Port Arthur and its history

by Petra Bucheli

Friday 24th February, 2012

Punctually at um 8:30am I entered the time machine which brought me to the year 1830. Tasmania was still called Van Diemen's Land and in Port Arthur logger camps were build where convicts had to work. Starting 1833 repeat offenders from all Australia were moved here. At 1840 more than 2000 convicts, soldiers and civil employees lived in Port Arthur. After the transport of convicts to Van Diemen's Land ended in 1853, mainly convicts with psychical or physical illnesses stayed here. 1877 the camp was closed and many building abolished or destroyed by bush fires. A few houses got sold and a small town named Carnarvon developed. The stories told about this place led to the first tourists coming at around 1920 to see the ruins. Hotels and shops opened in the area and the place got renamed again to Port Arthur. End of April 1996 another tragic chapter was added to this historical place. A spree killer shot 35 people and another 19 got hurt. Next to the ruin at the place of the massacre there is a water filled block. I examined the compound in detail and is it was imposing what all happened here. After the visiting all the buildings I drove towards Remarkable Cave. According to two maps there should be a gravel road, but it was paved until the end. What did I learn: do not always believe the map! I wend down to the caves and could see how a bit of water flushed back and forth. It was beautiful, even if it just was low tide. Then I continued to White Beach. Here I made a long walk along the beach and enjoyed the turquoise water. I visited the coal mines as I did not yet have enough Tasmanian history. Here the convicts had to mine coal and also here there were ruins to visit. On the way to the mines I saw an old friend: a black and yellow bird. As I later learned this is a cockatoo. Konrad and I saw already one in the Wilson Promontory National Park. My way led to Taranna. Here is the first animal park in Australia to give the visitors an understanding of the Tasmanian devil. As I reached the park the local birds got introduced. Soon the eastern quolls got fed. Eastern quolls look like cats, but are related to the Tasmanian devil. It was funny how fast they found their hidden food. There was still some time until the feeding of the Tasmanian devils which I was waiting for. The park also has kangaroos and wallabies, but those I did not visit as I like them more outside in the wild. The feeding was rough, they get the meat and fought about their food. That is the reason for their name.