Day 10. 24th October 2018.
To be honest, I've lost count of what day it is. I think it's day 10, so let's just agree to call it day 10. Surely that's a sign of a holiday well enjoyed? Our last day in Tasmania, and a schedule busier than Madonna touring Adelaide.
We waved farewell to our final hosts this morning after lazily packing and getting ready for the day. This was by the time the chooks had hatched an escape plan and flown the coop to scratch around on the other side of the fence and the rooster had had his way with the unsuspecting brown hen under the bush in the corner of their yard. I was wondering why his black and white feather-duster tail was whomping up and down as it poked out from the bush. Very soon after, his exit and the brown hen's walk of shame explained all. Everything is right in the world and the weather today was perfect for a wander around the historic site of Port Arthur.
It would be ambitious to think you could take in the whole site in a day. There's a lot to see, and as you walk around taking in the stories, a sense of heaviness comes across you as the magnitude of the site's horrors become increasingly apparent. Thanks to some local insight (thanks, Jesse!) we made sure we headed to a couple of the must-sees on site during our wanderings.
The introductory walk was good for orientation and landed us fairly close to one of the sites we were keen to check out: the Separate Prison. We learned that lashing convicts was an ineffective way of nurturing positive change (what a surprise!) so something different was needed for the bad buggers who kept offending. What better way to break the human spirit than a purpose-built prison of solitary confinement? Prisoners were shut away for 23 hours a day and allowed one hour for exercise. They were stripped of their identity and forbidden from communicating with each other in any way. When moving about the complex, they were required to wear a mask with eye holes to conceal their identity. Even the chapel was designed to isolate them from anyone but god (in this case, the priest who was delivering the sermon). Prisoners were shunted into individual boxes, standing, from which they could see the holy man, but no other person. The only time they were permitted to use their own voice, or heard that of another, was when they sang in church. Even the guards communicated by sign language and wore felt shoes, so silence reigned in the separate prison.
The lunatic asylum stands next to the separate prison, which is where paupers and invalids often cycled between. "Luckily", the paupers and invalids building was next door, so not too far to travel for them. The stories of how prisoners were treated are spine chilling. Remember: some of these people had been transported for theft. We're not necessarily talking about major criminals. Another form of punishment in the prison was the treadmill. The grainery on site had a mill stone, powered by a wheel for which there had never been enough water to run it. Instead, convicts were sentenced to walk the tread mill - a non stop series of steps (the turning wheel) in order to get the stone into action.
The included harbour cruise was also worth the time, passing Puer Point, where the boys' prison was housed. It was the first boys' prison in the British Empire, and as such has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. We also cruised past the Isle of The Dead - the final resting place for prisoners who never made it out of the colony.
There was a lot of walking to be had, exploring ruins and some in-tact cottages in the prison camp area. There is more to see next time we visit: the Government Gardens - a nice place for the free settlers of the area to visit. There's also the village at the top of the hill where those people lived, but as the discordant chiming of the church bells rang through the air, we called it a day, our weary legs having carried us through about half of the site. It was a sombre activity for our last day, but well worth the visit.