Port Arthur

Thursday November 1, 2007 (Day 16)

Port Arthur

From our hotel in Hobart we took a tour of Port Arthur. Along the way we visited the forests and the coast line of the Tasman Peninsula including the three picture sequences: "Tasman Arch Devils Kitchen", "Tasman National Park Lookout" and "Tessellated Pavement".

Port Arthur is a small town and former convict settlement on the Tasman Peninsula, in Tasmania, Australia and is located approximately 60 km south east of Hobart.

Port Arthur is also the scene of the worst mass murder event in Australian History. On April 28, 1996, Martin Bryant went on a killing spree at Port Arthur, murdering 35 people and wounding 37 more before being captured by Special Operatives Police. This led to a national ban on semi-automatic shotguns and rifles. It also forged a relationship between the town and Dunblane, a Scottish town which suffered a similar incident earlier that year.

Port Arthur was named after Van Diemen´s Land lieutenant governor George Arthur. The settlement started as a timber station in 1830; it is best known for being a penal colony. From 1833, until 1850s, it was a destination for the hardest of convicted British and Irish criminals, those who were secondary offenders having re-offended after their arrival in Australia. The Separate Prison was completed in 1853 and extended in 1855. The 80 cell prison was built in the shape of a cross with radial exercise yards around a central hall and chapel. It signaled a shift from physical punishment to psychological punishment.

It was thought that the hard corporal punishment, such as whippings, used in other penal stations only served to harden criminals, and did nothing to turn them from their immoral ways. Under this system of punishment the "Silent System" was implemented in the building. Here prisoners were hooded and made to stay silent, this was supposed to allow time for the prisoner to reflect upon the actions which had brought him there. Port Arthur is compared to the inescapable prison Alcatraz.