“Those who were to live wept bitterly; whilst those who were to die dropped on their knees and with dry eyes, thanked God they were to be delivered from so horrid a place…” (Dr William Ullathorne, 1838)
Stumbled upon by Captain Cook on his second voyage to the South Pacific in 1774, the forty square kilometre square Norfolk Island is mere a speck in the Pacific Ocean.
But it’s a speck that boasts astonishing natural beauty and a history of appalling brutality.
The Island was twice used as a penal settlement for the punishment of convicts between the years 1774 to 1814, and 1825 to 1856. The first penal colony on the island was nasty enough, but the second settlement, reserved for the so-called ‘worst of the worst’, earned the island the name ‘Old Hell’.
Today, holiday makers from Australia and New Zealand can get a tiny taste of its hellish history on package tours that squeeze in trips to penal colony ruins and Night as a Convict experiences between rounds of golf and seafood buffets..
However, if you’d prefer to experience ‘late Gomorrah Island’ as it was, complete with tyranny, murder, sadism, sodomy and the ‘extremist punishment short of death’ then look no further than:
HELL TOURS: Norfolk Island Experience Circa 1830.
Your trip begins in shackles aboard one of Britain’s finest convict ships. Departing from Botany Bay you will sail 1604 kilometres (1000 miles) across the Pacific in cramped, unsanitary quarters. The journey, which may take up to 6 weeks due to inclement weather, will give you ample time to get to know your fellow condemned jailed for crimes as varied as fraud, bushranging and murder.
Later, you will be transferred to a small whaling boat and while you’re tossed about by enormous waves you’ll catch your first glimpse of the ‘natural jail’ of Norfolk Island. With it’s jagged 300-metre-high cliff faces and turbulent seas your hopes for escape will quickly evaporate along with your will to live.
Disembarking at Sydney Bay, you’ll receive a new set of shackles before you’re processed at the Kingston Convict Settlement. It is here you will notice the wretched state of the other convicts on the island; withered, glassy eyed zombies with backs lacerated from repeated floggings. After processing, you will be put to work either in the brick yards or in the wet quarry where you will cut stone for 14 to 18 hours a day.
In the evening, you will return to the prisoner’s barracks climb into your hammock and try to fall asleep in an atmosphere of dread, possible assault and human suffering.
A full day of arduous, back breaking labour awaits you.
Those who prefer not to work can spend time in the island’s isolation cells or be shacked to the ‘triangle’ where one of Norfolk’s expert ‘skinners’ will subject you to 50 lashes.
(Please note: Those receiving more than 50 lashes may have to wait until their wounds have scabbed before receiving the remainder of their punishment.)
Let the blood spray from your wounds and the skin peel from your buttocks and backs whilst you are flogged repeatedly then afterwards treat yourself to a bucket of sea water tossed over your wounds or lie in a pool of your own urine and rationed drinking water to soothe your mutilated back.
Those who missed out on the triangle or isolation cells have the opportunity to try them today should they be caught singing, cursing or whistling whilst working.
More work, floggings, sodomy, murder and terror.
DAY FIVE :
Realising the hopelessness of your situation, you might like to consider ending your own life via one of the island’s ‘suicide clubs’.
Popular with Irish Catholics, suicide clubs allow you to end your suffering whilst eliminating the worrying possibility of eternal damnation.
Participants are paired off with one to be the victim and the other the perpetrator. Once you have agreed to be murdered you have the rest of the day to ponder how death will visit:
A homemade shank to the gut?
A garden hoe through the skull?
Only your murderer will know for sure.
For his part, your assailant will be comforted by the knowledge that, once caught, he will either hang or be sent to await trial in Sydney where the possibility of escape eclipses any doubts about the morality of his actions.
Hell Tours: Norfolk Island Experience will subject you to the absolute worst in criminal reform methods guaranteed to break your spirit and crush your soul, but don’t take our word for it:
“When he comes here, his man’s heart is taken from him and he is given the heart of a beast.” – Robert Douglas, Norfolk Island convict and attempted mutineer.
Should you not enjoy your time on the island, please be sure to tell everyone. Horror stories that reach the mainland are used as a method to deter criminal activity in the colonies.
If you take ill, medical assistance can be sought at Civil Hospital. Your infected wounds will be packed with hot manure, your heavily flogged back will be treated with pig fat and your amputated limbs cauterised with boiling tar or a red hot iron.
Anaesthetic not included.
Hell Tours regret that women are not permitted on the island unless they are the wife of, or housekeeper to, the Governor.
If you liked this tour you may also like:
Moreton Penal Settlement (Brisbane, Queensland)
Port Arthur Penal Settlement, Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania)
FOR FURTHER READING:
Horrors of Transportation Briefly Unfolded, William Ullathorne, 1838
The Fatal Shore,: The Epic of Australia’s Founding, Robert Hughes, 1986