History Day - Port Arthur, etc.

I am sitting in the lovely shaded gravel-paved car park (parking lot) of Mrs. Currie’s B&B in Richmind, poaching an internet connection. I’m going to try to keep my posts chronological, relying on (gasp) hand-written notes to remind me of what I did where and when.

I woke up Saturday morning to the sound of the sea lapping just over the dunes outside my cottage, and decided to go for a jog along the beach because it was still two hours until breakfast. It was odd and wonderful to have no headphones, and to hear only the strange avian calls and incoming tide lapping on the beach.There was no man-made trash on the strand, and the few shells that threatened my bare feet were easily avoided. I also chose to dodge some strange gelatenous masses that were probably harmless denizens of the deep, but had a pretty strong “ick” factor.image

If I find out what they are, I’ll fill you in. 

Breakfast was substantial in the traditional English school, cereal, yogurt, fruit, eggs, beasn, grilled mushrooms and tomato, and for those so inclined, bacon and sausage. The bread and jams were homemade and delicious. I was tempted to keep eating, but as many of you will know, intake of anything solid before 10AM is ordinarily beyond me, so I exercised a modicum of self restraint.

My first POI was Port Arthur Historic Site about 20 minutes away. I had my trepidations when I pulled in and found tier after tier of overflow car parks and bus parking, but even at 11AM on a summer Sunday, the place was sparsely populated. I figured I would spend an hour or two touring the ruins of the 19th century convict colony, but finally left at about 4:30PM. 

The visitor’s center very cleverly presents each visitor with a playing card. The card matches an actual individual who inhabited the site, and whose story is told in the musuem beneath the main entrance. I had to search for my 2 of hearts, which matched a young lad (aged 9) who was sentenced to transportation for stealing a handkerchief from a London lady. That must have been one damn fine handkershief, given that the boy served 7 years of hard (hard to a degree that I find unfathomable) labor at Port Arthur.

All visitors are booked for an introductory tour, and I learned from chatting with other visitors that no two tours are alike. Each tourguide chooses to talk about whatever details he or she finds most ingteresting, while giving a general overview of the history of the settlement. My young woman talked mostly about the Special Prison, where reformers, including Jeremy Bentham, conceiver of the panopticon back in Merry Olde Englande, decided that physical punishment (such as lashes, up to 100, with a cat o’ nine-tails) should be replaced by solitary confinement. Prisoners were held in 5’ x 8’ cells, in silence and total darkness, on a diet of bread and water, for up to 3 weeks. The Insane Asylum was constructed next door to this prison. Fancy that. I won’t go into a lot of details about the history and construction of the site buildings, but if you are interested, the Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Arthur,_Tasmania) gives a pretty fair overview and the photos are better than mine.

About to lose my internet. More later!