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Friday, 03 July 2009

A Whirlwind Tour of Tasmania: Australia’s Green State with a Dark Past - Page 2

Written by Kristen Hamill
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“Ok, wait… Why are we going to Tasmania?”

Our flight from Adelaide to Hobart had barely levelled at cruising altitude when I turned to Taylor with the question.  He looked across the aisle at Kate and Jonny, who were already slumped over their tray tables, sleeping off the night before.

He laughed, “I have no idea.”

We may not have been sure why we’d decided on Tasmania, but after six months of studying abroad down under, we started running out of places to explore.

 

We spent the night in an on-site RV at a campground and the next morning headed down to the nearby Hastings Caves.  Our tickets for the cave tour included a dip in the nearby thermal springs.  After walking deep into the forest, we were disappointed to find that the springs were less of the bubbling natural rock pool we’d imagined, and more of the concrete, chlorinated variety, complete with a senior citizens’ aqua aerobics class mid-session.

After warming up by an outdoor fireplace, we made our way down to the Newdegate cave opening.  Our guide emerged from the dark with a glaring helmet-light. A Whirlwind Tour of Tasmania: Australia’s Green State with a Dark Past, travel Hobart, travel Tasmania, Mt. Wellington, Hobart, Salamanca Place, Hastings Caves, Tasman National Park, Port Arthur, Kristen HamillAs he cautioned us down the slippery steps and pointed out several very large, hairy spiders resting on the handrails, he gave us a brief history of the three caves. Newdegate, King George V, and Beattie were discovered by a group of timber workers in 1917. Newdegate is home to impressive stalactite, stalagmite, and helictite formations, as well as over forty species of insects and animals that were discovered in the cave, including several species that are as yet unnamed.

An hour later we reemerged a little damp, but ready to drive on to our next stop on our whirlwind tour of Tazzy, Port Arthur.  Port Arthur is a former convict settlement that housed some of the hardest criminals in the British Empire. The 19th century penitentiary and surrounding village have been preserved as a museum to those wishing to learn more about the town’s dark past.

A Whirlwind Tour of Tasmania: Australia’s Green State with a Dark Past, travel Hobart, travel Tasmania, Mt. Wellington, Hobart, Salamanca Place, Hastings Caves, Tasman National Park, Port Arthur, Kristen HamillWe signed up for a night-time ghost tour, which was lead by a man who could have passed as the spirit of a dead criminal. Pale, with long black hair, matching coat, and old-fashioned lantern, he bore a striking resemblance to Harry Potter’s Professor Snape.  The tour began in the ruins of an old church, where our guide told us that he believed that walls of the spirit world were thinner in Port Arthur because of its long and tragic history of violence, pain, and death.  He claimed that in his time as a Port Arthur guide, he’d seen spirits on three separate occasions, and led countless tours in others had seen, heard, or felt a ghost.

Each house and building we stopped at on our tour had its own story of tragedy; convicts executed, the death of ill children, murders and suicides.  He led us through Port Arthur’s asylum, where it is believed the historic shift from corporal to psychological punishment was made.  One by one we were led in to the tiny cells where prisoners were punished under the “Silent System,” where they were hooded and forced to stay quiet.

ImagePerhaps the most disturbing was the underground operating room of the Senior Surgeon’s house.  A television crew had filmed a documentary in the town not long ago, and stopped in at the Surgeon’s house because it was known to be particularly paranormally active.  The crew placed a cow’s skull on the operating table for dramatic effect, and were stunned when moments later, it levitated from the table and hovered several inches in the air before crashing to the floor.  Other visitors to the operating room have reported being pushed by invisible forces, seeing blood seep from the walls, and witnessing ghostly faces emerge from a hole used to draw ashes into the room to clean up the post-operative mess.

 

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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