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Tasmania (tăzmāˈnēə), island state (2016 pop. 509,965), 26,383 sq mi (68,332 sq km), SE Commonwealth of Australia. It is separated from Australia by the Bass Strait and lies 150 mi (240 km) south of the state of Victoria. Tasmania includes many offshore islands, among which are Bruny, the Hunter Islands, the Furneaux Group, King Island, and Macquarie Island. The Indian Ocean is to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. Hobart is the state capital. The only other city with a population of more than 50,000 is Launceston.
Tasmania is geologically similar to the Australian continent and was once connected to it. The climate is equable and the rainfall moderate. The island is mountainous with considerable forestation; Legge Tor (5,160 ft/1,573 m) is the highest peak. Great Lake in the interior is the largest lake and the reservoir of an important hydroelectric plant. Tasmania has the highest proportion of national park land of all Australian states; a little less than half the island is protected.
Sawmilling and woodchipping industries are important. Agriculture is confined almost exclusively to small farms; among the crops grown are opium poppies for medicinal drugs. The raising of sheep for wool in the east and dairy farming in the northwest are also important. The mining of copper, zinc, tin, lead, and iron has increased in recent years. The state's major manufactures are metals and metal products. Tourism also is growing in significance, due in part to better ferry connections to the continent.
The island was explored in 1642 by the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman, who named it Van Diemen's Land. Capt. James Cook visited the island in 1777 and, in 1803, Great Britain took possession and established a penal colony. The indigenous population, which had been on the island some 35,000 years, numbered about 5,000 at the time of colonization; they were subsequently decimated, with only a few mixed-race survivors. Governed by New South Wales until 1825, Tasmania was then constituted as a separate colony. The transportation of convicts ended in 1853 as a result of local opposition. In the 1850s the British established constitutional self-government in the colony and the name was officially changed to Tasmania. In 1901, Tasmania was federated as a state in the Commonwealth of Australia. The nominal head of the state government is the governor, appointed by the British crown on advice of the cabinet; however, actual executive powers are exercised by the premier and the cabinet, who are responsible to the bicameral state parliament.
an island off the southeastern coast of Australia, separated from the mainland by Bass Strait. Together with neighboring islands, including King and Flinders, forms a state in the Commonwealth of Australia. Area, 68,300 sq km. Population, 397,100 (1973).
The overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of Tasmania are Anglo-Australians, and there are a small number of emigrants from Great Britain, the Netherlands, and several other European countries. The Tasmanian aborigines no longer exist; there is only a small group of métis. The capital of Tasmania is Hobart.
The island of Tasmania is a structural continuation of the Great Dividing Range of Australia. There are numerous harbors and bays, including Macquarie Harbor and Storm Bay. The relief is dominated by isolated steeply sloping plateaus and highlands with elevations ranging from 600 to 1,000 m. The Midlands, a lowland along the Tamar and Macquarie rivers, separates Ben Lomond (with Legges Tor, 1,572 m) from the plateau that occupies the central part of the island. The highest peak in Tasmania (1,617 m), Mount Ossa, is situated on the plateau. The most important minerals include complex-metal and iron ores, tin, copper, and gold. The climate in the north is subtropical, and in the south, temperate and humid. In Hobart the average July temperature is 8°C, and the average February temperature is 17°C. On the plateaus and in the mountains, the temperatures in winter are below 0°C. Annual precipitation in the western half of Tasmania is more than 1,000 mm (2,800 mm in Macquarie Harbor), and it averages 600 mm in the eastern half. The largest rivers, the Tamar and Macquarie in the north and the Derwent in the south, have high water levels but contain rapids and are navigable only in their lower courses. There are many lakes of glacial origin on the central plateau.
There are brown forest soils in the west and podzolized and mountain-meadow soils in the mountains; in the north and east are yellow soils and red earths. Mountain rain forests of eucalyptus, conifers, and treelike ferns combined with alpine vegetation grow in the west and southwest. The central part and the southeast are dominated by sclerophyll eucalyptus rain forests, meadows, and moss and grass bogs; humid and dry sclerophyll eucalyptus forests combined with alpine vegetation grow in the northeast. The fauna is the same as in Australia (seeAUSTRALIAN REGION).
Industry is the main branch of Tasmania’s economy. After World War II (1939–45), energy-intensive branches of industry developed rapidly in connection with the utilization of the island’s abundant hydroelectric resources. The total capacity of the island’s electric power plants is 1,322.4 megawatts (MW), and the production of electric power is 7 billion kilowatt-hours (1973). The largest hydroelectric power plants are Poatina (250 MW) and Tungatinah (125,000 kW); there is also a steam power plant at Bell Bay (120 MW).
Among the ores mined in Tasmania (1972–73, in tons, by metal content) are copper at Mount Lyell (26,800), iron in the Savage River valley (1.696 million), zinc (72,600), lead (23,100), and tin. Gold, silver, and coal (128,500 tons) are also mined. In the non-ferrous metallurgy industry, electrolytic copper, zinc, lead, cadmium, and cobalt are produced in Risdon, a suburb of Hobart, titanium dioxide is produced in Burnie, and aluminum and ferromanganese are produced in Bell Bay. There are pulp and paper, textile, and food enterprises in Hobart, Devonport, and Launceston. Other enterprises include a cement plant, a large bearing plant in Launceston, sawmills and wood-products enterprises, and a manufacturer of mineral fertilizers. There is also a logging industry.
The main branch of agriculture is livestock raising; in 1973 there were 3.8 million sheep, 900,000 head of cattle, and 85,000 hogs. The wool clip is 18,200 tons (1972–73). Cultivated land accounts for 2 percent of the total, and fodder and vegetable crops predominate. There is also fruit growing (mostly apples), and wheat is the chief grain crop. The main port is Hobart, with a freight turnover of 1.5 million tons (1971–72). There are air and sea links with the mainland.
Tasmania was discovered in 1642 by the Dutch navigator A. Tasman. In 1788 the island, then called Van Diemen’s Land, was proclaimed an English possession and was included in the colony of New South Wales. In 1825, Van Diemen’s Land became a separate colony; it acquired its present name in 1853. By the mid-19th century, almost all the suitable land had been taken by speculators and major livestock raisers, who used convict labor; in 1840 convicts made up two-thirds of the adult population.
Tasmania achieved autonomy in 1855. In the second half of the 19th century, gold mining, railroad construction, and shipbuilding developed rapidly. The first trade unions appeared in the 1880’s. After the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, Tasmania became one of its states.
V. M. ANDREEVA