Tasmania (formerly Van Diemen's Land), a British colony of Australasia, consisting of the island of the same name and several smaller islands, mostly in Bass strait; area, 26,215 sq. m.; pop. in 1870 (by census), 99,328; estimated, Jan. 1, 1874, 104,217. Capital, Hobart Town. The island of Tasmania is situated 120 m. S. E. of Australia, from which it is separated by Bass strait, between lat, 40° 38' and 43° 38' S., and Ion. 144° 40' and 148° 30' E. It is 240 m. long from N. TV. to S. E.; its extreme breadth from N. E. to S. W. is 200 m.; area, 24,330 sq. m. The coasts, which present almost every variety of scenery, are indented by numerous bays and inlets, and good anchorage is to be found almost everywhere. The principal harbors are: on the W. coast, Port Davey, which is much frequented by whaling vessels, and Macquarie harbor; on the X. coast, Stanley at Circular Head, Emu bay, Port Frederick, Port Dalrymple, and Wa-terhouse roads, between Anderson and Ringa-rooma bays; on the E. coast, George, Oyster, Spring, and Fortescue bays; and on the S. E. coast, Port Arthur, Storm bay, Norfolk bay, D'Entrecasteaux channel, Port Esperance, Muscle bay or Southport, and Recherche bay.
There are 55 islands off the coast, all of which belong to Tasmania. The Furneaux group, N. E. of the main island, includes Flinders island (801 sq. m.), Cape Barren island (172 sq. m.), Clarke island (30 sq. m.), Chappell, Hummock, and several smaller islands. Their inhabitants, 242 in number in 1870, many of whom are half-breeds, live mostly by seal fishing. Off the N. W. end of Tasmania are King's island (425 sq. m.), Robbins' island (37 sq. m.), Hunter, Three Hummock, and smaller islands. Off the S. E. coast are Bruny island (140 sq. m.), divided into North and South Bruny, which are connected by a narrow isthmus, Maria island (37 sq. m.), Schouten island (10 sq. m.), and many smaller. - Tasmania is traversed by high mountain chains, full of glens and ravines, and separated by fertile and well watered plains. There are two principal chains, one running parallel with the E. coast, the highest peak of which is Ben Lomond, 5,010 ft., and the other forming an elevated table land in the middle of the island, reaching an elevation of 5,096 ft. in Cradle mountain; from the latter diverge numerous smaller ranges, north, west, and south.
In the middle of the table land are several lakes, the largest of which are the Great lake (28,000 acres), Sorell (17,000), St. Clair (10,000), and Arthur, Crescent, and Echo (8,000 to 12,000). The chief rivers on the S. E. coast are the Huon, which flows into D'Entrecasteaux channel; the Der went, which rises in Lake St. Clair, receives numerous tributaries, and flows into Storm bay; and the Coal, which flows into Pitt water. On the S. W. and W. coast are the Spring, the Davey, the Gordon and King's falling into Macquarie harbor, the Pieman, and the Arthur, all with large tributaries; and on the north the Montague, Duck, Detention, In-glis, Cam, Emu, Blythe, Leven, Gawler, Forth, Mersey, Rubicon, Tamar, Piper, Forrester, Trent, and Ringarooma. The Tamar is a tidal river formed by the junction of the North and South Esk. - The central mountain chain, which is of volcanic formation, is of trap upheaved through sandstone, clay, limestone, and slate. The rocks of the E. and S. W. coasts are basalt, granite, gneiss, and quartz. It is conjectured that the island was once connected with Australia, and that the smaller islands in Bass strait are the peaks of a disrupted mountain chain. Tasmania is rich in minerals. Iron abounds near Hobart Town and on the banks of the Tamar river.
Large deposits of tin ore were discovered in 1872 at Mt. Bischoff, and small lodes of copper, lead, and bismuth have been found. Coal abounds at Mt. Nicholas and Douglas river in the northeast, on the Mersey river in the north, at Jerusalem N. of Hobart Town, and at Hamilton in the middle of the island. None of these deposits are worked, but mines of bituminous coal are worked near Port Seymour, and of anthracite coal at Port Arthur, New Town, and Port Serrell. The principal gold mines are at Nine Mile Springs, Mathinna, and Hellyer river. Limestone is abundant, and a fine quality of white freestone is largely exported to Melbourne. - The climate is remarkable for mildness, being subject to extremes neither of heat nor cold. The aver-ago temperature of the summer months, December, January, and February, is about 62°; of the autumn months, March, April, and May, 55°; of the winter months, June, July, and August, 47°; and of the spring months, September, October, and November, 54°. The mean annual temperature, as ascertained by 30 years' observation, is about 54°. The mean annual rainfall is 22.71 inches. The atmosphere is remarkably pure, and zymotic diseases are rare. Thunder storms are not common and are seldom violent.
Many persons, enervated by the hotter climate of Australia, annually visit Hobart Town for health. - Although much of the interior is mountainous and rugged, there are large tracts of pasture land, and extensive forests, chiefly of the eucalyptus and acacia, affording excellent timber for both cabinet work and ship building. The soil is very fertile, and produces abundantly all the cereals, vegetables, and fruits of temperate climates. Among the fruits cultivated are the peach, plum, apricot, cherry, quince, fig, mulberry, gooseberry, strawberry, raspberry, currant, and grape; also the walnut, filbert, and almond. Large quantities of green and preserved fruits are exported. The live stock in 1873 amounted to 22,334 horses, 106,308 horned cattle, 1,490,738 sheep, 59,628 swine, and 2,201 goats. The indigenous animals are mostly marsupials, like those in Australia, and they exist in such numbers that kangaroo leather and opossum furs are articles of export. There is one unique animal, called the thylacine, Tasmanian wolf, or native tiger, the largest carnivorous animal in Australasia, though no larger than a wolf.
Whales, both black and spermaceti, are numerous off the coasts, particularly in Bass strait, and the fishery is prosecuted with much vigor; and seals frequent the shores and the islands in their vicinity. Excellent fish are found in all the bays and rivers, and oysters are very abundant. Salmon have been introduced from England, and are now caught in the Derwent. The industries of Tasmania are not extensive. There are several breweries in Hobart Town, where ale is made for export to the other colonies, the climate being especially adapted to malting and brewing. There are also tanneries, founderies, soap and candle manufactories, jam-boiling and fruit-preserving establishments, and two manufactories of cloth, tweed, blankets, etc. The value of exports in 1873 was £893,556; of imports, £1,107,167. The exports of wool amounted to 4,243,433 lbs., valued at £314,068; of jams to the value of £98,281; and of hops, £41,015. Other articles of export are bark, butter and cheese, bran and pollard, the cereals, flour, skins and leather, horses, sheep, sperm and black oil, fruits and vegetables, gold (in 1873, £15,309), and ale.
The most important ports are Hobart Town and Launceston. Frequent communication by steamships is maintained between them and Sydney and Melbourne. The only completed railway is the Launceston and Western, 45 m. long, connecting Launceston and Deloraine. The line was opened in 1871; in 1872 it was taken by the government. The Mersey and Deloraine railway, to connect Deloraine with the mouth of the Mersey river, had 18 m. completed in 1874. A main line, connecting Launceston with Hobart Town, 120 m. long, will probably be opened in 1876. The principal towns are connected by telegraph, of which 291 m. were open in 1873. A submarine cable, laid in 1869, connects Launceston with Melbourne. - The aborigines of Tasmania resembled physically those of Australia, excepting that their hair was woolly. They were estimated to number 3,000 to 4,000 when the island was colonized, and were inoffensive; but from the abuse of the convict colonists a war of extermination broke out. At its close the remnant of the tribe was transported first to Flinders and then to Maria island, and finally in 1849, when only 36 remained, to the vicinity of Hobart Town, where they were established in comfortable dwellings. In 1870 only one, a woman, survived.
In 1848 nearly a third of the inhabitants were or had been convicts; and although since the cessation of transportation the proportion has gradually decreased, the moral effect is still felt. With respect to religion, the principal denominations are represented as follows: church of England, 53,047; Roman Catholic, 22,091; church of Scotland, 6,644; Free church of Scotland, 2,420; Wesleyans, 7,187; Independents, 3,931. The whole number of churches and chapels in the colony is 316. The Anglicans and Roman Catholics have each a bishop. Education is under the management of a council, and a board supervises the distribution of all moneys voted by parliament. In 1873 there were 141 public schools, with 10,803 pupils on the rolls and an average attendance of 7,047; 105 male teachers, 108 female teachers, and 32 pupil teachers. There are four superior schools: Horton college, high school, Hutch-ins's school, and the church grammar school. The attendance of children at the public schools is compulsory, under a fine of £2, except in cases of private education. In 1870 there were 29,444 persons in the colony who were unable to read.
The public press includes two daily newspapers published at Hobart Town, two triweekly and a semi-weekly at Launceston, and several weekly and monthly periodicals. - The colony is divided into 18 counties, which are subdivided into parishes. For electoral purposes it is divided into districts, 16 for the election of members of the legislative council, and 32 for members of the house of assembly. The government consists of a governor and executive council appointed by the crown. The governor is assisted by a cabinet consisting of four official members, colonial secretary, colonial treasurer, attorney general, and minister of land and works, and sometimes a premier ex officio. The legislative power is vested in a parliament of two houses, the legislative council and the house of assembly. The legislative council is composed of 16 members elected for six years, the house of assembly of 32 members elected for five years. The judiciary consists of a chief justice, a puisne judge, and minor justices. The revenue is derived from customs, railway receipts, land sales, and miscellaneous taxes.
The general revenue for 1875 was estimated at £295,317, and the expenditure at £311,206. The debt of the colony at the end of 1873 was £1,477,-600, incurred mostly for the following purposes : public works, £938,528; immigration, £200,000; commute state aid to religion, £100,-000; in payment of an old debt to the imperial government, £30,500; in aid of land fund, £30,000. - Tasmania was discovered in 1642 by the Dutch navigator Abel Janssen Tasman, who believed it to be a part of the mainland of Australia, and who named it Van Diemen's Land after Anthony van Diemen, then governor general of the Dutch East Indies. Its insularity was not established till 1798, when Mr. Bass, a surgeon of the British navy, circumnavigated it. The first settlement was made in 1803 by a detachment of marines and a body of convicts, in charge of Lieut. Bowen, who selected Risdon on the Derwent river as the site for a penal station. In 1804 Col. Collins, who landed with 400 prisoners, changed the site to the opposite side of the river, and named it Hobart Town after Lord Hobart, then secretary of state for the colonies.
Van Die-men's Land was erected into an independent colony in 1825. For some years the prosperity of the colony was impaired by the depredations of "bush rangers," or escaped convicts, but they were finally suppressed. In 1853 the transportation of convicts ceased, and on Jan. 4, 1856, on the petition of the legislative council to the home government, the name of the colony was officially changed to Tasmania.