Posted by: danielfee | June 21, 2012

Travel Photo of the Day 06-21-2012

Sarah Island Penitentiary – Tasmania

Sarah Island Penitentiary – Tasmania

 The British shipped many convicts with the first settlers they sent to Australia. In the late 1790’s the City of Hobart was founded on the island of Tasmania of the southern coast of the Australian mainland. Although convicts were among those that were sent to Tasmania, penal colonies weren’t built until later when the free settlers demanded social demarcations. The criteria they established required that a penal colony had to be inhospitable and as far away as possible from Hobart. The Macquarie Harbor on the harsh west coast met this criteria and a small island in the harbor named Sarah Island was selected for the first penal colony. In 1822 the Sarah Island Penitentiary was opened and operated for 11 years until it was closed in 1833. It was believed that because the conditions on Sarah Island were so dreadful some prisoners committed murder in order to be sent to trail and executed in Hobart in lieu of being sent to this penal colony. Sarah Island took the worst convicts and those who had escaped from other settlements. The isolated island was ideally suited for its purpose. It was separated from the mainland by treacherous seas, surrounded by a mountainous wilderness, and was hundreds of miles away from the colony’s other settled areas. The only seaward access was through a treacherous narrow channel known as “Hell’s Gate”. Strong tidal currents resulted in the deaths of many convicts before they even reached the settlement due to ships foundering in the narrow rocky channel. Those that did make it to the island found that malnutrition, dysentery and scurvy were often rampant among the convict population. Conditions were so crowded that convicts were unable to sleep on their backs in the communal barracks. Punishment involved solitary confinement and regular floggings with 9,100 lashes given out in 1823. This was hell on earth for those who were sent here.



  1. I’m fascinated by this – great pics and interesting commentary. I’ve been researching Sarah Island fort a couple of posts I have done on David Hoy who was the master Shipwright there before moving to Port Arthur. Thanks so much for sharing – I would love to visit one day, in the meantime I enjoy your photos!

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