Snow... Down Under: Snow Wombat
A wombat forages in the snow of the Mt Kosciuszko National Park looking for grasses and roots to eat in this documentary that follows three friends on a skiing trip in the NSW snowfields.
Summary by Damien Parer
Snow... Down Under (1982) follows three friends skiing on Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest mountain. On the way they encounter bad weather and also have some fun. Intercut with this, the history of skiing in Australia is told through archival footage. Narrated by actor Jack Thompson the film also features voice-overs from Eva, Jamie and Steve, the skiers seen in the film.
Title Curator's Notes
This 1982 documentary has found an interesting way to show the Australian snowfields and tell its history. The film was instigated by co-producer, Tim Rose, a keen skier. It was produced with funds raised under the 10BA tax scheme. The film screened on the Ten Network and later on the Seven Network.
Notes by Damien Parer
This clip shows the snowfields of Mt Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest mountain, in the Australian alpine region in New South Wales. Australian actor Jack Thompson narrates the clip and the vision shows a wombat as it tracks through the snow to a stream. As the wombat lumbers along, the narrator notes that the wombat places its back legs in the impression made in the snow by its front legs to save energy walking in the snow. The wombat finds some feed and starts to eat as the narrator explains that wombats are marsupials, suckle their young, and carry them in a pouch on their underside. The clip concludes with the narrator noting that wombats are totally at home in the snowy environment.
- Wombats are stout, sturdy Australian marsupials that grow to about 1.3 m in length and can weigh up to 36 kg. They use their sharp claws and powerful legs to dig burrows and have been known to live for up to 27 years. Wombats spend between 3 and 8 hours each night grazing on food such as native tussocky 'snow grass’ and stay in their burrows during the day to keep warm in winter and cool in summer.
- The common wombat, seen here, is one of three species of wombat found in Australia. The common wombat has a large, naked snout and is generally darker in colouring. The much rarer southern hairy-nosed wombat has larger ears than the common wombat, and its snout is coated with fine hairs. Under Australian law both species of wombat are protected. The northern hairy-nosed wombat is on the 'presumed extinct’ list according to the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act. The northern hairy-nosed wombat was the largest burrowing mammal in the world.
- Wombats can live 5–15 years in the wild and can reproduce at 2 years. A newborn wombat, which weighs only 1 g and is less than 3 cm long, has to crawl from the birth canal into the mother’s pouch. The pouch faces backwards, which stops dirt, twigs (and presumably snow) getting caught in it when the mother digs. The young wombat will stay in the pouch for between 7 and 10 months.
- Wombats live in burrows, liking well-drained soils that are easy to dig in. Although they will share burrows, wombats are possessive about their particular feeding grounds and mark out these areas by leaving scent trails and droppings around the boundaries. Should an intruder wombat move in on this territory it will be chased away through a series of snorts, screeches or sometimes a chase.
- Australian actor Jack Thompson is featured. One of the major figures in Australian cinema, at the time of the filming of this documentary Thompson was at the height of his career. He won the Australian Film Industry (AFI) Best Actor award for Sunday Too Far Away and Petersen in 1975, and is strongly associated with films set in country Australia and its people and the beauty of the natural environment. Thompson has appeared in more than 77 feature films and television programs, both in Australia and overseas.
Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia
Narrator While the skiers spoke of the solitude of the wilderness, they are in fact never alone. The mountains are home for some of Australia’s most unique wildlife and fresh snow makes them easy to find. Possibly the most engaging of these residents is the wombat, a fellow who becomes the butt of many a local joke for his legendary lack of intelligence. The wombat is, nevertheless, an appealing little animal, in a lumbering kind of fashion and, for those who scorn his simple nature, just watch the way he walks through the snow. He treads with his back feet in the same track made by his front feet, presumably halving his effort. Mind you, with a body like that, the most efficient way of travel would have to be a very early lesson.
The wombat is a member of the marsupial family, for which Australian wildlife is famous, but he tends to be forgotten in the shadow of his glamorous cousins, the kangaroos and the koalas. Digging with powerful claws, the wombat gathers what winter food he can from roots and plants under the snow. Like the other marsupials, the young of the wombat are born at a very undeveloped stage and are suckled for some months in a pouch on the animal’s furry front. Their strong claws do more than find them food. Wombats live in holes burrowed in the ground. Usually the burrow is next to a creek or at least within easy walking distance. Despite the fact that he looks lost most of the time, he is totally at home in this environment.