Port Arthur (Tasmania)

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Port Arthur
Port Arthur Seaside.jpg
View over Port Arthur
State : AustraliaAustralia Australia
State : Flag of Tasmania.svg Tasmania
Founded : 1830
Coordinates : 43 ° 9 ′  S , 147 ° 51 ′  E Coordinates: 43 ° 9 ′  S , 147 ° 51 ′  E
Height : 192  m
Area : 56.5  km²
Residents : 251 (2016)
Population density : 4.4 inhabitants per km²
Time zone : AEST (UTC + 10)
Postal code : 7182
LGA : Tasman Municipality
Website :
Port Arthur (Tasmania)
Port Arthur
Port Arthur

Port Arthur is a former prison in the Australian convict colony in the Australian state of Tasmania and is now one of the island's major tourist attractions. Adjacent is the place Port Arthur with about 250 inhabitants. Port Arthur is known, among other things, through the novel Lebenslänge by Marcus Clarke and the Port Arthur massacre, in which 35 people were killed in 1996.

Since August 2010 Port Arthur has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List .


Port Arthur is located on the Tasman Peninsula , about 60 km southeast of the capital Hobart (about 120 km by car). The peninsula is connected to the mainland by the Eaglehawk Neck land bridge, which is only 400 m long and around 30 m wide at its narrowest point .


Largest convict colony in Australia

Model Prison, Port Arthur

Originally there was a logging settlement on the site of Port Arthur since 1830. From 1833 until the 1850s, it was the place where Britain sent the convicts with the highest sentences. Defiant inmates from other prisons were also posted here. Port Arthur is one of the best examples of a panopticon model prison based on Pentonville prison in London . This shows the transition from physical to psychological punishment. The opinion had developed that the corporal punishment practiced in other prisons only hardened the convicts and in no way dissuaded them from their path in the desired way. This led to the construction of the model prison in Port Arthur , in which a system of silent punishment was practiced. Absolute calm had to prevail at all times. Some of the prisoners had to wear hoods. Both inmates and guards were prohibited from speaking beyond what was necessary. Even during the obligatory church visit, the inmates were led one by one into the chapel, in which there were cubicles that prevented eye and body contact with other inmates. The quiet should give prisoners the opportunity to reflect on and repent of their actions. Although the prisoners' accommodation and working conditions were comparable to, and in many ways worse, those of other prisons of the time, Port Arthur served for some time as a model for reforming the British penal system. Port Arthur was one of the safest prisons of its time. This was not least due to the natural location of the peninsula. It is enclosed by the Tasman Sea and only connected to the mainland by a very narrow land bridge. A fence was drawn across the width of this land bridge. In addition, dogs were tied to stakes, which should make it impossible for the inmates to escape. Contact between the crew of arriving ships and the occupants was prevented. The ships also had to surrender their sails and oars on arrival. Similar to the much later Alcatraz in San Francisco , the prisoners were told on arrival that it was impossible to escape. However, this did not prevent some inmates from attempting to escape. Because of the absurd circumstances, Billy Hunt's attempt to escape is probably the most notorious. Hunt disguised himself as a kangaroo and tried to escape via Eaglehawk Neck. The disguise was so good that the hungry guards tried to shoot the supposed kangaroo, whereupon Hunt surrendered.

Although the prison marks the beginning of a new age in the handling of prisoners, the conditions for the inmates have been just as harsh and cruel as elsewhere. Some also take the view that the psychological punishment of the prisoners, combined with the certainty that it is impossible to escape, was worse than physical punishment. Some convicts are said to have killed to escape life in Port Arthur, even if by death. A description of the conditions can the Roman life sentence of Marcus Clarke be removed. On the nearby Isle of the Dead (Isle of the Dead), both occupants were buried and staff if they died in Port Arthur. According to the records, there are 1,646 graves there, but only those of the 180 staff who died have a tombstone. Shipping of prisoners to Port Arthur ended in the 1850s. The prison did not finally close until 1877.

Juvenile prison

Church ruins in Port Arthur

Many young people, including children up to nine years of age, were also sent to Port Arthur for crimes such as stealing toys. Just like the adult inmates, the teenagers had to work during their stay in Port Arthur. This included working in the quarry or building buildings. One of the structures built was Australia's first multi-denominational church, built in a Gothic style and burned down in the bushfires of 1895 and 1897.

Development of tourism

After the closure of the prison, the place was renamed Carnarvon . In the 1880s the land in and around the prison was sold and a place developed. Devastating bush fires ravaged the area in 1895 and 1897 and destroyed many other buildings in addition to the church and the old prison wing. In the period that followed, a new location was built with its own post office and other facilities.

The first beginnings of tourism came very soon after the prison was closed. In 1916 a committee ( Scenery Preservation Board ) was formed to manage the former prison. By 1927, the importance of tourism as a source of income grew so much that the name of the place was changed back to Port Arthur. The National Parks and Wildlife Service took over the facility in the 1970s .

Since 1979, the facility has received funding for the maintenance and restoration of the site. Some sandstone buildings built by the inmates, such as B. the model Prison , the Round Tower , the church and the remains of the main wing were stripped of ivy and restored according to their appearance in the 19th century. In 1987, the facility was taken over by the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority and sponsored by the Tasmanian government.

The Port Arthur Massacre

On April 28, 1996, the then 28-year-old Martin Bryant killed a total of 35 people and injured another 19. 20 people died within a few minutes in the café in Port Arthur, which was well attended during lunchtime. The café was subsequently demolished. There is a memorial for the victims of the attack in its place. The events led to intense discussion in Australia and ultimately to increased requirements for the possession of automatic weapons .

Web links

Commons : Port Arthur  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Summary statistics PORT ARTHUR (PALMERS LOOKOUT). Australian Bureau of Meteorology, accessed April 18, 2014 .
  2. a b Australian Bureau of Statistics : Port Arthur ( English ) In: 2016 Census QuickStats . June 27, 2017. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  3. ^ Australian Convict Sites. In: World Heritage List. UNESCO , accessed April 18, 2014 .
  4. ^ World Heritage and the Australian Convict Sites. (No longer available online.) Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, archived from the original on March 23, 2015 ; accessed on April 18, 2014 (English). Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.portarthur.org.au