What is it with Tasmanian Convicts and Cannibalism?
We’ll discuss Tasmanian Convicts and Cannibalism a little later!
Strahan strategically straddles the streamlined waters of the northern reaches of Macquarie harbour overlooking Sarah Island, the once notorious convict prison and a powerful reminder of the brutal treatment of Tasmania’s convicts. Its streetscape stretches past a string of attractive nineteenth century terraces. It’s strikingly beautiful and abuzz with tourism activity.
This picturesque town on the western coast of Tasmania is often regarded by travel enthusiasts as one of the most unique place in southern Australia. The town is often described as the ‘loneliest place in Australia’ which could be true if visiting in the middle of winter. Nevertheless Strahan is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tasmania and is the gateway the World Heritage listed Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park.
Located about 300 km from Hobart with Queenstown (41 km) the nearest town Strahan can certainly be described as isolated. It is the only coastal town on Tasmania’s West Coast. Unlike many other Tasmanian destinations Strahan’s landscape, beaches and weather are wild and elemental. This was certainly a factor when determining a site for Tasmania’s most notorious convict prison.
Sarah Island (or Settlement Island) is found in the far south west corner of Macquarie Harbour. This isolated island was a Penal Settlement between 1822 and 1833 established as a place of ‘secondary’ punishment in an attempt to control ‘the uncontrollable’. Over time Sarah Island gained a reputation as a place of unspeakable horrors and a living hell, largely due to the exploits of one of the island’s ‘colourful’ characters, Alexander Pearce, the Cannibal Convict. Let’s talk about Tasmanian Convicts and Cannibalism!
In 1822 Alexander Pearce, an Irishman initially transported for stealing shoes, escaped from Sarah Island and along with 7 other convicts headed east towards Hobart. After more than two weeks without food they began to kill and eat each other. Pearce was the only survivor and made his way to the Derwent River where he joined a gang of bushrangers. He was subsequently captured and the authorities dismissed his story as too far- fetched and he was returned to Macquarie Harbour. In November 1823 Pearce again escaped with a younger convict called Cox. Within days he kills Cox and starts feasting on his body. Smoke from his campfire is spotted and he is again captured. Sickeningly his captors also find the remains (that which has not been eaten) of Cox’s body. Needless to say Pearce is shipped to Hobart where he is tried and hanged.
On 31 December 1825 Thomas Jeffries, a violent sexual offender, and three other convicts escaped from the Launceston Watch House. After robbing a settlers hut they abducted the settler’s wife and 5 month old baby. Soon after Jeffries killed the baby by bashing its head against a tree and following relentless sexual attacks the wife was set free and returned home in a battered state. The bandits soon ran out of food and killed one of the group to eat. Some months later Jeffries, now nicknamed ‘The Cannibal’, was apprehended and hanged in the Old Hobart Gaol.
Notwithstanding its violent history of Tasmanian Convicts and Cannibalism the west coast is a uniquely beautiful place.
Hogarth Falls is nestled in the People’s Park in the south-west coastal town of Strahan. The waterfall is about 15 metres high. It’s an enjoyable 2.5 km/40min walk along a level track. The walk is amazing and you’ll witness the feeding of platypus. However, you must be very quiet and dusk is the best time to spot them.
Just north of Hell’s Gates, the spectacular entrance to Macquarie Harbour, is Ocean Beach. It’s Tasmania’s longest with nearly 40 km’s of unbroken beach from Macquarie Heads in the south to Trial Harbour in the north. The beach is also home to Mutton Birds that fly here in December and stay till the middle of February.
There’s plenty to see and do in Strahan including a wide range of accommodation options from caravan parks to luxury hotels.
When you are staying at Strahan, you’ll have no problems finding great meals as well feasting on the beautiful scenery all around.
You can enjoy a gourmet lunch inside the West Coast Wilderness railway. The West Coast Yacht Charters organizes a seafood luncheon cruise on the Gordon River which you must try at least once.
For dinner walk into any of the fine dining restaurants in Strahan to enjoy succulent lobster, Tasmanian Atlantic Salmon and the ocean trout. The local seafood is simply delicious and affordable. If you have time do try the good old reliable pub meals. You’re never far from a great food experience.
C’mon. Get over there and have a look