A Colourful Past
orinna, which was once called Royenrine, was the aboriginal name for a young Tasmanian tiger. Corinna is the only surviving remote area historical mining settlement in Tasmania. Corinna’s rip roaring days were in the goldrush of the late 1800’s, when it had two hotels – one on each side of the river. Corinna was born when prospectors pushed overland south from Waratah to the Heemskirk, Zeehan and Lyell regions. They cut a track from the river at a point some 19km from its mouth and at this exact crossing point Corinna was established when gold was found in the Pieman’s tributaries.
The Corinna goldrush was at its peak from the mid 1870’s to the early 1880’s and the largest nugget of gold ever discovered in Tasmania (7.5kg) came from Rocky River, a small tributary of the Whyte River, (itself a tributary of the Pieman) a few km upstream from Corinna in 1883. (See Walks.) It aroused considerable excitement and attracted many men from other Tasmanian goldfields.
By 1893 the town had more than 30 structures including the two hotels, a post office, a number of stores and shops, slaughter yards and numerous residences.
These were colourful days for Corinna, with a population of 2500 people and sailing ships and steamers making the hazardous entrance through the Heads to bring in eager prospectors and suppliers.
It was far from the quiet, peaceful place it is today. Prospector-historian Mark Ireland, who knocked around the West Coast in the boom days, said it was the toughest town he had ever been in – and there were some rough and tough towns in the west in those years.
Eventually, the town declined in population when the Emu Bay railway to Zeehan was opened in 1900.
After the boom times, there has only been one ferryman or family resident at any one time in Corinna since 1899. John Ahrberg oversaw activities at Corinna from his home at Pieman Heads, from 1899 to 1937. In 1940 a reserve was established. The remnants of the town were leased to a variety of families over the years with most of the old buildings being lost and some new structures being erected. The Polson family, who had been in residence for many years, sold the leasehold to Tarkine Wilderness Pty Limited in September 2005. The Polsons re-established the punt crossing and operated the scenic cruise to the mouth of the Pieman on Arcadia II. The township of Corinna is technically called the Corinna Tourist Development Zone.
At the opening of the Tarkine Hotel in September 2008, two of the Ellis brothers, Alec and Mort, returned to Corinna, the town they had stewardship of in the 1970’s. The Ellis brothers brought the legendary Arcadia II to Corinna, where she has remained in continuous service for almost 40 years. They also constructed the Whyte River walk, one of the great short walks in Tasmania.
Acknowledgement: Historical photos have been generously provided by the Zeehan Pioneer Museum.