King Island’s Rich History
King Island was originally part of a land bridge linking Tasmania with the Australian Mainland and was submerged around 12,000 years ago with rising sea levels.
While uninhabited at the time of European discovery by Captain Reed in 1799 the first Tasmanians were a very mobile people, especially by water. They had a wide-ranging territory, travelling in season for hunting, gathering and ceremonial purposes. They built and used several different types of seaworthy boats and research suggests that they passed through, but did not permanently inhabit King Island.
European history began with maritime explorers, sealers, hunters, shipwrecked castaways and pioneering farmers. Prospectors discovered tin, gold, rutile, ilmenite and one of the world’s largest deposits of scheelite. Soldier settlement schemes after two World Wars “tamed” the land for farmers who, in time, found that regular rainfall and year-long green pastures were ideal for growing sheep, quality beef and the dairy cows whose milk they could turn into wondrous cheeses.
King Island Museum