OK convicts, gather around
Port Arthur Travel Blog› entry 6 of 6 › view all entries
It has just passed 3 oâclock by the time I arrived at Port Arthur. At the front desk, I paid my entrance fee and got the run down on the things available for me to do. I had missed the last tour to the Isle of the Dead but could still catch the cruise around the harbour at 3:30. When I paid my entrance fee I received a map of the site, a ticket to a guided walking tour and a card (mine was the queen of hearts but the whole deck is represented), which once I found the Lottery of life Interpretation Gallery, allowed me to follow the life of one of the Port Arthur Penal Settlementâs convicts. As I moved through the gallery, I followed the markers for the queen of hearts and learnt the life story of Abraham Hood age 20, a native of Dalkeith in Scotland, convicted in 1819 for stealing a horse and whose penalty was 14 years transportation. The interpretation Gallery shows many aspect of the life of the convicts from the ship they travelled on through their life at Port Arthur and what became of them when they left the penal colony.
While waiting for the last cruise of the afternoon I wondered around a bit and took a few photos before making my way to the ferry terminal. Do you remember the Irish lass I met at the Devilâs Kitchen? Well I met her again here, waiting for the cruise. Liz was with her friend Jacqueline and we finally managed to finish our conversation, and not only that one, but over the course of the afternoon were able to start and finish a few more.
After the cruise, I headed for the penitentiary where I climbed the scaffold like staircase built to preserve what is left of the walls after the building was gutted by fire in 1897. The whole site is constantly having reconstruction work done. I stopped to talk to a lady rebuilding a retaining wall for a vegetable garden.
I followed one of the paths away from the penitentiary up the hill to the law courts and the guard tower. I got a few nice photos but it was here that my camera battery ran out. I checked my bag for my spare and realised I had left my camera case in the car with the spare in it. Therefore, I was left with the decision to keep exploring knowing I wouldnât be able to take any more photos, or make my way back to the car to get the spare battery. I chose the first option as I was almost as far away from the car as I could get at Port Arthur, so the next part of my day goes undocumented by photos. I went to the Commandantâs House where the rooms are set up as they would have been back in the day. I ran into Liz and Jacqui again here, we swapped emails (thanks for reminding me to look her up on facebook), and then I went back to the car for my spare battery.
From the car park I headed towards the church via government Gardens, I have to tell you this place is very pretty. The gardens are gorgeous. Once I was at the church and my spare battery ran out... oh, did I mention I forgot to charge my spare battery? Well I did and I took a photo of the bells at the church and - blackout. Whoops. Well, lucky for you I have a couple of photos of the church from my previous visit, but there were other things I saw that I wanted to take photos of, many, many things I wanted to take photos of, but I only have the memories. From the church, I followed the path to the old post office building where I sat on the step out the front writing in my journal and enjoying the stunning view.
I went in but didnât feel any ghosts present, I sat for a while in one room that I believe has had strange happenings but nothing happened while I was there. I have heard many accounts of people hearing footsteps, doors mysteriously opening and seeing women in white dresses. I am always disappointed when I donât see ghosts in haunted places, one day I might get to see one. :)
From here I made my way up the path to where the Junior Medical Officerâs House, Roman Catholic Chaplainâs House and Magistrateâs and Surgeonâs House were. It was now 4 pm and had found a bench out the front of the surgeons place. I remember this house being the creepiest on the ghost tour I took last time. As I sat, I observed the beautiful blue sky with a thick white band of cloud meandering its way over the water and out to sea. It made for a pretty sight. It was a glorious time of day when birds sat chirping in the treetops; the sun was no longer shining on Port Arthur and was just lighting the tops of the trees where the birds sit chirping.
There were still a few buildings I had yet to explore, but I was just about ready to leave, I stood up to go but suddenly found myself walking up the hill in the direction of the buildings I hadnât explored where there was smoke billowing out of one of the chimneys. The building turned out to be one I remember from last time, the Separate Prison with the chapel. There have been improvements made here since my last visit. At one end were some cells where displays have been set up in most of them. As you walk down the corridor between the cells, you hear the sounds of daily prison life. I heard sounds of shoe making from one cell and broom making from another, yet another cell had the bed set up which was a hammock hooked to each end of the room that the prisoner could remove from the walls and set up his small table and stool for the hours he would spend in here alone. 23 hours of the day the prisoner would spend in his cell, the other hour was for solitary exercise in the grim three walled exercise yard, the only other time the prisoners left their cells was for cleaning duties and going to the chapel. Any time the prisoner left his cell, he wore a masked to prevent eye contact with other inmates. âIn a quiet, ordered atmosphere a man could contemplate his sin and change his life.â I guess it canât be too bad, people pay a lot of money these days to go on silent retreats where they donât speak for weeks at a time. :)
... and so on to the Lunatic Asylum where the âLunaticâsâ found a home. Today the diagnosis would be for depression, dementia or mental disability. In the Lunatic Asylum, I found another new addition, the museum, with hundreds of original artefacts on display.
I slowly made my way back across the site to the information centre, but before leaving, I strolled into the memorial garden for the 1996 massacre when 35 people lost their lives. The memorial has a reflective pool and is a pretty place that invites quiet contemplation.
The walls of the Broad Arrow cafe still stand as an additional memorial to the 19 people who died within its walls in a 90-second shooting spree. Only now, there are not tables full of chattering diners, but a solitary bench at one end where I sat for a few minutes reflecting on the tragedy and the effect it has had in people's lives, and looking at the two bunches of flowers placed on the floor in what seemed like random spots, but knowing they were not.
As I have mentioned, the last time I visited Port Arthur there was a horrible feeling in the air, this time when I went the feeling was more one of love and peace. It is almost as if the site has come to terms with its terrible past and is willing to let it go, but wants to keep reminders there for people like me to remember the people who died and the people left behind whose live changed forever that April day.
Death has taken its toll
Some pain knows no release
But the knowledge of brave compassion
Shines like a pool of peace.
May we who come to this garden
Cherish life for the sake of those who died
Cherish compassion for the sake of those who gave aid
Cherish peace for the sake of those in pain.
Thank you my TravBuddies for spending the day with me as I explored new and revisited places here in Tasmania. I hope you have enjoyed my little blog and the photos I did manage to take along the way before my batteries ran out. Note to self: Donât forget to recharge your camera batteries. :)