We started the day with birthday presents and balloons. It’s our middle boy’s birthday today, and there is arguably no better way to celebrate than going to the Port Arthur Historic Site. Port Arthur is a village and historic site in southern Tasmania, Australia. Sitting on the Tasman Peninsula, it was a 19th-century penal settlement (considered to be the worst of the worst…) and is now an open-air museum. Ruins include the huge penitentiary and the remaining shell of the Convict Church, which was built by inmates. Solitary confinement cells in the Separate Prison building were used to inflict mental punishment. It had the toughest conditions for british convicts and had become a symbolic and historical monument in Australian history. To be honest, we personally failed to appreciate its historic significance, as we were underwhelmed by the events which took place here nearly 200 years ago. The cruelty of human beings towards other humans, including women and children, is a poor example of what the human kind is capable of.
We took the 1-hour local tour to hear about the history, before we continued on our own to walk around the old buildings and prison cells. Ultimately, I’m not quite sure why Australians treat this jail as such a symbolic place in Australian history. Have we missed something? If anything, we were much more emotional as we stood next to the memorial of the Port Arthur Massacre, a mass shooting which took place here in April 1996 that left 35 people dead and 18 wounded. It was Australia’s worst mass murder, and it led to stricter gun controls, notably a near ban on all fully automatic or semiautomatic firearms, within twelve days. That’s right – it took only 12 days for the government to action.
Ahead of our visit to Port Arthur we stopped at the Tasmanian Devil Park, a wildlife sanctuary with native Australian animals, to watch the unusually cute and cruel Tasmanian devils. They are so awkward and awesome at the same time – the way they limp, the noises they make, and boy oh boy – you don’t want to fight with them over a slice of meat, they are after all ferocious wild carnivores. Feral but adorable little creatures.
After a busy and emotional day, we drove back to our caravan park located at the beautiful White Beach, to enjoy a stunning sunset. Then, off to the official birthday party with cakes, candles, ice cream and phone calls to the family. Happy Birthday!