Criminal HistoryA WANDER DOWN UNDER, CHAPTER 8: IN WHICH TRANSPORTATION TAKES ON A NEW MEANING
Day 9: Hobart to Port Arthur & back. This morning we left the hotel to drive southeast to the Port Arthur Historic Site, an extensive reminder of Australia's origin as a penal colony. Near the town of Dunalley, we began to see unusual looking trees along the roadside. Though the limbs and branches had no leaves, the trunks of these trees were covered with short leafy stems, making them look as if they were coated in green fur. We surmised that the leaves were some kind of parasite growing on the trees and that its presence had killed the host tree.
A bit later, when a road construction stop gave us the opportunity to examine the trees more closely, we realized they had been burned. When we finally discovered the truth, we learned that these, and all, eucalypts come equipped with epicormic buds, small regenerative agents that lie dormant below the bark. Damage from a bushfire in the area last year stimulated these little lifesavers to develop into active shoots, which will later become new branches and limbs for the trees.
Back on track at last, we finally made our way to Port Arthur, Australia's most famous penal settlement, which operated from 1830 to 1877. During the 19th century, more than 165,000 men, women and children were involuntarily transported to various Australian penal colonies by British authorities due to overcrowding in their correctional facilities. Built on Tasmania's remote Mason Cove and surrounded by dense forests, Port Arthur had a location that effectively discouraged escape attempts among a population of convicts who were, for the most part, non-swimmers.
|Guard tower looms over prison walls|
The cost of admission included a harbor tour and guided walking tour of the site. In the visitor center, we sampled some local foods for lunch and found them to be quite tasty. Intermittent showers kept us off the walking tour but we did find time to search unsuccessfully for a letterbox planted on site.
|Memorial Garden (photo from portarthur.org)|
Tomorrow we plan to check out a famous view and hook up with some native Tasmanians.
Road Noise:Though we have noticed nothing unusual about mailboxes in the cities we've visited in Australia, rural mailboxes are quite another story. We're not talking about a mailbox that looks like a fish or a tractor; these are mailboxes that are a helmet, or an old microwave oven, a milk jug, a tire. Apparently anything is eligible to be a rural mailbox as long as it has a slot in which to deliver mail. It's actually quite entertaining, as it gives one something to look for while driving down even the humblest of roads.
|Helmet mailbox (photo from http://www.pbase.com/mike_n/)|
- Started in Hobart, ended in Hobart
- Mileage - 152 (Trip total: 10,809)
- Weather - 45° to 59°, Sunny with scattered showers
- Quirky mailboxes - 37
THURSDAY, 11 SEPTEMBER, 2014
More Photos from Today
|The temporary quarters of Dunalley Primary School, destroyed in the bushfire mentioned above|
|Near the tessellated pavement, we saw this little guy in a battle with some birds. No, not a Tasmanian Devil. A brushtail possum.|
|One wall of Devils Kitchen, a gulch created by the collapse of a sea tunnel, Tasman National Park|
|Lush gardens were developed for the enjoyment of the prison staff and their families who lived at Port Arthur.|
|The Port Arthur church appears to be still intact.|
|A different viewpoint reveals otherwise.|
|This wine in the Port Arthur restaurant may be taking a theme a bit too far.|