Thoughts on Location No 26
Port Arthur, Lower East Coast, Tasmania
Tracing the footsteps of our convict past at the Port Arthur Historic Site, I must say it was a little difficult being there. That one place can be the site of so much sadness, is enough to make you stop and think. It certainly made me stop and think.
Standing in front of the ruins of the penitentiary, where convicts were once housed in tiny cells barely wider than a bed, it was hard to imagine what life was like for them 160 (and more) years ago. Let’s not forget that ‘the colonies’ was an answer to a population problem and it was not uncommon to be ‘banished’ to New South Wales for stealing a loaf of bread.
Most of the convicts who found themselves at Port Arthur were men who had committed crimes after they had arrived in the colonies; some of these crimes were serious, but the greater majority were not, merely stealing or trying to escape. There were vicious criminals among them, but they were the minority.
There was a separate prison at Port Arthur and even a prison for boys across the bay. At the ripe old age of nine you were considered an adult, answerable for your crimes and potentially, you could be shipped off to the other side of the world.
Anyway, this is not a history lesson.
We spend several hours at the Port Arthur Historic Site and then also went to the Coal Mines Historic Site, where coal was mined to support the settlement at Port Arthur and a 30 minutes drive away on the other side of the Tasman peninsular.
The solitary punishments cells were hard to look at. Small and dingy, set beneath a hill, with no light and very little air. It must have been an extremely miserable existence for any convict locked behind one of the doors.
I have loaded photos on the Photography page, and as you will see, amid the sadness, I found a few items of beauty.
We stayed four nights at the Big4 Port Arthur Holiday Park and I cannot say enough nice things about it. From the friendly owners, to the large generous, drive-through sites nestled within a woodland forest, to the on-site fire pits and barbecues and camp kitchen.
Each evening we were visited by potaroos and wallabies, each day by birds, all of them comfortable being around humans, very friendly and looking for a bit of food.
This little Superb Fairywren and his harem of girls would flit in and out, darting all over the place and I’m surprised he stayed still long enough for me to click the camera in his direction.
The park is only a 20 minute walk from the Port Arthur Historic Site, but we drove the car around the corner.
After more than five hours of walking around the site, exploring 40 acres of buildings and centuries of history, we were glad we did bring the car.
We said goodbye to Port Arthur yesterday and are now in Hobart.