Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hell’s Gates - Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania

In 1642 Abel Tasman explored the west coast of Tasmania for the Dutch East India Company. He charted two of the peaks just north of the inlet to Macquarie Harbour and namedafter his ships, Heemskerck and Zeehaen, but he either did not see or did not venture through 'The Gates' which provide only a narrow entrance and a shallow channel with rocks on one side and dangerous sandy shoals on the other.

This is the name first given to the narrow entrance to Macquarie Harbour and it was James Kelly the captain and explorer who, on his circumnavigation of Tasmania in a whale boat in 1816, noticed an inlet from which a strong channel of water was flowing. He thought he had found the mouth of a river.
Image his surprise when he ventured through The Gates, to find a Harbour as big as Sydney Harbour - 32 kilometres long surrounded by forested mountains and gorges – virtually impenetrable from the land.

It was the nature of the harbour as a place impossible to escape from that the government of the day decided to use an island in the harbour as a convict settlement.
This was to be the harshest place imaginable – a veritable hell on earth. And for that reason the entrance to the harbour and the whole place became synonymous with the name, Hell’s Gates.
My particular interest is in the convicts, including Matthew Brady, who escaped from Sarah Island and became bushrangers.
Pics: Hell’s gates and lighthouse from the beach and the water

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