There are a few half-castes, the descendants of European sealers by native jins; but the aboriginal Tasmanian has died out - the last male in 1869, the last female in 1876. Probably there were never more than 5000, all of a very inferior race, savage, suspicious, treacherous, and untamable. The racial war in which large numbers were killed, was perhaps inevitable. The climate is peculiarly temperate and genial. The difference between the mean summer and winter temperature is 15°. Hobart has a maximum of 96.3 against 92.2 at Greenwich, and a minimum of 32.0 against 15.5. It is cooler on the hills, and is more equable at other places in the plains. Snow is very rarely seen except on the mountains. The rainfall varies in different localities - at Hobart about 23 inches; on the east coast and parts of the midlands probably less; on the NW. and NE., where timber-clad hills more abound, greater; and on the west coast, where the prevailing wind off the Southern Ocean meets a barrier of forest-clad ranges, greatest of all. The amount of sunshine is much greater than in Britain. The air is drier, the atmosphere clearer, and the extremes of heat and cold less trying.
Tasmania was discovered in 1642 by Tasman (c. 1602-59), despatched by Van Diemen (1593-1645), Dutch governor-general of Batavia. In 1798 Flinders and Dr Bass explored the strait which divides it from the continent. The island was frequently visited by French and English explorers between 1772 and 1802; in 1803 the first settlement was made by Lieutenant Bowen, under instructions from Governor King of New South Wales. For many years sheep-farming was the principal industry. Whaling in the south seas was largely carried on from Hobart for years. Gold, silver, tin, copper, coal, etc. are found. Gold (since 1867), silver, and tin have been largely mined. Tasmania now supplies all her own coal requirements, and since 1882 has a large surplus for export. Sapphires, topazes, cat's-eyes, and zircons are obtained. Orchards have greatly increased, and in 1889 Tasmanian apples were sent in quantity to England. In 1903 the exports (minerals, wool, timber, fruit, jam, grain, hops, skins, bark, etc.) had a value of £2,843,108; the imports (textiles, art and mechanical products, food and drinks) of £2,593,810. The revenue then was £857,668, and the expenditure £879,356 (largely for public works). The public debt is £9,318,399. Tasmania (as Van Diemen's Land) was, till 1852, a penal settlement. In 1855 it was the first colony of Australasia to receive representative government. Pop. (1881) 115,705; in 1901 it had increased to 172,475. In 1903 there were 620 miles of railway, and 2187 miles of telegraph line.
See, besides the official handbook, Bonwick, The Lost Tasmanian Race (1884); Fenton, History of Tasmania (1885); May, Tasmania as It Is (1886); Johnston, Geology of Tasmania (1888); Ling Roth, The Aborigines of Tasmania (1890).