Tasmanian treasures - Port Arthur

Friday, February 27, 2015

We were blessed, last Christmas, to have the opportunity to travel across the Bass Strait and spend some time exploring the little state of Tasmania.  Tasmania is unique and amazing and we quickly fell in love with this beautiful part of Australia.  We were surprised at the large variety of landscapes this island has to offer.  Besides spending enjoyable times with our precious family who live over there (which was our main reason for going)  we felt there were three places that we visited that stood out as 'must visits' if you are going to Tasmania.  At the very top of our list would have to be the historical penal settlement of Port Arthur.

The main jail

If you know our family this wouldn't surprise you.  History fascinates every one of us.  Australian history is very important as we both are descended from Australians for many generations.  Port Arthur represents a troubling, but very unique time in Australian history.  The site is truly amazing and I am so glad that they have worked at maintaining it.  

Port Arthur was a penal settlement  for the very worst of the convicts sent to Australia.  To arrive at Port Arthur you had to have at least two strikes against your name (usually from other penal settlements).  I cannot imagine the horror that this place saw, the stories these walls could tell...   

My favourite place was the old church.  It holds a sad beauty in it's place high on the hill overlooking the settlement.  Walking around, my mind was amazed at the old architecture.  It must have been magnificent in it's day!

The near island is the colony graveyard.  I would love to tour it should we visit again.  In the distance you can see the historical site.

The only real way to access the settlement was by sea.  A rugged trip into a bay surrounded by impenetrable wilderness.  The perfect place to prevent these convicts escaping.

There was a separate section for solitary confinement.  This was harsh and horrible.  My children left me in one of the cells and closed all the doors.  It was darker than you can imagine.  To have to pass time in such a place would have warped your mind.  I imagine many psychological problems were a result of solitary confinement.

  This is the solitary confinement church and every single seat is built so the prisoners can only see the minister.  They are unable to have any contact with each other. 

Of course the ministers were possibly a little more experienced than these...

As evening approached they reopened the big jail which had been closed for a period of time.  We were able to take a walk around inside and see the sizes of the cells (disgustingly tiny) and appreciate how very many prisoners such a space housed.  

Visiting these sites is the essence of true education.
These are the history lessons our children will remember for their lifetime!  

And finally the sun slipped under the horizon and we had to leave.
This place, set in such beauty, will continue to hold the harrowing tales for future generation of the atrocities that make up a significant part of our nation's history.  While we are acutely aware of how terrible these places were, we must also realise that if the prisoners weren't transported here to Australia, it certainly wouldn't be the wonderful country it is today!

~ As we study the past, may we gain a new appreciation for the times we live in~


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