Sarah Island - Tasmania's first penal settlement
Sarah Island in Tasmania's south west wilderness is remembered as a place of degradation, depravity and woe. So wrote the Tasmanian historian John West in 1842.
Sarah Island was Tasmania's earliest penal settlement, having been established in January 1822, and was intended to strike fear into the hearts of convicts.
Unlike Port Arthur, where the aim was to rehabilitate lost souls, Sarah Island was intended as raw punishment reserved for the worst of convicts.
The use of strict discipline and constant hard labour made it a place to be feared. Even more brutal, convicts were often chained to rocks on the considerably smaller nearby Grommet Rock that was washed in sea spray in bad weather.
For many men the burdens of Sarah Island were intolerable. During the early phase of the settlement, some deliberately committed murder in order to be sent to the gallows and escape once and for all from the tortured lives they led.
Despite the brutality, the island was also a successful centre of industry. Pining along the Gordon River and shipbuilding were among the trades carried out by the convicts and in its day, Sarah Island was the largest shipbuilding yard in Australia.
Although not as well-preserved as Port Arthur, the significance of what is still evident is no less historically important. Remnants of the penitentiary, bakehouse and solitary cells can still evoke images of this island's notorious convict past.
The Sarah Island penal settlement was closed in 1833 after the establishment of the penitentiary at Port Arthur.
Visitors can tour the island on one of several cruises into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, departing from Strahan.
More on Tasmania's West Coast
For more on Tasmania's West Coast see our self-drive itinerary West Coast Wilderness