Day Six: Strahan – Gordon River and Sarah Island

Arriving the previous day in Strachan, the next day was devoted to the World Heritage Cruise on the Lower Gordon River.

Passing Hells Gates, the next land mass is South America (42 degrees latitude south).


The cruise docked at Sarah Island. Sarah Island was a Penal Settlement between 1822 and 1833. Sarah Island was proposed by Lt Governor Sorell as a “place of banishment and security for the worst description of convicts” and as such developed the reputation as one of the severest of the penal settlements established during the history of transportation.

Over 180 escape attempts were made from Macquarie Harbour. Absconding was particularly prevalent in the early years of settlement. Legendary status has been bestowed on a few of these escapes, either due to their horrific nature or to the sheer daring and courage involved.

In June 1824 Matthew Brady and 14 others seized a boat used by felling gangs at Kellys Basin. They made the boat crew row down the bay, carry the boat across the isthmus and launch it into the Harbour. After reaching the Derwent Estuary the gang then took to bushranging throughout the colony. After two years ‘on the run’ Brady was finally re-captured.

Alexander Pearce is renowned as ‘the cannibal convict’, after murdering and eating fellow escapees on two occasions. In 1829 the Cyprus was seized by convicts en route to Macquarie Harbour. Seven of the prisoners made it as far as China. Four of the men, on returning to England, were identified. One was executed and the others returned to Macquarie Harbour.

In January 1834 the final ship built at Sarah Island was stolen by the ten convicts left there to complete her. They sailed the Frederick to Chile where they set up home. At first they were not bothered by local authorities, but a change of Governor forced six to escape and the remaining four were sent to gaol. The four were returned to Hobart for trial, but were spared from the gallows on a legal technicality in that the Frederick was legally not a ship as it was not registered.


The Round Earth Company presented the tour as an interactive series of mysteries.

The goal built for solitary confinement.

Cruising up the River.

Heritage Island and first sighting of a black snake sunbaking.

The core of a Huon Pine.

Morrison’s Huon Pine Saw Mill. There were some delightful wood items to be purchased but very expensive.

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