We didn’t see a single devil! Tasmania, you failed us!
How exciting to be somewhere we’ve never been…Tasmania, formerly Van Dieman’s Land. Port Arthur is beautiful, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We found it surprising that it is so pretty, since its history is very sad. Port Arthur was established in 1830 as a lumber camp, using convicts for the hard labor. But just three years later, a penal station was built for the hardest of England’s criminals, offenders already in Australia who had committed further crimes. The punishment model included discipline, moral instruction, skills training, education, and of course, severe physical infliction of pain. It broke many of the men, but others left rehabilitated, as blacksmiths and shipbuilders.
Within seven years, Port Arthur was populated with 2,000 convicts, soldiers, and civil staff. As you can see from the building ruins, parts were modeled on castles, parts on a penitentiary. The church in the colony burned to the ground, with just the shell left behind. The penal colony closed in 1877, and many buildings were dismantled or burned. In order to rid itself of the convict stain, the area eventually transformed itself into a small town that was called Carnarvon. But the stories of convict life here became a tourist draw, with museums and shops established that related to the penitentiary, and it resumed its former name of Port Arthur. Today it is an open-air museum, and the building ruins resemble castles more than a prison. The tree-lined paths, giant gorgeous trees, and views of the harbor make it a very pretty location, as you can see in the scenic photos.
There was an interesting display in the Visitor’s Center with items that were taken from the site years earlier and subsequently returned….mostly rocks and bricks. The accompanying letters stated that since taking the items, the “thief” had had a series of bad luck events, so the return was to make restitution (and, presumably, have their fortunes turn around). One woman who returned some rocks her husband had taken signed her letter, A Contrite Woman and her Dumb Husband. The final photo sounds like a horror movie that we would enjoy, but…no. It is a tour you can take from the Visitor’s Center….the Isle of the Dead. It is a separate island that acted as a cemetery for the prisoners. We don’t call cemeteries Land of the Dead or Garden of the Dead, so we found this name for what is a cemetery to be most interesting and unusual.