The West Coast of Tasmania is the part of the state that is strongly associated with wilderness, mining, rough country and isolation. As well as that, it was an early convict settlement location in the early stages of Van Diemen's Land.
As a consequence of the images of the region and its attributes, it is regularly considered "outside" the tamed and agriculturally developed eastern side of the island of Tasmania.
The separation from the south west region, is that the south west has never had roads or other technical links back to the east coast. The west coast has been mined, it has had railways penetrate, and roads and power lines move through the landscape, it has been entered, but in many locations - where mines or other activities have closed, or settlements become abandoned, vegetation and time have in many cases hidden the locations.
The dangerous conditions at Hell's Gates at the mouth of Macquarie Harbour, and ocean travel along the exposed western side of Tasmania has made marine travel a dangerous pastime even to the current day, despite modern technology. Memorial plaques to recent lost sailors on the wall at the northern edge of the Strahan wharf illustrate this.
Despite the presence of the current airstrip at Strahan, the airstrip at Queenstown is no longer a current landing ground; in the 1970s a regular service to the east coast was run by Airlines of Tasmania.
All transport services to the west coast are subject to interruption by severe weather. In addition to closures of air and marine service, the only roads into the west coast may be blocked for days at a time by ice and snow during severe winter conditions.
The consequence of the isolation, and the ways that the communities coped with the difficulties, had little written about prior to the 1990's, apart from parts of Tim Bowden's 1979 Radio Documentary "The West Coasters", and various references in Geoffrey Blainey's "The Peaks of Lyell" book and the important works of C.J. Binks and Kerry Pink. Since the rise of tourism on the west coast, and the Franklin Dam issue and the creation of the world heritage wilderness area - a steady number of small publications concerning the history and features of the region have been produced.
For a brief time in the early 1900s the west coast had population and political power on a parity with the Hobart and Launceston populations. Following the demise of most of the Zeehan mines, the west coast population has relative to other parts of the island either remained static, or declined.
The environment is described with particular historical understanding by C.J. Binks in "Explorers of Western Tasmania" Chapter 2 - "A Sketch of the Western Country". See also West Coast Range
The reliance on the railways can be found in the separate article West Coast Tasmania Railways.
The mining history was captured first in Charles Whitham's Western Tasmania book - and Geoffrey Blainey's Peaks of Lyell and the books that have followed. See also the list at West Coast Tasmania Mines for a list that includes historical names and locations - many now long abandoned.
The vast tracts of forest (Huon Pine, among others) in the west coast region have been subject to fire, and exploitation - as well as significant areas now under conservation. The history of the West Coast Piners who utilised the Franklin River and Gordon River and their tributaries is a vital part of west coast history.
The legacy of the Hydro Electric Commission (The Hydro) on the west coast is a complex one, due to its sense in the 1940s to 1980s considering the west and south west regions as its 'last frontier' for the remaining catchments for its power development schemes.
The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and the Tasmanian State Library in Hobart are the main holdings of the record, while the late Eric Thomas's collection in the 'Galley Museum' in Queenstown is on a par with both.
Some examples of collections: -
Due to the rise of tourism in the 1990's - a considerable number of DVDs and videos are commercially available of the region - going into areas which had been inaccessible as reccently as 30 or 40 years ago. Also tourists and hikers have gathered a considerable record of the region which regularly appears in either their own or generally accessible websites on the internet.