Evanescent Effervesence

Evanescent Effervescence” — there’s a tongue twister for you! The bubbles in this glass of bubbly shoot into the air like micro-sized fireworks, making the most of their mere seconds of life. There’s nothing quite like the frothy but fleeting excitement of a freshly opened bottle of champagne (Veueve Cliquot, in this case) poured with perhaps too much abandon into a glass.


A convict colony past

The remains of the Port Arthur penitentiary. In the background is Queen Mary 2, on which I arrived.

Living in Sydney, with its glass office towers, opera house and beaches, it’s easy to forget about Australia’s convict past. European discovery and settlement of Terra Australis Incognita (unknown southern land) began in 1606 with the arrival of a Dutch ship, the ‘Duyfken’. Contact was sporadic for the next 164 years, until 1770 when Lt James Cook in the ship ‘Endeavour’ charted the east coast and claimed the land for England. January 1788 brought the arrival of the First Fleet, 11 English ships carrying more than 1,480 men, women and children — convicts, army and administrative personnel. This prison colony, formed at what is now the city of Sydney, was the beginning of the modern Australian nation.

Port Arthur is some 1,100 km south of Sydney, in the island state of Tasmania. It was first settled as a timber station, but between 1833 and 1877 it served as a prison colony. The site was carved out of the bush and industries such as ship building, shoemaking, smithing, timber and brick making began, all using forced convict labour.

The building that began as a flour mill and granary (built in 1843) was later (1857) converted to act as the penitentiary.

Light falls through a barred window into a cell.

The Separate Prison took punishment from the physical to the psychological. Under the Silent System, prisoners were kept in isolation cells, hooded and forced to silence. Convicts in the Separate Prison received one hour of exercise each day: brisk walking in a walled-in courtyard, where silence was again the rule.

Not surprisingly, the regime inside the Separate Prison led to a number of instances of mental illness. This building, beside the Separate Prison, began as an asylum (and now houses a café).

The asylum.

Not only adults were incarcerated at Port Arthur. Boys as young as nine were sent here, and used in hard labour such as stone cutting and construction. One of the buildings they contributed to is this church, constructed in 1836-37. The church could hold 1,000 people and attendance was compulsory for convicts. A fire destroyed the building in 1884, leaving only the walls.

The church

Government Cottage, built in 1854, was used to house visiting officials. It burned down in 1895. You can see a photo of the cottage and church before they burned here.

The remains of Government Cottage

The remains of Government Cottage

In contrast to the harshness of the convicts’ surrounds, the families of officers and officials could stroll in ornamental gardens, complete with imported trees such as weeping willows.

This avenue of trees leads to the Dockyard, which between 1834 and 1848 was a busy and productive shipyard. All that remains now are outlines of former buildings — boat sheds, steamers, a saw pit, the overseer’s hut and blacksmith’s shop. This ship sculpture sitting in an old slipway is a haunting reminder of the past.

After the closure of the site for prison purposes, the area was renamed Carnarvon. People bought land and built houses. Tourists also began to arrive, providing a new industry for the local residents. In 1927 the name Port Arthur was reinstated, and over the years, management of the site was taken over by the government. The Port Arthur Historic Site is one of 11 historic places that together form the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property, which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2010.

The theme for the Weekly Photo Challenge is Heritage. My entry in last week’s WPC, on the theme of Reflection, was also taken at the Port Arthur Historic Site.


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Reflecting on a tragedy

The remains of the Broad Arrow Cafe: 20 people died here.

The remains of the Broad Arrow Cafe: 20 people died here.

On 28 April 1996, 35 people were killed and 20 were wounded by a single gunman at and near the Port Arthur historical site in the state of Tasmania, Australia. This was the country’s worst mass shooting and led to a reform of Australia’s gun laws.

Many of the victims were in the site’s cafe and tourist shop when the massacre unfolded. That building is now empty, lacking a roof, windows and doors — a silent memorial.

Beside the eery stone building is a pool of reflection, a garden and benches, where one is gently encouraged to remember and to pay respects.

The remains of the Broad Arrow Cafe.

The remains of the Broad Arrow Cafe.

An inscription at the site reads:

“May we who come to this garden cherish life for the sake of those who died.

Cherish compassion for the sake of those who gave aid.

Cherish peace for the sake of those in pain.”

You may read a detailed account of what unfolded on that day here, but be warned that it is disturbing.


The cake shop lovers

Daci & Daci Bakers, Hobart, Tasmania

A display case of wonderfully tempting cakes — as I imagined the photo in my mind.

On a recent visit to Hobart (in the Australian state of Tasmania), I discovered the marvellous Daci & Daci Bakers. While waiting for my order to be filled (a slice of Hazelnut Dacquoise and a black coffee) I grabbed a photo of a display case beside the counter. I didn’t want to hold up people behind me, so quickly adjusted for focus, lighting and reflections, and hoped for the best. The photo above is what I was aiming for.

So I know what you’re thinking. The WPC weekly theme is Surprise, so where’s the surprise? And why is this post called “The cake shop lovers”? Well, here’s the photo I actually took. Distorted angles due to my position — and two rather amorous people visible through a window, whose appearance when I looked at this photo at home on my computer was indeed a suprise!

The reality -- wonky angles due to my position, and a couple outside who were far more interested in each other than the cakes!

The reality — wonky angles due to my position, and a couple outside who were far more interested in each other than the cakes!


Five Minutes: Queen Mary 2 docks in Sydney

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My cruise on QM2 began on Saturday 25 February, but I kicked off the holiday early and spent the night of the 24th in the Sir Stamford Hotel at Circular Quay. I knew from experience that rooms on the west side offered a view of the Overseas Passenger Terminal. I liked the idea of waking up and, voila!, the ship would be there. However, I woke up at 5:30am (an ungodly hour), and peeked out the balcony door: nothing. Of course, I couldn’t go back to sleep, so every 15 minutes I peeked out again, until at about 6:15am I saw it turning past the opera house to come in stern first. So I put on my white Sir Stamford robe and my shoes, and stood on my Juliet balcony in the grey pre-dawn drizzle to capture the arrival. The feature image is the OPT before QM2 eased into view.

The Five Minute challenge suggests: “Choose a scene or an object and keep fixed on that object, and shoot for just five minutes. You can move around the object or scene but try not to interfere with it. See what happens in that five minutes, what changes, how the light changes, what comes into the frame or leaves the frame, or what other parts of the object you can focus on or use to your advantage.”

In this five-minute sequence (6:36am to 6:41am), the focus is on “what comes into the frame”. In addition to the rear end of the largest ocean liner in the world, you’ll also see a tug boat and various vehicles whizzing past in streaks of light.

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