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Convict Coal Mines, Port Arthur

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The Coal Mines Historic Site was Tasmania’s first operational mine, developed both to limit the colony's dependence upon costly imported coal from New South Wales, as well as serving as a place of punishment for the "worst class" of convicts from Port Arthur, the mine was operational for over 40 years.
The Coal Mines Historic Site is part of the epic story of the European settlement of Australia.
When Lempriere (the Commissariat Officer at Port Arthur) reported on the settlement c. 1839 there were 150 prisoners and a detachment of 29 officers stationed at the mines. Large stone barracks which housed up to 170 prisoners, as well as the chapel, bakehouse and store had been erected.
The Coal Mines formed part of the system of convict discipline and punishment on the Tasman Peninsula. During its busiest years almost 600 prisoners with their jailers and their families lived and worked at the Mines. While the underground workings are no longer accessible, you can still see the ruins of houses, barracks, offices and punishment cells.
By 1847 the main shaft was down over 300 feet with an extensive system of subterranean tunnels and caverns. The work of extracting the coal was carried out by convicts in two eight hour shifts. The men had to extract 25 tons in each shift to reach the day's quota.
Hand-driven winding wheels at the top of the shafts were used to bring the coal baskets up from the working galleries. Once at the top, the baskets were upturned into carts for transportation to the jetty at Plunkett Point. This was done via an 'inclined plane' (self-acting tramway) carrying the coal from each shaft. The line of the tramway from the main shaft constructed in 1846 is still clearly visible.
It gives you a faint echo of those long departed men toiling in the dark, and experience something of the isolation and hardship that they endured.

Posted by charlystyles 02:45 Archived in Australia Tagged port_arthur coal_mines

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