Graeme Lay discovers the attraction of Adventure Bay for 18th century explorers.
'A breeze sprung up and freshened at SE and put it in my power to carry into execution a design I had formed of putting into Adventure Bay to get a little Wood and some grass for our Cattle. We therefore stood for the Bay ...'
(Captain James Cook's log, January 26, 1777).
The two ships under Cook's command, HMS Resolution and HMS Discovery, arrived at supremely sheltered Adventure Bay, in Van Diemen's Land, after sailing north from the frigid waters of the sub-Antarctic Ocean.
Dutch explorer Abel Tasman had come upon the island, now called Tasmania, in November 1642, naming it Van Diemen's Land after the governor of the Dutch East Indies. However, adverse winds forced Tasman away from Adventure Bay and further east where, with difficulty, he was able to go ashore.
Englishman Tobias Furneaux, in command of HMS Adventure and following Tasman's chart, landed at the bay in March 1773. Cook's HMS Resolution and Furneaux's vessel had become separated in the Antarctic Ocean and were not reunited until months later, in Queen Charlotte Sound. Upon arriving in Adventure Bay, Furneaux named the place after his ship.
Furneaux's stopover was duly recorded and led Cook to call at the bay four years later, to reprovision during his fateful third world voyage. William Bligh also called at Adventure Bay, in 1788, to reprovision HMS Bounty en route to Tahiti, then again in 1792, on his second breadfruit expedition. Cook and Bligh's visits included memorable meetings with the Aboriginal people of the area.
Van Diemen's Land was renamed Tasmania in 1856, in an attempt to expunge the island's shameful reputation as an English penal colony synonymous with extreme brutality.
Long interested in the bay which holds such historical provenance, I visited Bruny Island, in southern Tasmania, where Adventure Bay is located.
Reaching the bay involves a small adventure in itself, requiring a 45-minute drive south of Hobart to Kettering, then a short car-ferry trip across to Bruny Island. The latter was named after French Rear Admiral Bruni d'Entrecasteaux, who explored the region in 1792 (at one stage the French threatened to take control of Van Diemen's Land, but were forestalled by English troops from New South Wales).
Bruny is actually two islands connected by a long narrow isthmus. Adventure Bay is near the southern end of the isthmus and fronts South Bruny, a largely wilderness area and a national park. At the northern end of the isthmus a long set of wooden steps rises to a high hill, from which there are sublime views of Adventure Bay and the sweep of its golden sand beaches.
At the foot of the steps is a little blue penguin and muttonbird (sooty shearwater) rookery, one of the few places on land where the two species roost together.
From the viewpoint on the hill it's easy to appreciate the advantages Adventure Bay presented to its 18th century seafaring visitors. Sheltered from most winds by Fluted Cape and densely forested hills, the bay has a long, sandy shoreline. A clear stream, ideal for filling sailing ships' water butts, flows into the bay.
Today Adventure Bay is lined with holiday cottages and motels, set among groves of eucalyptus trees. There is one general store.
Cruises can be taken around the bay and to nearby Penguin Island and Fluted Cape, which is close to Australia's southernmost point. Thereafter, there is no land between Tasmania and Antarctica.
A monument above the bay commemorates Cook's landing place, and on the foreshore a little further along is the excellent Bligh Museum of Pacific Exploration. This small building, built of 26,000 convict-made bricks, is crammed with maps, documents, paintings and other artefacts pertaining to those first stopovers by the European explorers. These include a section of tree trunk, said to be the one Cook tied his launch to during his 1777 visit and into which he engraved his initials.
Those explorers found Adventure Bay to be a place of tranquillity and refreshment.
And it still is.
Getting there: Qantas flies daily from Auckland to Hobart via Melbourne or Sydney.
Further information: See discovertasmania.com.au.