| Noted naturalist Michael
Sharland was a superb bushman, taking part in various thylacine expeditions
and private searches, as well as writing extensively on various Tasmanian
wildlife topics. He became something of an authority on the Tasmanian
tiger, and his opinion was much valued and often sought by the scientific
community in the days after the Second World War, when historical research
on the animal was gaining importance.
In an article entitled "TASMANIAN TIGER: Marsupial's Stand", in
the Sydney Morning Herald of the 2nd Feb 1937 (p. 13), Sharland gives the
"Encounter on River - An old
prospector of Western Tasmania, now living at Hall's Gap in the Victorian
Grampians once told me of a hair-raising 'encounter' which he had with
a tiger while working in the wild county along the Savage River.
Rain falls almost constantly in these ranges, but heavier falls than usual
had swollen the river to flood proportions. It was necessary for
him to cross the river, but this could not be done in the usual manner,
by wading. He then found a tree, nearly 100ft long which had been
uprooted on one bank by the flood, and its stem and branches extended in
the form of a natural bridge to the other. When nearly half way across
this slippery tree, heavily laden with pack and prospecting gear, he came
face to face with a tiger, which had also chosen the same means to cross
from the opposite bank. Having been warned about the so-called ferocity
of this animal, and meeting it in such circumstances for the first time,
where they stared at one another, half in fear half in defiance, each afraid
to turn back because of the risk of slipping on the rain-soaked log, his
feelings can better be imagined than described. About nine steps
apart, man and beast stood as if affixed to the narrow, precarious bridge,
trying to anticipate each other's next move. Neither was prepared
to give way, although the tiger occasionally turned its head to look back
to the shore it had just left and then, hesitatingly, at the tumbling water
beneath. Weighted by his impediments, the prospector dare not wave
his arms nor move lest he lose his balance, and for the same reason knew
that it was impossible for him to retrace his steps. The tension
ended suddenly when the tiger made a spring - not at the intruder blocking
its progress, but in the direction of the bank, some 30 feet away.
It was a desperate bid, and failed. The animal landed directly into
the water, and the prospector, still somewhat shaken by the experience,
watched it struggling vainly in the turbulent river until it became engulfed
in a whirlpool some distance downstream".
Norm Clark was another
well known bushman who toiled for nine years on the Adamsfield osmiridium
field, as well as running the town butchery. He drove large flocks
of sheep into the town, having traversed the lengthy journey over hill
and dale from Fitzgerald. In the early days, many men took to backpacking
heavy loads of all manner of goods the harrowing 26-mile journey from the
Junee for one shilling per pound of weight. Their packs consisted
of nothing more than corn sacks supported by leather straps around the
shoulders, and loads of between 80-100 pounds could be carried this way.
At certain times of the year, the rough bush track was knee-deep in snow
and mud after rain, and these hardy men had certainly undertaken an occupation
that called for top fitness and endurance.
Churchill is perhaps the best known of the tiger hunters; men who deliberately
went after the elusive thylacine and were prominent in supplying Tasmanian,
mainland and overseas zoos with the much sought after marsupial wolf.
location of Elias Churchill's hut was rediscovered in 2006 by Col Bailey.
The hut was in a rapidly deteriorating condition, and the above photo shows
the hut after restoration work was carried out in 2007, with a grant provided
by Tourism Tasmania. Photo courtesy: Col Bailey.
When I interviewed the famed tiger hunter in 1969, an ageing Churchill
had many a tale to tell concerning Tasmanian tigers. When he got
to reminiscing about tigers, you had little doubt that here was a man who
knew what he was talking about. He laid claim to trapping at least
eight tigers, including several taken alive, a number of which he
sold to the Beaumaris Zoo (QD) in Hobart. Together with a mate, local
bushman Albert Harris, Churchill built a trapping hut alongside the Adamsfield
track in the Upper Florentine Valley. It was at this hut that the
known captive thylacine was chained after capture before being taken
to the Fitzgerald railway siding on horseback, prior to its entry
to the Beaumaris Zoo in 1933. This singular event makes Churchill
and his old trapping hut significantly important in the chronicles of the
thylacine. Recently rediscovered in a rapidly deteriorating condition,
hut has now been restored as one of the most tangible parts
of thylacine history, and as such is the last remaining hut of its kind