Isle of Dead tours return

PORT Arthur’s world-famous heritage Isle of the Dead has undergone significant conservation and is now ready for visitors to return.

The $1.3 million project focused on reducing the impact of visitors and improving access.

The Isle of the Dead, lying in the waters of Mason Cove, was the principal burial ground for the Port Arthur penal station between 1833 and 1877.

It is estimated that more than 800 convicts are buried on the island, mostly in unmarked graves.

Port Arthur Heritage Site Management Authority’s conservation manager Pamela Hubert said the recently-completed project provided continuous above ground walkways with a series of viewing platforms that would enhance the very popular Isle of the Dead Cemetery tours.

“The project has been carefully designed to ensure minimal impacts on significant burial areas, landscape elements and views of the island.
“This project has been carefully planned and undertaken in five stages to ensure that the work could be achieved while still allowing access to the island for the majority of the visitor season.’’

This project started in 2016, with the aim of reducing impacts on the grave areas, improving accessibility and improving the visitor experience.

The first stage of the project was made possible by a grant of $80,000
from the Commonwealth Government’s Protecting National
Historic Sites program.

“The new walkways not only increase accessibility by replacing stairs with ramps, they also improve the visitor experience with better viewing platforms and gathering spaces for tours.’’
“It is important to acknowledge that the island is still the resting place of about
1000 people and this project demonstrates our continuing
respect for the island as a cemetery and as a place of reflection” said PAHSMA archaeology manager Dr David Roe.

The Port Arthur Historic Site, along with Cascades Female Factory Historic Site, Coal Mines Historic Site, Darlington Probation Station on Maria Island, and Brickendon and Woolmers Estates, account for five of the 11 sites that comprise the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property.
“This is a significant milestone in the ongoing conservation of the Isle of the Dead,’’
Ms Hubert said.

“We are delighted to have completed this project and along with the development of a new History and Interpretation Centre at the Cascades Female Factory opening in early 2022, shows PAHSMA’s commitment to ensuring the compelling stories of our Australian convict history are shared.’’

Before Covid, Port Arthur Historic Site was the most popular tourism destination in Tasmania.

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