Thursday, June 22, 2017
Sinister Sarah Island
Our Macquarie Harbour cruise included a visit to Sarah Island. This was the site of one of the worst penal settlements in Australia. It only operated from 1822 to 1833 and was intended to hold the worst convicts and those that had escaped from other convict settlements. Although any convict escapee would have to first cross the cold water of the harbour and then battle through the dense rain forest and its snakes and insects (see my post below), around 20 of them did escape. Most were recaptured or died in the attempt. The most notorious one was Alexander Pearce. In September 1822 he escaped with 7 others, and survived by killing and eating the others before he was caught again. He escaped again the next year, this time with a young convict; again Pearce survived by killing and eating him. On 19 July 1824 he was hanged in Hobart for his crimes. Another group of convicts escaped in a ship they were building in the government shipyard and sailed across the Pacific to Chile. When the penal station closed, the convicts were transferred to Port Arthur (see earlier posts). Today the island is part of the heritage area. The only remains of the penal colony are ruins, some in roped-off enclosures with explanatory signs and many just slowly eroding away in the jungle.