This morning the kids and I headed into Straughn, checked out the tourist center (I bought a copy of ‘For the term of his natural life’) and we headed up the hill to an old codger’s twisted wood exhibit.
Then it was back to pick up Cathie, have some lunch and head down to the ‘Lady Jane Franklin’ for a cruise of Macquarie Harbour.
The harbour itself is enormous about six times the size of Sydney Harbour and really is quite extraordinary that it is such a safe place for shipping. Especially considering the fierce strength of the winds.
We headed out on the cruise ship through Hell's Gates - so named because the awful torment inflicted on the prisoners 1822-1833 at Macquarie Harbour was like going to Hell. They were also notoriously difficult to travel through (one can only imagine how hard this would have been for a boat powered by sail).
This was the awful place that prisoners were taken to as a secondary punishment place 1822-1833 before Port Arthur. I thought that the guide’s tour of Sarah’s Island was far far far better than the presentation at Port Arthur. There was much more humor, more stories of real people, and particularly much less glossing over the extremely unpleasant stories of the past.
Sadly our guide did choose (to several times) mock the island’s chaplain, his faith, family and assistant. I thought this mocking was gratuitous and unnecessary. The chaplain here (like the chaplain at Port Arthur) was a Wesleyan Missionary who she described 'in today's terms as an "evangelist fundamentalist Christian"'. The implication being that they were naive stupid do-gooders who were never going to succeed against the brutal military might.
I couldn’t help but admire people who for the cause of Christ would (newly married) choose to come to the other end of the world to minister a gospel of grace in impossible odds to prisoners.
Further, the chaplain refused a dual role of working in administration under the prison governor (so he could focus on the cure of souls) and so that he wouldn’t be compromised (again things to admire).
I felt our tour guide mocked him and his beliefs in a narrow minded and mean spirited way. I am sure that this mocking would not have been acceptable had the man represented
At Port Arthur I didn’t so much think that the guide mocked the chaplain as misunderstood him and his relationship with the prison commandant. My assumption is that the relationship was difficult along the same fault lines as the governor-chaplain relationship in the colony of Sydney, where the chaplain wanted to preach God’s free gift of grace and the governor pressured the chaplain to preach morality.
This point was lost on our Port Arthur tour guide and actually our Sarah Island one as well.
Excitingly though, it is clear that the Sarah Island chaplain did preach grace - one could grasp that from the very clear understanding of the gospel that one prisoner articulated in a letter.
Gordon and Franklin Rivers
Our boat headed up the Gordon River not as far as the Franklin but enough to see some quite significant wilderness area and we went on a walking tour of wilderness areas.
We had a brief recap of the protests that would have taken place their in the early 1980’s as environmentalists campaigned to save the area further upstream from being dammed.
I can’t remember what position I had on this damming in 1980 but now thirty years later having come as close as I am ever likely to come to the area that was fought over - and not being able to go far enough upstream to see any of the area that would have been affected by the damning (and we have taken the standard tourist package) I am not totally sure that the protests were worth it.
Yes I know some of my friends took part in the protest and the area further upstream is probably spectacularly rare and beautiful - but so few people are ever going to see it - was it worth saving? I wasn’t totally convinced.