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HISTORY:
- EXPEDITIONS AND SEARCHES -
(page 5)
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Expeditions and Searches - 1937 to Present-Day

Search 3 - November 1938 (continued):

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Search Area 3 (Jane River & Frenchman's Cap).
Satellite image: Google Earth.  Place your pointer over the map to magnify.
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    We then continued to the Jane River Goldfield, where we made our headquarters, and from there explored the surrounding country - west and south-west of Jane River Goldfield, and along a muddy tributary of the Jane River, south-west of Warnes Lookout.  We found tracks of the thylacine that were defined clearly enough to obtain a plaster cast, and travelling from the Goldfields on the 18th to the upper reaches of the Jane River, we traced the thylacine in several places, along the banks of the river also onto Lightning Plain, near what is known as Riner's Camp.  Here we camped for two days, exploring the country around.  We obtained further evidence that thylacine still inhabited this locality and we secured our last plaster cast of the footprint of one of these animals.  Although we discovered tiger tracks on the Loddon Plains, they were not sufficiently defined to enable casts to be taken. 

    On the morning of the 21st instant we continued on the track leading to the West Coast Road which we reached during the afternoon.  We proceeded to Derwent Bridge where we stayed for the night.  On the 22nd instant we joined a motor conveyance and travelled to Hobart.

    The country which we traversed during our search consists chiefly of thickly timbered hills with patches of Button Grass between.  The undergrowth and foliage on the Jane River field is particularly dense.  The country between Frenchman's Cap and the Jane River field being higher and consequently very much drier than the lower country over which we had travelled between Prince of Wales Range and Flag Staff Hill, forces me to the conclusion that the first mentioned area would be suitable country upon which tigers could live.

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approximate boundary of thylacine sanctuary as proposed by Fleming
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Approximate boundary of thylacine sanctuary as proposed by Fleming.  Satellite image: Google Earth.
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    I am of the opinion that the area I refer to would make a suitable sanctuary for the Tasmanian tiger if sufficient country be included to enclose Frenchman's Cap and Raglan Range on the western side, and the Prince of Wales and King William Ranges on the eastern side - extending northerly as far as the West Coast Road.  My reason for including such a large area is that the mountainous country would be necessary for breeding and resting grounds, and would be places where the tigers would not be disturbed by any person, while the lower lying grounds would supply the game necessary as the food for the tiger.  The area I refer to for that of a sanctuary would enclose about 30 miles".

    The Mercury newspaper of the 23rd November 1938 (p. 6), records the return of the expedition to Hobart:

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    "The expedition which visited the Jane River district on the West Coast in search of the Tasmanian tiger, returned to Hobart yesterday.  Although the party did not see any tigers, it proved that the district examined was inhabited by these animals, and it is likely the Government will be recommended to proclaim as a faunal sanctuary an area extending from the West Coast Rd. at Mt. Arrowsmith to south of the Jane River gold prospecting field.  The footprints of tigers were found in several places in muddy patches on the button grass plains, and the impressions were so well defined in most cases as to enable perfect plaster casts to be made from them.  In one case, when the party was camped in a pine cutter's camp on the Jane River, it was proved by footprints that a tiger had come round the camp during the night.  Mr. M. S. R. Sharland, a member of the council of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, who accompanied the expedition as a guest of the Animals and Birds Protection Board, said yesterday, when interviewed, that one reason the tiger
was not seen was that it was mostly nocturnal in habits, and retired by day to the seclusion of caves and rock cavities in the broken hills, where it was almost impossible for any person to penetrate.  At night it came down to the plains, following in the tracks of wombats, wallabies and other game.  Footprints indicated that while game was not so common in the area as in the central highlands, and on parts of the East Coast there was still ample food for any tigers that inhabited that part of the State.  Tracks of devils, native cats, wallabies, brush opossum, and some domestic cats gone wild, were revealed by an examination of game trails across the moist plains.  The area visited by the party, Mr. Sharland said, comprised a series of deep plain-like basins enclosed within a vast amphitheatre, with encircling mountains rising to nearly 6,000ft.  Leaving the West Coast Rd. at a point between the Surprise Valley and Frenchman's Cap, about 120 miles from Hobart, the party crossed the Franklin Range and descended into the first of these basins, which consisted mostly of wet buttongrass plain.  Then traversing a second basin, partly along the route taken by Sir John Franklin, Governor of Tasmania, on an overland trip to Macquarie Harbour nearly 100 years ago, the party reached the Jane River gold prospecting
Footprints Found of Tasman Tiger
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The Courier-Mail, 23rd November 1938 (p. 6).
field, approximately 23 miles from the road, and here established its field quarters.  From this point survey trips were made to adjacent mountains and river valleys.  The amphitheatre in which the tiger is known to live, Mr. Sharland said, was about 30 miles wide and about the same distance north and south.  It was bounded on the east by the King William Range, and the Prince of Wales Range, on the south by the Jane River hills, on the west by the Surveyor and Deception Ranges, and on the North by the Junction Range and Mt. Arrowsmith, and in the north-western corner, stood the enormous bulk of Frenchman's Cap with broken peaks and crags rising to about 5,000ft., and composed of marble-like conglomerate rock which, from a distance, resembled snow.  Within this area were well-wooded hills, extensive boggy plains, several streams, and dense beech forests.  Mr. Sharland warmly praised the bushcraft of Trooper Arthur Fleming who led the party, and said that Trooper Boyd and Constable Royle were efficient assistants.  The party also had a highly competent guide in Mr. A. J. Best, whose knowledge of that part of Tasmania probably could not be equalled".

    Michael Sharland, writing in 1941, states:

    "Evidence found during the trip pointed to the existence of the animal in several parts of the territory, proving that there was yet time to afford it the protection so long overdue.  We were content to have found definite evidence of the thylacine?s existence".

thylacine track casts taken during the 1938 expedition
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Thylacine track casts taken during the 1938 expedition.  Image: Col Bailey.
Courtesy: Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery thylacine exhibition (specimens A3916a/b).
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References
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