THE Spirit of Tasmania isn’t a ship. It’s a floating civilisation. The giant ferry has a disco, a food court and even a movie theatre. The cabins come with all the usual conveniences – clean sheets, thick blankets, and mints on starched pillows. Outside it’s near freezing and the gales are upending gulls, but in here it’s a comfy 25˚C and the only breeze is steam billowing from the shower.
The first Europeans to make this trip braved Bass Strait without heaters or hot water to keep them warm and cosy. But that’s not to say their boats were without technology. On board were the most advanced tools and weapons ever seen in these waters, technology the Europeans used to overpower the inhabitants of the island and change its ecosystem forever. The landing was an alien invasion, unexpected and irrevocable.
As I leave the boat and board a waiting bus, I’m acutely aware of my place in this, the story of Tasmania. I am a descendant of those aliens. I have come to visit a world my ancestors conquered, to drive along the paths they cleared through the bush, to camp in the forests they claimed as their own. Most tourists travel to see a foreign culture; but here, on this island at ‘world’s end’, I have come to see how my own culture is faring in a foreign land.