Weekend Wandering – Tour of the Isle of Dead Cemetery, Port Arthur
While visiting Port Arthur in Tasmania we decided to do quite a few tours, and one of the ones we chose was the Isle of the Dead Cemetery. From the name you can see that is was on a separate island and we had to catch a boat to go there. The only way you can visit it is by boat and by taking the tour. So you don’t get a lot of time there.
Here is the island as we approached it.
All people who died, I think, at Port Arthur were taken to this island for burial. On the high part are the “free” people and the lower parts the convicts. The land, if I remember correctly, was not consecrated so anyone could be buried anywhere. Unlike most graveyards, it was divided into different denominations.
The free people had head stones, but very few of the convicts did. To get a headstone a letter would be sent home to the family saying that their relative had died, and if they wanted a marker they would need to send money back. This could take up to 18 months. So once the headstone was paid for it may not even be where the convict was buried. Since many of the convicts that came to Australia came because they were poor and living in appalling conditions, most families were unable to send money back, hence many unmarked graves.
Over 1100 people were buried on this small isle. Someone asked our tour guide if we were walking on buried people and she merely nodded her head. Is was such a small island that it must have been fun of graves, to fit that many.
I’m not going to say anymore now, here are some photos of the graves there. A quiet place, quiet contemplation for those that lived and served their time there. A hard place and something we need to remember.