Sunday 15 July 2018

Port Arthur Historic Site

Australia was initially a penal settlement. Prisoners were sent here because the gaols were too full in England. Port Arthur was set up as a secondary punishment; for those prisoners who continued to misbehave. It was isolated, like an island, with only a narrow section joining the Tasman Peninsular to the rest of Tasmania, Eaglehawk Neck. Prisoners wouldn't be able to escape, as most couldn't swim. If they did try to swim, they would be picked up by boats in the port. At the narrow join of Tasman Peninsular to Tasmania a line of vicious dogs kept on chains were there to make noise of any approaching escapees.

Life at Port Arthur couldn't be more different for free settlers, and convicts. Kept completely separate, the views of settlers, was a romantic, waterside village, with a church, beautiful gardens, and lovely places for family picnics. For the convicts it was hell on earth. Essentially slavery. Punishment was corporal, cat-o-nine-tails, irons or sensory deprivation in solitary confinement. We went into sensory deprivation room. Completely dark, and noiseless. Thick concrete walls prevent any light or sound to enter. Complete torture.

Timber, sandstone, and dolerite were harvested, and used for the buildings. Many of the original buildings are just a shell of what they once were. When the colony shut down, many buildings were sold, some have burnt down and others pillaged for parts for new buildings, parts such as bricks, hard wood posts, sandstone. The site is now a historic site and all buildings have been bought back.

I didn't realise how big this place was. I thought we would go in, spend an hour or so, then be on our way. I was wrong! Tickets are valid for two days. It includes an introductory 45 minute tour, and a 20 minute boat ride around the port. There are so many buildings to go in and see, wander the gardens, stroll around. There are golf buggies available for those less mobile to get to and from the buildings, that staff happily drive guests around. We got there at 9 and got a park right out front. There is much parking, but if you want to be closer, get there early. You'll be doing plenty of walking in the day. No need to walk extra distance to the car! I may sound lazy, but we had just spent nearly every second day hiking up mountains over two weeks by the time we came here. I thought it would be a relaxing day.

Happy Travels
- Jeni



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