Port Arthur, A Dark Chapter in Tasmania’s History

There is no place like home

The distant shore of England strikes from Sight

And all shores seem dark that once was pure and Bright,

But now a convict dooms me for a time

To suffer hardships in a foreign clime

Farewell a long Farewell to my own native Land

O would to God that I was free upon thy Struggling Strand

Convict Simon Taylor (aka Brown) to his father, May1841

‘Tis a quote from a placard on display in the visitors museum/visitor center at Port Arthur”

The Port Arthur penal station was established in 1830 as a timber-getting camp, using convict labor to produce sawn logs for government projects. From 1833 Port Arthur was used as a punishment station for repeat offenders from all the Australian colonies.

The Separate Prison was designed to deliver a new method of punishment, of reforming convicts through isolation and complementation. Convicts were locked for 23 hours each day in single cells. Here they ate, slept and worked, with just one hour a day allowed for exercise, alone , in a high-walled yard.

Today the grounds are kept in a park like state as a major tourist attraction. The displays in the visitor center are world class with some of the finest displays of craftsman we have seen anywhere. It’s as though the Australian Government wants to crassly put “lipstick on a Pig”, as this was not a very nice place to spend many years of ones life, sometimes for an offense as paltry as stealing a loaf of bread.

The grounds abound with beautiful old trees and beautiful gardens.

Two of these old Eucalyptus trees frame our ship at anchor, as they did for other ships all thorough those dark years.

This was also the disembarkation point where one determined convict ( Seaman Thomas Walker) successfully managed to make his 22nd escape by stealing the station Commandant’s small boat in broad daylight. Three years later he suffered wounds during his recapture, and subsequently died.

Next: Another Day at Sea, then Adelaide, Australia for an overnight

One thought on “Port Arthur, A Dark Chapter in Tasmania’s History

  1. Wow! How fascinating! I find it interesting that the time for personal contemplation with lock-down for 23 of 24 hours per day is considered an old view. We have begun to move away from that model of total confinement even regarding the most problematic and dangerous individuals. (save the exceptional case) There has been a shift realizing that it does more harm to the individual than good. Additionally it exasperates mental health symptoms for those who suffer with those issues. Very interesting! Thanks for the marvelous pictures.

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