St. Helena Island – Australia’s Alcatraz

We had an exciting excursion planned for the day only ten minutes away from where we were staying in our 3 bedroom apartment at West Wynnum. We had arranged to take a boat tour with Cat O’ Nine Tails Cruises in the beautiful coastal village of Manly. We drove to the William Gunn Jetty at 9:15am where the twenty other passengers had already boarded. Most of the others were on the top deck when we pulled out of the marina, and half of our family went up to join them and enjoy the fresh cool air while Kirsten and the younger kids stayed in the warm spacious seating area below.

DSC00693 (Small)Jeff, our captain, took us on the thirty minute ride to the island of St. Helena while our guide, dressed in an 1800’s prisoner guard uniform, entertained us with his witty commentary.   We disembarked from our boat onto a very long dock that jutted out from the island. It was a good ten minute walk to shore where we all assembled for a lesson on the incredible history of this island that was a high security prison in the late 1800’s. DSC00690 (Small) This island was what some would consider the Alcatraz of Australia, a place where convicts were sent to work and help raise money for the state by processing sugar cane and many other products.

As we moved across many acres and past the limestone kiln to the children’s and convicts cemeteries and then on to the sugar mill we heard of the tough conditions the prisoners faced as they worked in a very profitable prison. We then moved on to the remains of the prison itself and the administrator’s housing (now a museum) while our guide eloquently shared stories and dates from its past history. He shared how almost fifty men would be crammed into small cells, not allowed to speak except at mealtimes. He also shared the hardships of solitary confinement that could last up to 28 days with only bread and water to eat and no sunlight. Convicts trying to escape the island by swimming, were all killed by the sharks that were also fed the blood and remains from the butchery on the island.

DSC00720 (Small)All of us including the kids were fascinated by the history and stories that we heard about this impressive island. It really brought to light a time-period when settlements were being established in Australia less than 200 years ago.

At mid-day, we enjoyed a light picnic lunch in the hot sun of the day under a shady tree. It was our hottest day yet in Australia, enough to give Jaeden and Alyssa some slight sunburns. The sun here in Australia seems to be much stronger and can burn much quicker.

DSC00750 (Small)Following a demonstration on the “cat o’ nine tails whipping and other punishments inflicted on the inmates of the island, we took a leisurely walk down the thirty minute path that led back to the boat. Kirsten took a ride back with Zakary while the rest of us walked. Only she had noticed the dozens of kangaroo’s hiding in the bushes from the hot sun. I guess our guide didn’t point them out as most people on the tour were locals, used to such things. It was a great historical tour that had us back to our car by 2:30pm, a tour that all of us enjoyed and would highly recommend to anyone visiting the Brisbane area.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Glad to see the river cats are running again. That whole system was trashed by the floods of 3 years ago while we were house sitting. We are enjoying our own adventure of many thousands of miles. Currently in Nashville and off to Memphis later this week. Safe travels to you.

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