
French expeditions in the late 18th Century reported extensive burning in the foothills of the Wellington Range by Aboriginal people. Sandstone rock shelters in the foothills of the Mountain and stone artefacts are visible reminders of the South East nation, one of nine nations of Tasmanian Aborigines at the time of European settlement. Their country ranged from Storm Bay and the D’Entrecasteaux Channel (including Bruny Island) to South Cape, New Norfolk and the Huon Valley.
Within the nation there were seven to nine bands or kinship units of 40 to 50 people. The vicinity of present day Hobart was country of the Muwinina people, and it is with the hard work of their descendants that the dual name for the mountain, kunanyi, has been revived.
With the settlement of Europeans, the Mountain was quickly recognised as a source of clean water, food, timber and tourism.
Australia’s first urban (or metropolitan) water supply pipeline, still used today, remains testament to colonial ingenuity. Forestry, farming and quarrying relics are reminders of historic exploitation and many artefacts, sites and stories can bring the past alive. The Park also features remnants of forest huts, the Springs Hotel, Exhibition Gardens, ice houses, historically scenic features and other monuments. Some of today’s walking tracks were originally built as a means of access to the mountain's resources, and date back to the 1830s.
Most of the walking tracks however are testament to the strong recreational interest that began in the early 1800s, initially via the New Town Way. Inspired by her visit to the summit in 1837, Lady Jane Franklin had a hut built at the Springs and one on the Pinnacle to encourage more women to take the journey. These were the first recreational huts in the Park, but a keen movement soon began. The ruins of many former ‘weekender’ huts built by groups of locals in an ornate rustic style can still be found in the rainforest gullies overlooking Hobart. Still in use are the younger (early-mid 1900s) stone cabins, chalets and shelters, purpose built for visitors on some of the main tracks.
It is likely that early tracks were also used in part by keen naturalists, such as Charles Darwin, who visited colonial Hobart. The Mountain has been an important site of physical and biological investigations, aiding in the understanding of Tasmanian, Australian and world natural history. Many notable scientists made internationally significant discoveries when visiting the area in the 19th Century.
Since colonisation the mountain has been a topic of debate and dispute regarding the conflicting demands of place, aesthetics, visitor use and tourism, environmental awareness, and resource extraction. Access has improved since the pioneers but the road from Fern Tree to the Pinnacle remains a legacy of the hard work of many Tasmanians. Short term prison and free labour built the lower section, beginning work in 1888. The section from the Springs to the Pinnacle, opened in 1937, was constructed as a 'work for the dole' scheme during the Depression. Despite providing much needed employment at the time the road was controversial for its visual destruction and was termed ‘Ogilvie’s Scar’ after the Premier of the day who initiated the development.
The tragic 1967 bushfire destroyed much of the colonial 'weekender' huts (and much of Hobart's western suburbs, including the Brewery), however remnants remain and, using scrap materials some secretive huts have since been re-established and accessible to those in the know.
Since the early water monopolies much debate over the past 100 years has predominately centred on access; specifically, three rather poorly formulated proposals for an aerial cableway. Our bid is the fourth genuine proposal since 1905 and, by engaging with the community all along our own journey, we intend to ensure this fascinating story of triumph over adversity, legacy issues as well as the cultural healing to stem from our tourism venture is not lost on future generations.