"Sarah Island" Top 5 Page for this destination Strahan Things to Do Tip by al2401
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Sarah Island is the site of one of Australia's worst penal colonies and was in operation between 1822 and 1833. The prison was established to house the worst convicts and those who had escaped from other settlements. It is an isolated island, separated by wild seas and surrounded by wild inaccessible country and was ideally suited for its purpose. The surveyor who mapped Sarah Island concluded that the chances of escape were "next to impossible".
There were a number of escape attempts - the most famous being Alexander Pearce who managed two escapes. On each occasion he survived by cannabalising his escape-mates.
In an aim to be economically viable the governor of the time, William Sorrell, established a shipbuilding industry using the Huon Pines (an ideal timber for this purpose). However, the island was soon cleared of this valuable timber.
The conditions for the prisoners were extremely harsh. Since no food could be produced on the island malnutrition and scurvy were rife. The convicts were so crowded they were unable to sleep on their backs in the communal barracks. Ergot, a wheat fungus, was added to the bread to make it go mouldy so it could not be stored for escape.
Records show that in 1824, a prisoner killed anther so that he could be executed rather than endure the torment.
The prison on Sarah Island was finally closed in late 1833.
The ruins that remain today are known as the Sarah Island Historic Site which is part of the larger Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
The island can be visited, by ferry, from the town of Strahan. It is often included in a Day trip to the Gordon River.
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