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Monday, April 5, 2010

Convict Coal Mines


We went to the Tasman Peninsular for Easter and stayed at White Beach which is about 10 mins from Port Arthur. Many of you will know that Port Arthur was the site settled by the English as a Penal Colony for their  convicted criminals in the 1830's. Lesser known is the coal mining operation begun on the other side of the Peninsular using convict labour, around the 1840's.

The picture above shows the ruins of what used to be the infirmary, the chapel and cookhouse. They were made from huge sandstone blocks cut from a plentiful quarry in the area. In the foreground you can just see the ruins of some of the cottages belonging to free people and married officers made from sandstone and convict brick.


Also on the site are the underground cells where convicts were punished most monstrously; during their working day they toiled in pitch black in the mines and then were returned to the pitch black of an underground cell. This cell was pitch black but is naturally flooded with light because of the flash. You can get an idea of the size of the cell though, and the thick walls would also have been deprivatory for other senses too. Nothing to see, nothing to hear, no-one to communicate with, left in a never ending world of misery. Surely the hospital was used for a regular stream of men gone mad.

This settlement covered quite a large area and had many significant structures built but in the end the coal was inferior in quality and the operations declined and were eventually abandoned. The bush has reclaimed most of the areas but the site is managed and maintained very sensitively and is well documented for visitors. Amazingly admission is still free and views alone in the area are worth the visit. Most people come to Tasmania and visit Port Arthur (which takes a whole day) but if you take the time their is so much more to see in the area.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, very interesting.
    Blessings
    Diane

    ReplyDelete

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