LISTEN: Only known audio of indigenous Tasmanian words

By Natsumi Penberthy 9 January 2017
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Wax cylinders hold the only known recordings of any indigenous Tasmanian language.

LISTEN BELOW TO a wax cylinder recoding of Fanny Cochrane Smith talking in English and a Tasmanian Aboriginal language in 1899 (if this doesn’t work click here to listen). 

Fanny – then in her late 60s – was the last fluent speaker and the clip dates back to one of two recording sessions done for ethnographic research in 1899 and 1903.

In the above image from 1903, Fanny leans towards the horn of the latest in recording technology: an Edison phonograph. Horace Watson – an artefact collector, dentist and chemist, who married into Australia’s Keen’s Curry Powder empire – is carefully brushing the wax peeling off the recording stylus.

The cylinders the pair produced are some of Australia’s earliest known recordings and the only known audio of indigenous Tasmanian words.