Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Port Arthur, just outside Hobart is a city with a past

Author: Sidney Morgan

Port Arthur, near the Tasmanian capital of Hobart, has a dark history. Unlike many places that prefer to hide their darker secrets from the world, Port Arthur's convict settlement past makes it Tasmania's biggest tourist attraction. Tasmania, or Van Diemen's Land, as it was called, is perhaps unique in the world for the fact that it was originally settled to serve as a penal colony. Port Arthur was home to Australia's largest penal colony until it was finally closed in 1877 after 47 years in operation.

In the beginning, Port Arthur was designed to be a self-sufficient prison. To that end, prisoners were put to work, both doing hard labor and skilled and semi-skilled labor like cobblery, blacksmithing, stone masonry and other jobs. In the early days, corporal punishment was carried out regularly. Punishments included beatings with cat-0-nine-tails and inhumane periods of time spent in solitary confinement.

In the 1840s, changes were made to the English penal system. While these resulted in less corporal punishment, conditions remained harsh. In 1853, England quit sending convicts to Port Arthur and the prison population, which numbered 1200 at its peak, began to dwindle. As the prison population died and aged, it leveled out at around 500. Their psychological torture may be reflected in the construction of the Asylum in the 1860s.

The Port Arthur prison finally shut its doors in 1877 after the last prisoners were removed from the facility. While those prisoners who were alive were removed, that doesn't necessarily mean that all the prisoners left the prison. The Ghost Tour, one of the prison's most popular, leaves many visitors believing that deceased prisoners and others still lurk in the dark corridors at Port Arthur.

At least one of the Port Arthur ghosts may have actually been caught on videotape. Using a night vision camera, a man filmed his family as they toured the prison. He panned away from his family briefly and noticed nothing unusual. However, when they replayed the tape, they saw a "glowing mist" separate from her body and float down a prison corridor.

So many strange things happen to tourists at the Port Arthur penitentiary, officials have created a "strange occurrences" form. What they find most remarkable is that people who have never met each other or seen the documentation record similar and even identical occurrences. The Lady Blue, possibly the wife of a prison accountant who died while giving birth, has been seen on many occasions. On one occasion, a young child ran gleefully down an empty veranda with outstretched arms. When asked why, the child said that a nice lady who lived there wanted to play.

Port Arthur is not far from Hobart. It is only a ninety minute bus ride away. However, there is more to see than you can take in in just one day. It is a good idea to stay in a Port Arthur accommodation for at least one night before you go. Don't worry, you won't be staying in the jail! The Port Arthur of today is a beautiful, friendly town with great accommodations, restaurants and sights to see.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/destinations-articles/port-arthur-just-outside-hobart-is-a-city-with-a-past-4933894.html
About the Author
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