Friday, 21 September 2012

Tasmania - day 13

Port Arthur historical site

Today and half of tomorrow were always designated to The Port Arthur historic site and I have to say that this was the thing that probably excited me the most….i know I am strange but I like history….. I like trying to understand how they lived in the early days of Australia.

We started the day with an approx 40min talk with a guide at the site, he explained a lot about the site, the prisoners and the types of punishment that was dealt out, I found it extremely interesting as we heard perspectives of things that I have never considered before that.

After the talk we headed into what they called the model prison. The outside of which is round (a fair bit of this building has been rebuilt) the punishment in this building was predominately a sensory deprivation punishment. Whenever the prisoner was outside his cell he had to wear a hood over his head, they were not allowed to talk at anytime, the prison had 12 area’s were the prisoners could exercise and at anytime they were the only person in that area. This building also had the a cell that had no window, and during it’s time the prisoners had to walk through 3 separate solid wooden doors to ensure no light or sound could enter the cell.

C wing of the model prison

I guess you can see how much this interested me, I promise I won’t carry on too much

A window in the penitentiary building

The penitentiary building

The penitentiary building was originally built as a flourmill and granary, however in 1843 it was converted. It was capable of housing over 480 convicts. It also contained a library, mess room, Catholic chapel and workshop buildings.

A beautiful grand old tree along the avenue of Oaks

Accommodation for officers and their wives (another wonderfully restored building)

There are several building that have been faithfully restored so that visitors to the site are able to see what they may have looked like in their original state.

The Watchtower

The Isle de Mort (isle  of the dead) is a small island located in the harbor adjacent to the port Arthur historic site. Between 1833 and 1877 this island was used as the primary burial site, it is believed that over 1000 bodies are buried on the small island. The persons buried on the island include convicts, guards and free settlers. Fortunately the trip to the island included a guide who kept us all enthralled with the stories of the person’s buried on the island and how they met their demise or their role in the settlement. Definitely worth the visit.

The Isle de Mort (isle of the dead)

The headstones on the Isle of the dead (some of the spelling was pretty interesting)

We also had a guided tour of the Point Puer boys prison site, which was the first juvenile reformatory facility built in the British Empire, the idea being that the separating the boys from the adult convicts would increase their chance of reform. Whilst incarcerated in this facility the boys were taught any number of trades.

We had a wonderful day at Port Arthur, each of the staff members that we came in contact with were extremely passionate about sharing the knowledge they had, it was fabulous and I left wanting to know so much more about the people who lived in this extremely hostile environment.

We returned later that evening for the Port Arthur Ghost Tour. I am not going to go into much detail here as I believe this is a tour that you just need to experience for yourself. What I will say is picture in your mind walking around this site with only four kerosene lanterns to light your way as you wander into houses clothed in darkness , into a prison were your footsteps seemed to echo forever…….

It was a great day

Until tomorrow when we head back to port Arthur for more

The Knights

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