Monthly Archive: February 2018

Tasman Background – Life in the Penal Colony 0

Tasman Background – Life in the Penal Colony

Port Arthur’s convicts lived in barracks and were sent out to work various jobs: quarrying stone to build roads, working for settlers, digging coal, and harvesting trees for further development and for export. Many worked in centipede gangs carrying immense logs while wearing leg irons. A few earned privileges and worked for the commander and the military as scribes. The military managed the island. Soldiers maintained tight control and punishments were often severe: 10 lashes for stealing a potato, 50 lashes for taking a shovel, 100 lashes or execution for attempting an escape. After all, how can a prisoner truly...

Tasman Background – Port Arthur 0

Tasman Background – Port Arthur

The trek to Port Arthur took many months under the best conditions. The voyage crossed and re-crossed the Atlantic, sailed beyond the Indian Ocean, and ended up at the southern tip of Tasmania. The quaint-looking village was actually a penal colony where the British sent convicts to work as slaves to help The Crown produce saleable products (timber, coal). It also kept control of the southern most trade route between the Spice Islands and Europe, a location of world importance in the 1850s. Settlers as well as released convicts were encouraged to remain on the island to establish  British control...

Tasman Background – On the Ship 0

Tasman Background – On the Ship

  Work on board a ship was unending. Since sailing required 24-hour attention, the crew worked long shifts. Bells signaled each hour and their shifts. Workers who didn’t perform their duties were often punished by being beaten and/or having their rations cut. Off-shift sailors took to different ways to use their time. Many played cards and brawled. Others created scrimshaw items to sell. They used knives and carved animal-shapes or intricate designs into bones. Once in a harbor, they sold them to earn money for drinking in grog shops or to buy products while ashore. In addition to manning the...

Tasman Background – Sailing From England 0

Tasman Background – Sailing From England

In the 1850s sailing ships plied the earth carrying cargoes as varied as the ports they visited. Live animals, local crops, mined ore, lumber, government notices and soldiers as well as letters and humans; convicts were among its paid cargo. The trip to Port Arthur, Tasmania meant stops along the way: Tenerife, Rio, Cape Town. Ships used the trade winds to advantage as they distributed or exchanged both sanctioned and secret cargoes. Most honored Neptune, the god of the sea, when if they crossed the equator. That meant raucous celebrations or silly antics while wearing outlandish outfits consisting of buckets...