An expedition to the bottom of Darwin Crater

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  23. 05. 2020

Next Saturday we’ll open Prague Zoo’s newly built exhibition, dedicated to Tasmania and Australia. When the architects designed it, they were inspired by the fact that we had chosen its location at the bottom of a slope that is crowned by an artistic rendition of a meteorite. They did some research and discovered that Tasmania has a place called Darwin Crater, which was apparently formed by the impact of a cosmic body. There’s been a similar claim about the Bohemian Basin. In addition, in the vicinity of Darwin Crater there is an equivalent of our moldavites, the so-called Darwin glass. And so, Darwin Crater became the centre of our Tasmanian-Australian exhibition and the home of its most prominent inhabitants – Tasmanian devils.

Photo: Miroslav Bobek, Prague Zoo Photo: Miroslav Bobek, Prague Zoo

Last spring, when we were in Hobart, we talked about the soon-to-be-opened Darwin Crater with the Governor of Tasmania, she was clearly interested in this connection with the Czech Republic. She asked if we’d like to set off for the original Darwin Crater in Tasmania. We simply couldn’t say no - so my colleague Jarda Šimek and I travelled to the western part of the island for two days.

Not that we hadn’t thought about seeing Darwin Crater before visiting the governor, but we’d hesitated. To sum up, it’s very much off the beaten track and one of the few people who’d visited it previously described the way to its bottom in roughly these words: “Get ready for poisonous snakes, leeches, endless rain and an overgrown path full of fallen trees and muddy peat bogs.”

Fortunately, the snakes and the rain don’t enter our story. We drove from the mining town of Queenstown, where time seemed to have stood still decades ago, first along tarmacked and then forest roads until we reached a locked barrier. We had to continue on foot. We soon came to a blue sign with DARWIN CRATER written in white. It pointed to an impenetrable rainforest. We set off.

We climbed over and crawled under the trunks and crowns of fallen trees, sliding on rocks and sinking into mud, losing and finding our way again. The damp forest was full of mosses, ferns - and leeches. As we tore off more and more leeches, they stretched like rubber bands to leave bleeding wounds on our skin. But slowly we neared the bottom of the crater. When we were within reach of it, Jarda found… well… excrement. It looked like it was from a Tasmanian devil, which was later confirmed. Yes, even such a finding can arouse joy.

After more than three exhausting hours, we finally reached the bottom of this devilish crater. Devilish in both senses of the word. I have seldom experienced a similarly strong sense of gratification!

So, as of next Saturday, I can finally invite you to visit Prague’s Darwin Crater. It will be an infinitely easier path and you will certainly not have to tear off leeches. However, you will see Tasmanian devils. Pretty much face to face. Not to mention, of course, the other 21 species of Australian fauna as well as tree ferns and other Australian flora. You simply must come!