Isle of the Dead

'Dead Island from Point Puer', 1899 (ALMFA, SLT)

The Isle of the Dead was used as the graveyard for the penal settlement of Port Arthur from 1833 to 1877. Around 1000 persons are buried there, comprising a mixture of officials, soldiers, their families, seamen, convicts (including boys from Point Puer), invalids, paupers and lunatics. Social distinctions were observed and the free were segregated by burial in the north-western corner. Several memorials are still evident in this section, but most of the island is bare of headstones as it was forbidden for markers to be placed on convict graves. This policy must have changed over time as a small number dating from the 1850s and dedicated to prisoners are present. Two structures were erected in the later years: a hut to house the gravedigger and a funeral shelter for mourners.

Further reading: R Lord, The Isle of the Dead, Port Arthur, Taroona, 1985; L Ross, 'Death and burial at Port Arthur ', Honours thesis, UT, 1995.

Lynette Ross