The Isle of the Dead

The name sounds like a bad horror movie, doesn’t it? Isle of the Dead. It is, however, the island that Port Arthur used as a cemetery from 1833 to 1877. It was a wise choice, as burying the dead off shore limited the spread of disease.

Everyone who died was buried out there, though convicts were separated from soldiers, sailors, doctors, ministers, administrators, and their wives and children. At first, only those who were not convicts got headstones, but starting in the 1850s, headstones dedicated to convicts did begin to appear.

Near the end of its useful life, two structures were built on the little island: a hut for the grave digger and a shelter for mourners.

The island was surprisingly lovely when we were there. It was spring, so everything was in bloom. The lovely surroundings made the headstones poignant, rather than grim.

Isle of the Dead


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Filed under Australia, Book, History, Travel

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