Discovering Tassie, Part 2 - Hobart to Port Arthur, Australia

An Island Doomed to Crime

of watchman
Beaked bird stands watch over a wall of the Port Arthur prison complex.
Green Path
A verdant lane winds through the territory of the former prison complex at Port Arthur.
Port Arthur
View of the walls of the prison building beyond a complex fence.
the former prison
Facade of the prison complex, or what is left of it after several decades of neglect.
Also in a marine isolation
The prison ruins of the Port Arthur prison complex surrounded by shark-infested waters.
freedom of tourist
Visitor examines a corner of Port Arthur's historic complex.
According to the script
Visitor walks through the buildings of the prison complex guided by the museum's recorded speech.
sun vs shadow
Architectural detail of the Port Arthur complex.
What's Left of the Complex
The setting for the Port Arthur prison complex, nestled on a Tasmanian peninsula, almost impossible to escape.
the big wall
The dilapidated walls of Port Arthur Prison, seen from Mason Cove.
Visitor examines a corner of Port Arthur's waterfront.
Great Tower
Casal emerges from inside a turret of one of the prison complex's buildings.
Peter Brannon
Illustrative figure from the prison complex museum, inspired by the convict Peter Brannon.
The Crimes of the Convicts
Visitor investigates lurid curiosities in the sentences that led several prisoners to Port Arthur.
The prison complex at Port Arthur has always frightened the British outcasts. 90 years after its closure, a heinous crime committed there forced Tasmania to return to its darkest times.

It's Saturday morning, and as on so many other Saturdays, dozens of acrobats dispute the last corners of the Salamanca Place garden, almost all filled with the most famous fair in Hobart, the capital of Tasmania.

El Diabolero shows off his skinny body. bare-chested, the buskers it touts its number to the crowd of passersby and quickly conquers a considerable audience.

«Okay, I'm going to need two volunteers with no great reason to live», he communicates with shouts and then activates a scary chainsaw. Once the victims are recruited, he turns on a small CD player and plays, at high volume, the contagious soundtrack of the film "Missão Impossível".

Shortly after, he inaugurated his performance made of juggling knives, a diabolo and burning apples on a dizzying unicycle. And, back on the ground, with chainsaws running. Trick after trick, joke after joke, the artist's audience visibly increases.

When the act is over, the fun it offered and the acrobat's sincere appeal win a hat full of dollars aussies. Grateful but still dissatisfied, El Diabolero arrests the last resisters with a final tirade: “You out there who don't have change: don't worry. Just come here to the ATM!"

The Great Southern Prison of Port Arthur

Hobart's empathy and admiration for alternative and extreme ways of life goes back a long way. And it's in the genes of its inhabitants. Of the first 262 Europeans who arrived in the British penal colony, 178 were exiled criminals.

In 1830, the governor of Tasmania found in the Tasman peninsula a place where he could confine the convicts who had already relapsed on the island. He saw it as a natural penitentiary, as it was linked to the rest of the territory by an isthmus less than a hundred meters wide.

Port Arthur Ruins, Tasmania, Australia

The prison ruins of the Port Arthur prison complex surrounded by shark-infested waters.

To prevent the escape of the convicts through this strip – which was called the Eaglehawk Neck – he placed a line of ferocious guard dogs and spread the rumor that the surrounding waters were not only infested with sharks.

Over the next 47 years, some 12.500 criminals served time in the Port Arthur prison complex. For the most troubled, their stay was hell.

Visiting museum, Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia

Visitor investigates lurid curiosities in the sentences that led several prisoners to Port Arthur.

Those who abide by the rules came to live in Tasmania with better conditions than they had in Great Britain.

As we walk among the ruins of the buildings, in an austral setting as peculiar as it is classical and bucolic, we realize how both extremes were possible.

Museum, Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia

Visitor walks through the buildings of the prison complex guided by the museum's recorded speech.

More than a jail, an entire Prison City

Port Arthur proved to be more than just a prison. Over time, it became a real village that functioned as the center of the island's prison network and included a sawmill, a shipyard, a coal mine, shoe, brick and nail factories, but also vegetable gardens and animal husbandry.

To serve all this production, a kind of railway was built - the first of the Australia. It was 7 km long and connected Norfolk Bay to Long Bay and their carriages were pushed by prisoners.

From Prison Colony to Monument to the Obscure Colonial Past

In 1877, the complex was deactivated. Years later, he succumbed to two fires that destroyed most of the buildings. But some of the nearby inhabitants were determined to retrieve it and settle there.

When the first curious people arrived to discover the infamous place, without knowing it, tourism in the region was inaugurated.

Tower, Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia

Casal emerges from inside a turret of one of the prison complex's buildings.

Since then, Port Arthur has become the ex-libris of the historical heritage of Tasmania. Thousands of ozzies and foreigners. Like us, there they are amazed and fascinated by a raw and dramatic past that seems doomed to renew itself.

But not even the dark historical context that gave rise to it had prepared Tasmania and the Australia for the events of April 28, 1996, a tragedy so striking that it ended up spreading around the world.

109 Years Later, Crime Comes Back to Haunt Port Arthur

The Australian press reports that Martin Bryant, then 28 years old, lived in the nearby village of New Town. Endowed with an extremely low IQ (around 66), he was known to stupid marty but in financial terms, life smiled on him.

Helen Harvey, a much older, lonely, eccentric woman from the neighborhood, began to appreciate her company and her help with the dozens of cats and other animals she took in her home.

They became inseparable and Helen bequeathed him more than 400 euros that Martin was spending on frequent trips abroad, many in first class.

The money was not enough to solve the misery that her life became after she lost, almost immediately, this friend and her father.

Museum, Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia

Illustrative figure from the prison complex museum, inspired by the convict Peter Brannon.

Frustrated for uncertain reasons, but probably due to the frequent humiliation of which he was the victim and the suicide of his parent – ​​who suffered from a chronic depression made worse by not having been able to buy the property of his dreams – Martin decided to avenge himself for the torment that plagued him.

burst through guest houses Seascape – the property – armed with an AR-15 machine gun and a knife and killed the couple who had preempted their father in the business.

After a few drives around the region, at 13:10 pm, he entered the historic complex of Port Arthur and had lunch. When the meal was over, he took his machine gun out of a bag and began a terrible serial murder. Thirty-five people from different countries perished, 20 others were injured.

Ex-Presidio Wall, Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia

The dilapidated walls of Port Arthur Prison, seen from Mason Cove.

Martin Bryant's Elusive and Dubious Profile

Instead of redeeming themselves from their crooked origins, Port Arthur and Tasmania were stained with blood.

Martin Bryant was sentenced to 35 life sentences, 1035 years in total. He is serving time in a maximum security prison on the outskirts of Hobart that the population calls The Pink Palace.

Carlene Bryant, her mother and only visitor, responded to the show's Australian interviewer “60 Minutes” issued on the 15th anniversary of the event: “Martin, when he was interrogated, probably for weeks after what happened, always said that he had not been in Port Arthur or the Broad Arrow cafe.

I will regret for a lifetime that I supported your confession. Later, some people present came to claim that they did not recognize the shooter as being Martin Bryant. There was never a fair trial or conclusive evidence was presented.”

Guest, Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia

Visitor examines a corner of Port Arthur's historic complex.

Carlene also says that Martin was recently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and that the son is obviously overweight. “I asked him again if he was the author but I can't get him to give me an answer or want to talk about it.

If I try again, he won't want to see me because he's afraid I'll ask him more questions."

A Tragedy Difficult to Overcome

The broadcast of the interview infuriated the victims' families. And it renewed the feeling that, despite the many years that had passed, the slaughter of Port Arthur is about to be healed.

Detail of Port Arthur ruins, Tasmania, Australia

Architectural detail of the Port Arthur complex.

Just investigate a little on the Internet to see that several conspiracy theories created over time continue to excite some tazzies e ozzies who refuse to believe the version of the facts presented by the authorities and most of the media.

One theory in particular has gained several thousand adherents. It suggests that the slaughter was planned by the Australian government to scandalize public opinion and thus justify a law that would disarm citizens.

His supporters defend that, among many other aspects, it is not logical that Martin Bryant, with his very low IQ, could shoot with the weapon resting on his hip and hit most of the victims in the head. Which, in fact, would have been a team of contract agents carrying out the killing.

Ruins, Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia

View of the walls of the prison building beyond a complex fence.

Even More Conspiracy Theories

One accuser, in particular, constantly incriminates on You Tube and Facebook a former Hobart policeman. It reveals your name, profession, address and contact details and encourages the Internet community to investigate you.

By 1996, Prime Minister John Howard had won an election with a large majority of votes. Even though he was conservative, he faced considerable opposition in rural areas and achieved a national ban on automatic and semi-automatic weapons, without the need for a referendum.

As always, in these cases, the conspirators continue to divulge numerous justifications for their conjectures. Some Australians are intrigued or convinced, others just ridicule them.

It is unlikely that Martin Bryant will go free any time soon.

In terms of the number of victims, the massacre that carried out in Tasmania was overshadowed on 22 July 2011 on the Norwegian island of utoya, by a right-wing ultra-radical named Anders Behring Breivik.

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