Friday, June 8, 2012

Hell on Earth

A few days ago I posted about Walhalla with the throw away title of “Al goes to Heaven”.
Well tonight I am talking about another spectacularly beautiful place that was once quite simply hell for those who lived, worked and often died there.
Down in Tasmania on the spectacularly beautiful Tasman Peninsula, not far from the world famous ruins of Port Arthur lies another set of Convict Era ruins.
Approaching the ruins today, you walk through peaceful bushland, then quite suddenly you come into open ground and up on a mound to one side you see this.

Following the path around you come up onto the platform that once formed the parade ground of the settlement that was here.
It is eerily beautiful, and I had a great time catching angles:
From inside the bakehouse

Across the ground to a barrack house
And looking through the remains of the hospital you get a hint of just how spectacular the scenery around here is.
But just a short stroll up the hill beneath what was a brick built guard house is a pointer to how terrible this place was.
Because, you see, this location is known as “The Convict Coal Mines”
The prisoners here had been sent from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales to the far ends of the Earth.
For some convicts life in Oz was not in the end too bad. Once they served their sentence they really did have a chance at a new life.
But the prisoners who came here came to a real hell.
Coal mines anywhere in the 19th century were terrible. But to add to that these men were not skilled miners, but in most cases unskilled prisoners from the slums of the UK.
They slaved underground in the most abysmal conditions driven on by the usual punishments of the day, floggings and the like.
But there was an extra punishment for those who the system chose to break.
I am guilty of misdirection with my tales of treasury vaults last night.

Those of you who said a vaulted ceiling were right.
Because under that guardhouse were the punishment cells
This passage gives a hint of how dark this space was. Bear in mind that where the light is pouring in today was once below ground in a prison cellar, the ceiling at the far end has collapsed.

Here is a piccie of one of the cells. It is just long enough for me to lie down. I had to duck to get under this ceiling and the width is just a little more than my shoulders.
It only looks light because I had to use a flash to get this shot. Without it I could not see the end even with the light from the hall. The only positive thing about them is even as a ruin they are dry.
As a punishment, men were locked in these spaces for days and sometimes weeks at a time in the pitch dark. And when they were let out it was only to face another round down the mine.
Above is so beautiful today it is quite sobering to see this evidence of just what a hell this place was.


Linda G. said...

Wow. That would have been hellish indeed.

Old Kitty said...

Poor miners! :-(

Hope there's some kind of plaque in their honour or something!

Take care

Kathleen Jones said...

Very sobering Al. It's sad that such terrible things had to happen in such a beautiful place. I wish I could say that the Brits learned their lessons early on and stopped sending our unwanted human baggage over to Oz, but we were still sending surplus children over in the 1960s. A difficult legacy to live with.

MTeacress said...

Appropriate name for this post then...